He had a different reason for asking, but we were looking for the same result.
"How do you keep photographers motivated to keep shooting?" asked a camera industry salesperson. "It seems photographers aren't shooting as much. "How do we address that?"
This got me thinking about a problem we all encounter. There is so much noise, so much distraction. It's tough for even the most dedicated photographers to find the motivation to keep shooting.
Here are a half dozen ideas, from easy to hard.
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How can a photographer keep motivated? Here are a half dozen ideas, from easy to hard.
Put yourself on a posting schedule
Project 365 and Project 52 are tried and true ways to create a schedule that encourages regular shooting and posting. By creating routine and habit, we create momentum. The further you can go into your schedule without missing a day, the more motivation you have to keep the streak going. The point here is to keep your efforts social. The motivation also comes from the onlookers.
Put yourself on a shooting schedule
Another way to do this is to put yourself on a production schedule. Project 365 is about posting. How about a schedule that just encourages shooting.
Writers often put themselves on a 500-word a day diet or some other equivalent. It's not about creating work that you have to share. The benefit is in creating consistently.
Perhaps a schedule that says I shoot 100 images every day might be helpful. The byproduct of forcing yourself to look for 100 images a day is you are now also teaching yourself to see. You can't just snap two images and call it a day. You have to keep looking until you find 100. That can be fun. You produce for yourself.
Because you do, you can also feel free to make and learn from your mistakes. No one needs to see what you shoot, so feel free to mess up. Just learn as you go. About a few weeks in, look back at your progress. You will see that you are getting better. That's a great source of motivation.
Create 'work that matters'
Connect and overlap your photography with another existing passion. Ted Forbes, from the ArtofPhotography, first talked about work that matters. He argued that the world doesn't need another random sunset photo. It needs photography that matters.
An easy way to create photography that matters is by photographing what matters to you. Create a body of work documenting the things and issues that matter to you. Chances are that it will matter to someone else. You might also notice that you increase your motivation.
Pour yourself into a creative project
I was really excited when my friends in DC created the book project, UnPresidented. A group of street photographer set out to document the people's response to the recent presidential Inauguration. The final product will be a coffee table book curated from the best images from the group.
It was fascinating to see how quickly this idea took off and the enthusiasm with which photographers went out to shoot and contribute. This takes the work that matters concept and takes it to a different level of maturity.
Create a product that you can sell or share. Building something tangible can provide its only level of motivation to keep producing.
Decide and commit
Chet Holmes used to call this pig-headed discipline. Sometimes you have to be more stubborn than any impulses to slack off. Commit to shooting regularly and don't let yourself off the hook. It's not as easy as it sounds.
Steven Pressfield writes about The Resistance.
Resistance is a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.
Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form if that’s what it takes to deceive you.
Resistance will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man.
Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.
In other words, fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day. - Steven Pressfield
In other words, just do it. The professional doesn't need to trick herself into doing the work, she does it because she knows it needs to be done.
“Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. ‘I write only when inspiration strikes,' he replied. ‘Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.' That's a pro.”
You are not your work
You are not your photography. Sometimes, besides your best intentions, you might fall short. You might lose that motivation and break your streak. Resist the urge to beat yourself up. It happens. It doesn't say anything about you. Don't make it personal. Just get back at it. Tomorrow begins at midnight. It will be a new day and a new opportunity to move forward.
Go take this motivation and make something special happen.