The key to staying motivated with photography

Mar 08, 2022
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Creative Photo Folk
The key to staying motivated with photography

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Have you been struggling to stay focused with photography? Well I reckon I’ve discovered the key!

About 12 years ago I was wandering through life completely directionless with zero clue what to do with myself when I had the idea to complete 52 new year’s resolutions and write a blog about it. These were small things, various crafts and excursions to force me out of my shell. And while few of those 52 resolutions made a significant difference to my life I l did learn how to write, how to use my camera to document my projects and how to keep showing up every week. But the most valuable thing I learned on that journey was how easy it was to complete a task when you give yourself a goal – you simply choose a goal, give it a timeframe, break it into chunks, diarise those chunks, and bam, you’ve accomplished something. Maybe even several somethings if you turn this into a habit.

I’ve carried those important skills through life and applied them whenever I’ve wanted to learn or achieve something. When I decided it was time to learn Photoshop, it was not enough for me to grab a random YouTube tutorial to follow along with. From my 52 project I’d learned the value of making a plan and documenting the progress. So, instead, I wrote out all the Photoshop compositing techniques I wanted to learn and each week I tried a new one, wrote a blog about the process, and shared the image I created as a result. And it only took a matter of weeks before people couldn’t believe the work I was creating. That blog continues to be popular to this day. It’s regularly used in school curriculums. Students reach out to tell me how much I inspired them. Just this week someone tagged me in one of their artworks to let me know they’d used my tutorial to create it.

Not only did I use this project based style of learning improve my own skills but I managed to inspire others in the process. What a blessing! There’s no better motivation than that.

When I stopped writing that blog, guess what? I found it hard to create images, my drive to create completely disappeared. I tried haphazardly but felt lost without direction. And not always because I was stuck for ideas, but because I often had too many that I had no clue where to start.

And that’s when I realised that the only way I can personally create, or really achieve anything, is by using a project structure. Now there’s been plenty of studies into why project based learning is a preferable style of teaching so I won’t cover the nitty gritty of that. I just know that through my own personal experiences it’s absolutely what works for me. But I also strongly suspect it’s the reason so many photographers drop the ball. So often I hear photographers saying they’ve lost their mojo or are taking lengthy breaks or that life got in the way. And it got me thinking.

Other craftspeople use projects. Knitters make scarves, musicians write songs, authors write books, illustrators draw pictures, sculptors make structures. They all have an end goal they work towards that produces tangible results. Yet photographers so rarely do. We often treat it like a passive hobby, taking our camera with us on excursions and coming home with photos of what we discovered. And while an excursion in itself is a kind of project, if we don’t have definitive things to capture and a way to share or use those results, then eventually photography starts to become kind of pointless. If we came home with one perfect photo, maybe that would make it worthwhile but instead we come home with many, mostly useless photos that clutter up our hard drive. And alas, we lose interest and let other things take priority.

And this is why I began working on my photography membership, Creative Photo Folk. I knew that for me to achieve consistently I needed projects and so I thought, well maybe other photographers would benefit from capturing fun little projects too? It would help them improve their skills, build a portfolio and teach them the benefits of goal setting. And I knew that even if my membership wasn’t a success, at least I’d become a better photographer in the process of creating it.

So I made a list of all the creative projects I could think of, researched how to shoot them all, and set about photographing each one, writing tutorials as I went. And once again, I became super productive. My portfolio expanded rapidly, I was creating and selling artworks again. All while crafting content to help other photographers.

So if you struggle with motivation, do a project. I personally like to assess where I need to improve and work on that specifically but if you’re not sure, try a 12 month or 52 week project. I do however caution against 365 projects. Over the years I’ve watched several people attempt them and while some have been successful, I’ve also seen many more reach the end of the project and disappear, never to be heard from again because they turned photography into a hateful chore.

Whatever you choose, please be kind to yourself. My photo blog started off weekly and dropped down to fortnightly and no one ever minded. There’s absolutely no reason to beat yourself up if you need downtime and miss a week or two. It’s your quest. You make the rules.

Within Creative Photo Folk we do fortnightly challenges around projects, rather than themes, and the rules are quite loose. I don’t ever want anyone to feel like they’ve failed. I set challenges purely to keep members accountable and give them an opportunity to build their portfolios.

If you’re struggled with consistency in the past, a project just might be the key to keep you picking up your camera. So give it a go!

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