5 Tips for Staying Infatuated With Photography

5 Tips for Staying Infatuated With Photography


It takes a lot to hold my interest.  Scratch that—it takes a lot to get my interest, then hold it, and finally (and especially) to keep it.  This makes my dating life quite hard.  And sometimes my relationship with photography even harder.  And with less Happy Hours and coffee dates.  

One bad shoot and I’m ready to sell my equipment and call it good.  And go work at Starbucks, where there are benefits and free coffee and cool mandatory aprons.  In my career that has spanned a decade, I have quit, retired, and ran away more times than Brett Farve.  (This comparison really only makes sense if you live in the States, but if you don’t just imagine David Beckham retiring a bunch of times, changing his mind and coming back, and you get the general idea.)

I always come crawling back to photography.  Like a moth to a flame.  Or a crazy ex-girlfriend to your doorstep in the middle of the night, begging for another chance.  Since I’m trying not to do that anymore (both the faux retirement and the crazy ex-girlfriend thing), I have come up with a couple of things that allow a little reset to my photography passion.  Or a jolting wake-up call to remind me of exactly what I love about photography.  Here are 5 of my favorites.  My 6th favorite: completely freak-out and skip town in the middle of the night never to be heard from again, is pretty self-explanatory.


1. Take a Photography Vacation

Not the kind where you take your camera with you for beach sunsets and lively Main Street scenes of locals.  The kind where you go nowhere and your camera gets locked up safe and sound in a closet.  It may sound extreme, but a good week (or two…..or three) away may be just what the doctor ordered.  And what’s fair is fair: this means no Photoshop, no point and shoots, and no saying “if only I had my camera”.  Instead you get to think: how cool that I am seeing this with my own eyes this time and not through a lens.  I will permit an occasional cell phone photo, but only because if I make that off limits, you’ll just rebel anyway.  A week or two away and you’ll crave photography again with rested eyes and fresh ideas.


2. Donate your Services and Skills

This one is my go-to and not only recharges me, but almost always brings me back good energy in some form.  There is no wrong way to do it—compassionately and with great tact, offer up your services to a family that is going through a rough time and may not be able to afford to document their lives at this time.  Or call a non-profit service and brainstorm a way that you taking a few shots could help their efforts in marketing.  Contact a nursing facility and ask if they would like you to donate an hour of your time on their next family day to photograph loved ones with people they don’t get to see often for free.  Hospice organizations, humane societies and animal shelters, and wildlife rehabilitation centers are always thrilled when a photographer is willing and interested in donating their special skill set to their cause.  

The photo above is an Executive Director of a homeless outreach program and one of her beloved clients.  It has been featured in gallery shows, used for marketing collateral for their organization, and been auctioned for donation.  I did not receive a penny in compensation for it, but what I did get out of it both personally and professionally is vast and grand and worth more than any fee I’ve ever charged.


3. Flip to the other Side

I am fascinated by this cell phone “selfie” phenomenon on social media right now.  And by “fascinated”, I mean terrified.  I’m not a fan of the other side of the lens in the first place, but you can darn well bet I sure don’t want to be on that other side, blindly taking a self-portrait with a bad camera phone in a bar or a car or whatever.  Not in a house, not with a mouse, not in a box, not with a fox.  However (and I hope you said that “however” with a big giant sigh like I wrote it), not only can it be helpful to getting back in a solid mindset but beneficial in many other ways.  I find that I seem to need a recent photo of myself often as a photographer.  And, let’s be fair here; if I’m not willing to have my picture taken once in a while how can I justify asking others to let me take theirs?  It’s a bit humbling, but also gives me new ideas to try when I’m on the other side.  
The photo above (and also by my byline below) was taken by my 9 year old son.  He is darling and thoughtful and creative and perfect and takes after me.  Photography is just a basic part of our lives, so when I asked him to take a picture of me I could use professionally, it wasn’t that big of a deal to hand over two thousand dollars in equipment to a kid that had just used my hair dryer to try to power some Lego contraption he made.  I ended up with a couple of pictures that I like very much, but more than that, I got a bit of confidence and a lovely reminder of how great it feels to look at a picture of yourself you like.  I have the ability to do that for people.  And sometimes I need a little smack in the face to remind myself to stop being a whiney brat and be grateful for my abilities.  Or at the very least, to start renting out my kid.


4. Photograph something Different than you usually Do

This is a tough one for me, as I got into photography only because I like photographing people.  If you asked me how to take a great picture of a sunset, I would likely try to tell you a very long story about sunsets in hopes that you forgot what we were talking about in the first place.  I have zero interest in taking pictures that don’t involve people.  But I do have a pretty fancy camera and more editing knowledge stored in my brain than song lyrics and that’s saying something.  I also have a need to challenge myself.  

For all I know, my best abilities lay in photographing bugs, but I’m never going to find that out if I don’t try.  (But let’s just assume I don’t have any abilities in bug photography and move on, you know?)  One time in a desperate attempt to detour a throwing-my-camera-out-the-window moment of frustration, I came across the picture above.  Taken on vacation a few years ago in Oregon.  And while the raw image is nothing that a true landscape photographer would even look twice at, a little editing and it’s become a photo I’m proud of.  It hangs in my home as the only non-people image allowed to grace the walls and I smile every time I walk past it.  It’s not fancy art.  But it serves as a great reminder that I have a good eye.


5. Get an Assignment

I’m not what you would call a “self motivator”.  I need things like deadlines and the promise of a cookie when I’m done to get me to actually finish a task.  I actually have to utilize an app that keeps my internet frozen for set times just so my mind doesn’t wander a bit while I’m waiting for a word to come to me and then BAM: I just blew an hour on Pinterest looking at pulled pork recipes and I don’t even eat pork.  When I find myself in a little photographic coma, I sometimes ask a friend to give me an assignment.  

Maybe they need a picture of a yellow flower for their yellow flower bathroom.  Maybe they want a picture of their house for a keepsake.  Maybe they can’t think of anything either but know me well and are kind enough to lie to me and come up with something.  Either way, getting an assignment from someone else feels important.  It’s no longer about not feeling like shooting today; it’s about this friend needs this from me and I want to come through for them.  And usually what happens in this little scenario is that I realize I take terrible flower pictures and I need to get back out there and take the kind of pictures I’m good at.

And just like that, I’m recharged, ready, and back in the saddle.  Because to keep retiring gets exhausting.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Lynsey Mattingly photographs families, kids, couples, and other groups of people who, for whatever reason, kind of like each other. Her portrait work has been featured in People Magazine, Us Weekly, BBC Magazine, and on national TV including CNN, Oprah, and Ellen, but most importantly, in the personal galleries of clients across the country. Her photography can be viewed at www.lynseymattingly.com or on Facebook.

Some Older Comments

  • casa rural la rioja August 16, 2013 04:52 am

    ¡Gran aporte! Contundentes motivos. Manten este espiritu es un blog estupendo. Tengo que leer màs blogs como este.


  • Darlene Hildebrandt July 31, 2013 05:12 am

    May I add to the list?

    #6 don't do it professionally

    I've been a pro for over 25 years and seen so many burn outs, been there a few times myself. I've also seen amateurs get into it because they love it, and end up giving it up because the business becomes too much and it makes it like work and they lose the passion for it they had as a hobbyist.

    I'm not saying don't be a pro if you really want to - just think about it and why you want to be a pro. If you want to have your own business, freedom from a 9-5 job, and go in with your eyes opened then go for it. If you just want to do photography - then do photography.

  • Brian July 30, 2013 10:43 am

    Thank you so much for this. As I sit and wait for more new portrait customers, I just today agreed to do some volunteer work for a church school and I feel better already. Thanks for the advice. :)

  • Nick July 30, 2013 04:42 am

    I like these ideas, great to give something back with your work and revisit your creativity to improve the quality of the product you deliver when you are working for cash

  • Ana GB July 29, 2013 03:19 am

    Lynsey, you're hilarious. I really enjoyed this piece of heartfelt and funny writing. I'm an actress, and at the moment I'm in denial. I studied abroad for 5 years, in 2 of the best classical drama schools in England, came back to my home country to be offered reality shows where pole dancing in wet t-shirts was required. I wanted to throw the towel and go back to Uni and study IT. Instead I fell in love with photography. I'm a beginner and I take photos of pets. I started taking pictures of kids yesterday. I take some horrible pictures and I take some good ones. I feel like my mind is still alive and my creative centre still pumping. And yet, sometimes I want to throw the camera out of the window because I'm not a renowned and professional al photographer who can pay her rent from her pictures. People say artists are exaggerated and intense, but I like to say we're sensitive and live life to the extreme of its emotions. It's so good and makes me smile to read about other people's view of both the wonders and hardships of doing what one is most passionate about. Makes me feel normal! I'm off now to take pictures for a dog and cat shelter who want them to look handsome for their future owners. Thanks for sharing this article!

  • barrr July 28, 2013 08:08 pm

    Interesting you would say hospices welcome photographers, as I've expressed the desire to capture images of a loved one's final days with their family, but never in a million years thought anyone would allow it. Food for thought. Thanks!

  • Steve Boer July 28, 2013 02:52 am

    Great article. Funny how different we can be, I generally prefer taking pictures of anything BUT people...

  • Yulia July 28, 2013 02:31 am

    I'm so glad I'm not a freak and that all that things I feel or that are happening to me are normal. thank you very much for this article, I enjoyed it very much. thank you for the tips!

  • jeffm211 July 28, 2013 12:42 am

    Good article...we've all been there! Here is a link to a group I found on Flickr that forges an opportunity to engage with people you wouldn't ordinarily engage with. http://www.flickr.com/groups/2dollarportraits/

    Talk about moving outside your comfort zone! Some of the stories are pretty amazing.

    Keep up the great work.

  • Richard July 27, 2013 06:48 pm

    Excellent post. Means so much more when the photographer (myself) is in a rut so deep that there seems no way out, to read words such as these, there is hope.
    Hope one day of getting back on board and enjoying the journey to who knows where.
    I am going to read this again and again, to make sure that I do open my camera bag that has not been unzipped since at least February, I hope I don't find spiders in there.

  • Carla July 27, 2013 12:03 pm

    Inspiring and thought provoking article. The funky times hit us all but happily they turn around into something positive. I LOVE photography - it has brought out my creative side as well as being an anchor during some rough times. It is a privilege to receive requests for my images when someone is particularly moved by something I have captured.

  • Mario Oostendorp July 27, 2013 04:59 am

    Great article and fantastic ideas. I was in a similar boat shooting film,cost prohibitive, went digital with a point and shoot was not the same. Got my first dslr and the passion come back, now using a D7000 I get excited and joined Blipfoto to keep the flame burning bright

  • Alina July 27, 2013 04:49 am

    I work at a hospital as a Medical Photographer- so after a long day of shooting blood and beatings the last thing I want to do is pick up another camera. After giving myself a (several) years break and then a small one later- I feel that I have been bitten by the bug again. and best of all I found it is okay to side lne yourself.
    Thanks for letting me know that it is okay to let it leave so it can come back with a great spark that before

  • Hannah July 27, 2013 02:42 am

    That was hilarious and very useful information :-)
    Thank you!

  • Elindaire July 26, 2013 10:38 pm

    Or acquire new gear! I bought a Fuji X100s and it has brought back so much fun in photography.


  • Daniel Lee July 26, 2013 11:58 am

    I actually take a yearly break from photography since all of my video games come out in a period of a month so they keep me occupied. It's very good though since by the the I'm done with them I'm always eager to start shooting again!

  • Danny July 26, 2013 08:21 am

    Sorry - hit the submit comment button by mistake. Doh! What I was going on to say was that this article is brilliant. Self-deprecatingly funny and superbly helpful. Inspirational even. I don't even like photography! More please.

  • Danny July 26, 2013 08:15 am

    What's going on? T

  • Leon L. Nery July 26, 2013 07:41 am

    This is an article of creativeness, wit, wisdom and satire. Wish I could write like you.

  • Amy July 26, 2013 06:41 am

    Amen! Thank you for saying how I've been feeling for the past year. Great advice.

  • Mark Buckley July 26, 2013 05:08 am

    Really enjoyed this. I recently had the thrill lf one of my kids taking my picture for the first time. Not quite Annie Leibowitz, but I will treasure it forever.
    Sometimes it's not motivation but opportunity that disappears. I used to think I was a landscape and travel photographer, but with 2 jobs and two kids opportunity is lacking, so I've tried to diversify. On my website I have tried still life, a few sports, and of course bugs and beasties.
    Now I've come up a simple and silly project (combining tips 4 & 5 above. If it works I will post a link.
    Motivate yourself. No one else can...

  • Alice Cates July 26, 2013 02:21 am

    Wow! I thought it was just me! I am sooo glad to hear its not just me and quite normal. With all the point and shoot shutterbugs out there, I have been thinking that perhaps people don't care about the professionals any more. The assignment will definitely come in handy for me...

  • Barry E Warren July 26, 2013 01:23 am

    Good advice; I take a break once in a while. Maybe about a week at the most. It does help refresh your mine and get back in the grove.

  • Penelope July 26, 2013 01:07 am

    These are so sweet! But the one about housing, that one kind of broke my heart :( I want to volunteer my photography, this is a wonderful thing to do!

  • JH July 25, 2013 11:59 pm

    I like what you have done with this article and I think you can transfer this to other professions as well. Take time off, be inspired by helping others, keep up to date, add variation and ensure you have focus.

    The one I really like is the helping others, I image you can gain so much motivation out of that.

  • Lefteris July 25, 2013 10:32 pm


    It looks like fate has a real sense of humour when assigning jobs to people!

    Dear Lynsey, you look so gorgeous you should be assigned on the other side of the lens permanently.

  • Dukes July 25, 2013 09:35 pm

    Very uplifting. Thank you.

  • Mridula July 25, 2013 06:07 pm

    I am at that stage yet where I can't dream of locking my camera away!


  • Russell July 25, 2013 12:54 pm

    This was a brilliant post - inspiring and witty. Lynsey should print this out and paste it to her Message Center board, because for someone with these talents to keep retiring is a terrible shame.
    Keep up the great work!

  • SherriS. July 25, 2013 11:25 am

    Thank you for a great post! I have never experienced burn out until last month after capturing my niece's wedding. I normally have my camera on and ready in the car while my husband drives. I missed a huge bear running across the highway because I didn't want to even look at my beloved Canon. LOL true story! But I'm more about capturing nature than people and I have never taken photos for 6 hours before. I'm still waiting for the urge to come back.

  • Chris Kecun July 25, 2013 08:25 am

    Retiring but not shy
    This charming little article should win awards.
    My passion is not photography, It is infinatly scalable computer graphics (SVG). I use photography to get original references that I can digitally trace and "vectorise". Of course, it helps that have a good looking image to work with from the outset.
    I can very easily apply Lynsey's 5 tips to what I do. Illustration work is not so niche that I could not easily step back and let somone else carry the load.
    Turns out that the author is not just another creative eye, but a pretty damn good motivational author.
    More please.

  • Satesh July 25, 2013 06:17 am

    Great article. I sometimes want to quit and give it up as well:/

  • Shannon July 25, 2013 04:28 am

    Great advice - I've gone the lock the camera away route and yes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. When I got it back out it was visiting an old friend. Thanks for the other great ideas. I love donating my time to ministries that are doing something that makes my heart beat faster and that makes me realize why I'm a photographer in the first place.

    I also like your writing style - it makes me smile :)

  • Ted Dudziak July 25, 2013 03:34 am

    Great advice, epecially to "Donate your services and skills" and "get an assignment". These help me to get out more for something different and to help me develop better images of people.