5 questions every photographer should ask themselves at least once

Feeling lost on your photographic journey is common. You are therefore in a creative rut or have periods of low motivation. Sometimes we can all struggle to feel inspired to grab the camera and go out. A lack of direction, purpose, and reason can be the culprit for these aforementioned photography ills. So, let’s dig into these questions and uncover the possible “whys” behind your acute need to capture.

1. Who are you filming for?

Some people thrive on others and strive for a positive comment or compliment from a peer or mentor. Others exist in their own, more introverted world and prefer to share with select people or perhaps not at all. My partner and I are both photographers in our own way, and I assure you we couldn’t be more opposite when it comes to how we enjoy our work, how we want to share it, and the intent behind creating this . I’m really a person who thinks about the end product and is happy to show it off. I thrive in the spotlight, and I want and need recognition. My, shall we say, better half prefers to keep her light under wraps and creates from a very different place. He shoots for the process and has the camera and settings in mind, appreciating ergonomics, using the machine to its full potential and thinking less about the consequences and more about the whole experience.

So the question here is: do you shoot for yourself or do you shoot for others? Obviously, we can cover our tracks and do both, but it’s good to have a rough idea of ​​what you’re photographing for and who you’re creating for. Self-awareness around one’s work allows for evaluation, and it lends itself to evolution and growth, which is what we all need to stay fresh and relevant in the photographic space.

2. What is your end game or goal?

Human beings naturally work to achieve something. When we don’t, we become complacent, unmotivated, and bored. This is also true for creative people, and I think a photographer without a goal is a lost photographer. So let’s go ! Above we discussed who you shoot for. Now I ask you why are you shooting?

Often a photo project can give you a sense of direction and an end point to work towards. It doesn’t have to be a Robert Frank type project where you take 27,000 photos over a period of a few years and then whittle it down to 83 (God knows how he did that.) Your answer can be simple and with weak issues, like, “photography is my hobby. I love it. It gets me out of the house, and I love the community aspect.” Or, your answer could be the opposite: “I strive to create a body of meaningful work that I would like to see exhibited one day.” It can also be anywhere in between these two. It’s not about being put in a box, but rather defining where you are currently at in your work and where your energy is best spent.

Thinking about what you want in the long term or where you would like to see yourself in a few years could provide you with an answer. For me, being exhibited in a gallery or winning a competition has never been high on the list, because it doesn’t really fit my style of photography or my personality. However, I dream of becoming a full-time content creator in the photography niche. My “why” is so different from someone else wanting to publish their work or wanting to become a professional portrait or wedding photographer. These are exciting questions to ponder because it really invites you to consider your dream scenario when it comes to succeeding in photography. Making a list, or looking at the artists you admire, and why is a useful way to find out your desires.

3. Do you create the same job over and over again?

It’s difficult. Everyone talks about finding your style, and we photographers always hope that our work has some unique quality that stands out and is definable for us alone. It’s something that takes a long time to cultivate or at other times seems to grow naturally in an artist’s work without really thinking about it or trying. We’re all jealous of the latter, that’s for sure. So how do you know when your work has a consistent style and when your work is just repeating itself?

Well, that’s a difficult question to answer definitively, because you, the photographer, are the only one who really knows. The reality is that someone will always think your work is repetitive or derivative or just that they don’t like it. But that’s the thing with art: like beauty, it’s subjective, and there’s a huge element that only exists inside the artist themselves. When you are truly satisfied and proud of your work, it doesn’t matter what others say or don’t say. You know deep down if your work is just a direct recreation of something you’ve seen online or if it’s something you’ve chosen and been drawn to for genuine reasons. .

Only you can look at your work, study your process and decide. Since I’m asking you to be so introspective here, I’m going to step in and publicly reflect on myself, so we can be even. I’m a big fan of the color red, and it consistently features in my photographs. I’m aware that it comes from some films I saw in my formative years, namely ParisTexasand also photographers like William Eggelston and Ren Hang who have used this color extensively in their images. I do my best to use that as inspiration rather than just trying to recreate their amazing photography, and obviously sometimes it reeks of derivative intent because, well, everyone does it sometimes , and that’s fine. Overall I’m happy with the red theme in my work and think it defines my style well, but I certainly know where it’s coming from and I’m aware of it when creating images.

On the other side of the coin, I’m a proponent of a classic car shot on film, probably the biggest trope of recent years in analog photography, and it fits in my books. I’m not the photography police here to fine you for yet another corner shot of a headlight on a classic American vehicle. Rather, I’m here to raise the issue of stagnant repetitive work and when to check yourself before you repeat yourself again.

If you’re happy to do this, then by all means go for it. This is not an audit of your photography or choice of subject. However, I think it’s important to ask yourself, in the face of these highly photographic, or clichéd, moments and scenes, if you will, “why am I filming this and what does it add or achieve? ” Now, you might say, “uh, shut up, Lucy. I don’t need to add or direct because I’m just having fun and taking pictures of what looks nice to me.” To this I say: congratulations and go ahead. The purpose of this article was to make you think about why, how and for whom you work, and who better than yourself.

I really want to stand out as a person and a photographer, so I like to be aware and think before I hit the shutter, especially with film. My inner dialogue always asks the question: “Do I really need this photo and why am I taking it?”

4. Where do you need improvement?

Tyler Durden once said that self-improvement was masturbation. As much as I love the movie Fight Club, I’m afraid that Tyler/Brad Pitt is wrong on this one. Growing, especially in an area of ​​passion and interest, usually comes quite easily, but there will always be an aspect of photography that you don’t really want to learn. We can’t have all our fingers in all the photography pies, can we? I’m not asking you either, but I think there’s always one area where we can improve, and it doesn’t have to be technical.

Do you find it difficult to speak or criticize your own work? This is a very valuable skill that could help you grow and flourish as an artist. Improving your skills or seeking guidance in this area can simply help you improve and break through an otherwise stagnant lull. Are you a little lazy with your social media and maybe leaving valuable relationships on the table? Improving your online presence could be the much-needed boost to shooting more regularly, attracting more clients, or finding a new photo buddy in your area.

Improvement doesn’t have to be technical or follow a linear path. Everything has a ripple effect and often improvement in any area of ​​our lives, whether photography or not, will trickle down to others. This is also the perfect time to learn. YouTube is full of free tutorials and other learning platforms are plentiful if you want to invest in yourself and your photography. After all, you are worth it!

5. Are you exhausted from your photography?

With so much access to everything these days, it’s easy to burn out on a topic. I think we’ve all been through this during the pandemic with constant updates and growing anxiety around reading the hourly news. Sometimes you have to disconnect, and photography is no exception. I have a YouTube channel, podcast, newsletter, and this writing concert, all centered on photography. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes the last thing I want to do is talk, see, or even take pictures. It’s sometimes liberating to go out without a camera in hand, even though I know there are two or three in the glove compartment because I’m completely addicted to photography, and to let my eyes rest and my mind wander out of the realm of “that’s a nice composition over there. Wait, I’ll be right back”.

You may have too many good things, and checking that your photography doesn’t suffer from too much time together could be the answer to a creative rut or low motivation. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I know that when I have some time away from photography, I suddenly have new ideas and concepts that I’m excited to try the next time I take a camera. It is worth mentioning that if photography is your job in any capacity, it can be easy to lose it as a personal interest as well, so diversifying your hobbies or taking breaks can invigorate you for your future photographic adventures.

I hope these questions and thoughts have helped you look within and be surprised at what you find. A community can be really helpful in times of questioning its capabilities and purpose, so I invite you to comment below for continued conversation.

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