How to Avoid Becoming a Lazy Photographer

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So much photography writing is based on the notion of discovering success in your work that we often overlook what lies on the opposite end of that bright and wonderful spectrum. What do we do when we see ourselves becoming lazy with our photography? Unlike many more obvious pitfalls along our photographic journey which strike us early on with painful abruptness, laziness tends to come about with a comfortable latency. It is often our successes that invite the destructive haunt of complacency into our work.

how to avoid being a lazy photographer

Fortunately, just like an antidote to any other poison, there are ways you can shake yourself out of photographic apathy in order to remain freshly productive in your art. Here are just a few exercises that you can use to avoid becoming a lazy photographer. I’ve used these myself (yes, even the teacher isn’t immune to laziness) to combat the dark side.

Today’s camera technology is amazing…and dangerous

So much is done without us even needing to turn a dial today. The wonderful bliss of in-camera metering lets us come close to the perfect exposure without even needing a light meter. Today we have the to power to use our cameras at what was a nearly pro level not twenty years ago.

Camera technology laziness

You may think that this new found autonomy is all well and good. True, shooting in aperture or shutter priority does save a lot of so-called guess work. But what else are we giving up? No doubt I’m sure that the inventor of the wheel had to put up with a lot of guff from the load dragging crowd, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t come to rely on our gear too much to compensate for a relaxed skill set.

Try to shoot in full manual mode more. Yes, I know, but just do it, as a favor to me. Shooting manually (choosing the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) using all your own settings, not only gives you a sense of accomplishment when you get it right, but it is also an enormous benefit when it comes to learning the true craft of photography.

Knowing what you did right and wrong when it comes to making a photograph, and I guarantee you will likely not only become un-lazy but a stronger shooter as well.

Strive to be original

avoid being a lazy photographer

Ah yes, originality. Finding the “undone” is the bane of today’s photographer. So many photographs have been made that it seems nearly impossible to produce any work that hasn’t already been done. This can lead to almost an unconscious regurgitation of either yours or other photographer’s images. It’s easy to do, don’t get discouraged.

The important thing to remember is to always, and I do mean ALWAYS, shoot what you feel in the way that you feel it. Be your own shooter and I promise that you won’t be able to make a mistake creatively.

avoid being a lazy photographer

Sure, your photographs may be similar to others work but as long as you set out from the get go to create something fresh, you won’t go wrong.

Maintain your craft

This goes right along with the idea that relying on your camera to make the decisions for you can lead to folly. Maintaining your craft in order to prevent becoming lazy means many things. The majority of them being the fact that you do not rely on yourself or your gear for producing quality images. Yes, that is somewhat of a paradox.

Maintain craft avoid being a lazy photographer

But even paradoxes can be true. Don’t place all your faith in your camera’s computer, then again don’t place all your cards on the steadiness of your hands or eyes.

Laziness in your photography can come from using your hi-tech gear too often, or not using the tried and true techniques of photo-making enough. This means that you should not abandon your tripod, and your camera’s meter might not always produce the results that you’re chasing.

Success brings about its own problems

Maintain craft avoid being a lazy photographer

Success is amazing, and it is also detrimental. No matter what your measure of success may be, the liberating discovery of success, both profitability and monetarily with your photography, can lead to the acquisition of extraordinary laziness. You see, an incredible thing happens when people begin to like your work on mass, The public, in general, favor that which others tend to favor. Meaning, the opinion of your own photography often hinges on the viral acceptance of others. Nothing is worse than a photo which becomes popular because a lot of people think it’s good.

This is one of those rare ailments that comes about nearly exclusively to those who are professionals in our craft. Success can breed laziness and thusly, become a self-defeating propagation or our own aspirations as photographers. Never become complacent due to your own assumptions that your work has become a success. Keep working to achieve new success on your own terms and not by the accolades of others.

It happens to all of us

We all get tired. We all can succumb to the wretched occurrence of laziness. This laziness comes about in many ways and the most horrible part about it is that we often don’t realize it is happening. Remember not to rely on your gear exclusively and don’t forget the basics.

Success problems avoid being a lazy photographer

Use your tripod when you can and shoot in full manual mode when you’re able. Maintain your originality even when you have a breakthrough. And when you do find success, don’t bank on the profitability of your own name to place value on your own photographs.

The idea that we can eventually become lazy isn’t an easy pill to swallow but that doesn’t make it any less real. The most important thing we can do in order to stall the determinants of photographic laziness is to realize that it comes to us all. Awareness is the most valuable weapon we have.

How about you?

Have you at time succumbed to being a lazy photographer? Has your bed been more appealing than that fantastic sunrise you missed photographing yet again? What other ways has laziness kept into your photography? Please share in the comments below, and let’s be honest with ourselves.

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Adam Welch is a full-time photomaker, author, adventurer, educator, and self-professed bacon addict. You can usually find him on some distant trail making photographs or at his computer writing about all the elegant madness that is photography. Follow his blog over at aphotographist.com or pick up his new book Cameras in the Wild.

  • Donna J

    Good article, you make some great points and I’m sorry to say I have been falling in this direction for some time now. But I’m going to make it a point to stop the car, turn around, change the lens, etc etc when I see something that catches my eye instead of just driving or walking by because I’m in a hurry or running late or have too much to do. Or hop out of bed before dawn on Saturday morning to go out and shoot that gorgeous light or beautiful fog like I used to. Thanks for the push!

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  • Paul Roach

    This does happen to all of us from time to time. One simple solution is to acquire a used manual film camera and go shot with it. You will have to think about every aspect of what you’re doing from what type of film to use to all of the exposure settings. Then you have to wait for the results to come back to you (no chimping). It will slow you down and make you think! You might even get creative in the process. Enjoyed the article!

  • Peter Pawlicki

    Just because I sleep a lot and spend 30-40 hrs a day in my bed doing nothing doesn’t mean I’m lazy.
    I just do things differently)))) Just kidding out there. Nice article https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/22c76e8c3e746478ca240bdd2ec163c628b446437291c96f86dc330fb7471991.jpg

  • Adolfo Chavez (New Vision)

    I have become lazy in a different way. I don’t go out to take pictures like I used to. I would carry my camera around any where I went. Now it sits in the bag most days. I need to find motivation again.

  • Beaky

    Thanks Adam, I have found myself lying in bed looking out the door and realising I have just missed the perfect sunrise, too many times. I am home for a month next week and I plan to change that! Thanks for the article as it has inspired me. My worst downfall is the disappointment after an outing and you down load your shots and the ones you really hoped would be winners are total flops. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to critiquing my own work. Thanks again for the article.

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  • Jim Wolff

    I totally agree about shooting in manual mode. I started out on 35mm SLR cameras that did not have auto modes, so today, I still only shoot in manual mode. In fact, (odd as it sounds), I actually have not been able to master using AP or SP because I don’t get the full sense of what is happening. I prefer manual mode in all cases.

  • Bobby Stubblefield

    Use your tripod. Bad advice. You don’t need one, you’ve just been told you do.

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