Thursday, 19 September 2013

How to get out of a photography slump

Light painting is easy to get started with, and you can climb pretty far.
If you are a photographer, professional or amateur, sooner or later you will get into a slump. You are not improving, and the fun just isn't there anymore.

Getting out of your slump is easier if you understand a bit about motivation, why you used to have it, and why you don't anymore.

One idea about motivation that I have found useful is Self Determination Theory (SDT). SDT is a theory in the scientific sense, like the theory of gravitation. Gravitation affects you whether you believe in it or not. Pretty much the same thing with SDT.

According to SDT, there are three factors that are important to human intrinsic motivation. If you are in a slump, it may be because something is wrong with one or more of those three factors. Fix what's wrong, and photography may become fun again, and you are out of your slump.

 The three factors are: Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness. Think C-A-R, and it will be easier to remember.

  • Competence: We need to develop and build competence. The tasks we perform must be challenging enough to be interesting, but not so difficult so we give up. As a photographer, if you shoot the same thing over and over, it will become something you can do in your sleep. Pretty soon you will do it in your sleep, because there is no challenge.
  • Autonomy: You need to decide how to do things. If someone else tells you exactly what to do and when, motivation is lost.
  • Relatedness: We, even us photographers, are social animals. We need to feel close to other people. If you have few or no buddies who are as fanatic about photography as you are, it will be difficult to maintain interest.

Using SDT as a framework, it is pretty easy to figure out things to do to get out of a slump:

  • Set yourself new challenges, and slowly increase the difficulty. You might take up a kind of photography you have not done before. Or, find the best photographers in your field, and set yourself the goal of beating them. Don't try to do it all at once. read books, try tips, learn, slowly, but surely.
  • Photograph on your own time, just for fun, with nobody to tell you what, when, and how to do things.
  • Find other photographers with interests similar to yours. You can find photographers at Drink-And-Click, photo clubs, street photo events, and other places. When you find them, start doing things with them, like practice shoots, photo book projects, and other stuff you might be interested in. Also, find people with an interest in being in front of the camera, like models, musicians, singers, acrobats, tattooists, fire dancers...
I do hope you find something here to help you bring the light back in your vocation as a photographer. If you do, add a note about it in the comments to this post.

Why not put yourself in front of the camera, for a change? A friend of mine, Anna Sigvardsson, asked for models for a lighting test. I jumped at the chance to play around a bit.
Photographer: Anna Sigvardsson

Now, go and have some fun!