Motivation & Creativity
22nd January, 2019
At some point for most if not all of us, our mojo disappears. When inspiration abandons us it can be difficult to keep motivated enough to continue shooting. Suddenly the excitement of an early morning start and anticipation of a magical sunrise is replaced by a feeling of depression. All of a sudden everything becomes an effort, precisely the wrong state of mind for a creative pursuit.
The solution to regaining your mojo, and keeping it, can be different for each of us. Personally, I have found the key to keeping inspired and motivated lies with creativity. For many of us, a change in photographic direction is the solution; landscapes temporarily take a back seat in favour of wildlife, portrait, sports photography etc. But for those like me who have no interest in other types of photography, there are still plenty of things we can do to keep us creative.
Unfortunately the popularity of landscape photography has conditioned many of us to feel compelled to capture similar pictures. Epic breathtaking landscapes at sunrise or sunset can be found everywhere on the internet. Usually photographed with a small aperture on a wide angle lens, capturing expansive subject matter all in sharp focus.
I think its important to clarify that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. Such moments are amazing to witness, and having the opportunity and ability to capture a little of that magic on camera should never be dismissed. However, constantly setting out to capture this style of photograph can have a detrimental effect on your creativity. When I first became interested in photography, I would photograph all sorts of subjects in a whole range of conditions. But as my experience grew, like many others I found myself striving for sunrise and sunset light, my choice of lens grew wider and my subjects more and more dramatic. Some way down the line, I looked at my portfolio and immediately felt underwhelmed. While my photographs comprised of many different locations, the subject matter and style made them all look very similar. Most were seascapes, all photographed with wide angle lenses and many with my camera pointed directly into a colourful sunrise or sunset. Although my skills as a photographer had grown, my creativity had taken a massive step back. This realization that I was simply going through the motions left me feeling demotivated and uninspired.
The trouble is landscape photography in general seems to lack creativity, thanks in no small part to its popularity. Whenever a refreshingly different photograph emerges and gains popularity, its appeal is soon dulled by the huge numbers of images that follow replicating the style and content. The internet is awash with images of popular subjects such as the northern lights, milky way, Iceland etc.
But how do you keep creative? It’s very difficult to force yourself to be creative. I’m a firm believer that you can only capture a good photograph if you are passionate about what you shoot. By far the most important thing you can do is to have the confidence to do your own thing. If you can set yourself free from the chains of online photography and social media sites you will be halfway there. The rewards systems that these sites offer are actually quite detrimental to your creativity and encourage you to follow a certain style of photography. Break free from striving for online popularity and you will find the rewards are far greater than likes and shares, comments and points.
Heading back to my story, my solution to regaining my creativity was to move away from the popular. Firstly, I dragged myself away from the coast. It was a difficult thing to do; I love to shoot seascapes but I wanted to try something different to expand my portfolio. So I photographed countryside, and mountains, throughout the seasons and in a variety of weather too. I discovered the beauty to be found in woodlands throughout the year, not just in Spring when many UK photographers make the annual bluebell pilgrimage. And when I returned to the coast I photographed it under moody grey light, which for me was every bit as atmospheric as the sunset and often more so.
I began varying my focal length too. The wide angle was still used when required, but more and more I found myself using the lens to compliment the scenery, rather than the other way round. Even now whenever I attach the 70-200mm, that process alone makes me feel more creative.
The more I mixed up my locations, lenses and light, the more motivated I felt. And the better my portfolio looked too. Although my images were proving less popular on the photography websites that was less important to me. I was developing as a photographer, keeping creative and most importantly enjoying my photography.
We all feel demotivated at times, it’s a natural feeling. Next time you feel this way, try something different. If you can bear to do it, leave your usual lens at home. Or head to a different location. Or try shooting at an unusual time of day, or weather. Above all remember to shoot for yourself, not for others; the rewards are much greater than any social media site can offer.
Article originally published in Landscape Photography Magazine, 2015.