Keeping the Interest Alive

If you have read some of my previous posts you may be aware that my interest in photography is at a fairly low ebb. After years of enthusiastic snapping as I explored this artistic medium, I now seem to have little motivation to take many photos.

However, I still get some enjoyment from photography and I don’t think I will ever give up on it. So, lately I have been thinking about what caused my enthusiasm to wane, and more importantly, what I can do to try and get the motivation levels up again.

Diminishing Interest

I have discussed this before, but I think my interest in photography is waning because everything is just looking the same to me. Whether it’s my own photographs I am taking, or whether I am viewing others, most stuff just seems so boring. A camera gives you limitless potential for creating images, yet as I use one more and more I realise that too much ends up looking the same.

In addition, I really don’t see much of the context of the images I take or view, I just see patches of light or dark. That’s all I look for when I am snapping. I don’t know if this is a factor in my waning interest or perhaps a symptom of it. It may just be my own evolution through photography, or a reflection of my own personality in some way.

However, as I have said I want to try and get back some of the buzz I used to have so I have been thinking about some ways to rekindle that spark, not just for me but for anyone who is having the same issue. So below are a few of the ideas I have come up with.

Buy New Gear / Gadgets

One way to maintain interest is to buy new photographic gear. This is a method I have tried with limited success in the past. Buying stuff such as a new camera body or upgraded lens may provide some increased interest, but if it’s just an upgrade to existing gear, it may not make a huge amount of difference to your photos. Buying gear which allows a different style of photography such as an ultra wide lens or a set of filters may provide more of an interest boost if you can get substantial use out them. However, a lot of this stuff may seem gimicky to most and won’t be used much.

Depending on your financial situation, this is probably a nice, easy route to take to help bolster enthusiasm. After all, it doesn’t really require any skill or learning, you just have to throw money at it, a thing we staunch capitalists are very good at. Got a problem, then don’t put any work or effort into solving it, just throw money at it until it goes away. You may also get some heightened interest from the ‘retail therapy’ element of it, or you might get off on being an equipment snob and flashing your gear about. Moreover, a lot of camera equipment can be picked up relatively cheaply nowadays, so you don’t have to be loaded to get some interesting and high quality gear.

As I said, I have limited success with this in the past. Upgrading from a compact to a DSLR provided a boost as it opened up some new avenues but it didn’t take me long to realise their wasn’t the gulf of difference between them that I had hoped for. Same with new lenses and filters. They give some additional scope but the novelty doesn’t last long. That didn’t stop me buying  lots of gadgets though. I dunno whether this helped keep my interest up or was more a symptom of my heightened interest back then. However, since my interest has waned, I haven’t bought anything new. Below is a small selection of just some of the stuff I have bought over the years.

DSC_0065.JPG

Photograph Different Subjects

This is another obvious method for trying to maintain interest, just shoot different stuff. If you mostly do landscapes, try macro or portrait photography, or maybe try going to different locations to shoot. Again, this something I have tried in the past with moderate success. I have dipped my into other styles of photography and they have certainly helped my enthusiasm for short periods. However, you soon hit barriers (usually financial) that I wasn’t willing to cross. For example, I tried macro and it was quite fun but I soon realised that I would need gear like rails and ring lights, and I would have to develop the technique of focus stacking to get the most out of it. And unfortunately I wasn’t enjoying it enough to warrant that investment. Thus, I don’t do it anymore. As for visiting new places, it will certainly give you some new stuff to shoot but it may be a case that the bulk of the enjoyment comes from actually visiting the new place rather than photographing it. That is certainly the case for me.

Below are a couple of my better efforts at macro work.

Trying to photograph different stuff may be a good avenue to go down as you may discover an interest for a style of photography you never thought possible. However, there is a danger of spreading yourself too thin and losing focus on the style of photography you are really interested in. For me, I shoot landscapes and pretty much nothing else now. This allows me to focus solely on this style of photography without wasting my limited time on other stuff. I would consider trying something different again, especially now that my interest levels are low, but it would have to be a wholehearted effort and I would have to commit to it fully.

Learn New Post-Processing Techniques

Post-processing / image manipulation is here to stay. Many people don’t like excessive use of these techniques but I think they add a whole new dimension to photography allowing you create new worlds from a simple photograph. Packages like Photoshop are insanely powerful and give almost unlimited scope for editing photographs in any way you like.

However, they come at a cost and that is mostly time. Photoshop has huge power but to harness that requires a lot of learning and practising to get good at it. There are plenty of tutorials for it out there but these have a danger of railroading you into a set style or way of working. To get the most from it and try to develop an individual style you will have to put in a lot of work. Perhaps not something that appeals to some people as you can’t just throw money at it to make it better.

You also get programs like Instagram that allow limited image manipulation. It is quick and easy to use but it’s limited scope (and those ghastly filters) tend to make images look fairly samey. Or perhaps, you like hammering the HDR button on your iPhone. The results are actually quite impressive from this function but again it makes photos look samey. Bottom line is that there is no quick and easy program that will give you high quality, individualised photos. You just have to put in the effort.

I have found the use of software like Photoshop to be probably my primary driver for helping to bolster my interest in photography. Because of it’s power you can create amazing things if you are willing to invest the time, and you don’t have to rely on a lucky lighting conditions and suchlike. Therefore, I would strongly recommend trying this.

Below is a before and after shot using Photoshop. And even achieving this is just scratching the surface of what the software can do.

Change your Audience

If you are presenting your images to others, perhaps a change of audience might help your interest levels. You may present your photos on Facebook or Instagram but just between your close friends. From this, you may get some decent genuine responses but you are more than likely to get a lot of sycophantic bullshit. Maybe presenting to a wider audience with a more critical eye for photography might be beneficial to your photographic skills, although perhaps not for your ego.

Perhaps you already present to such an audience but you get limited response. Try a different audience on Flickr or 500px or suchlike. You may hook up with more interesting people who could help your enthusiasm.

Whatever way you present your photos, it is probably worth considering presenting to a different, or an additional audience. It may help improve your skills and perhaps help your enthusiasm levels also.

Improve

Improvement will come mostly through practise. Although you can maybe get quick small, quick boosts to image quality through buying new gear, the biggest, and most rewarding improvements come through practise. And improvement, whether that be in photographic technique or post-processing skill, is a huge booster for the interest levels. You can help improve by reading books, watching or reading online tutorials, or just getting out there and snapping away. Also, a good technique is through critical self appraisal. Once you are finished an image, study it closely to find the parts you like and don’t like and how you will aim to change this in the future.

Although I feel you can allows improve and this helps keep up the interest levels, from my experience, improvement was not constant. I found that when I first started in photography my improvement was slow, then it boosted dramatically and then, as I had learned a lot of what I wanted to achieve, improvement again was much slower. Here is a crude graph to show this.

interest

As I said, improvement will mostly come through practise and learning. So even if you think that your photos are as good as they can possibly get, there will always be something that can be improved on them. So keep learning, and don’t be disheartened if the scale of improvement is not as significant as you’d like. As long as you are still improving, you should still be able to keep up an interest.

Conclusion

These are just a few ways I can think of to help maintain interest in photography, I’m sure if you put your mind to it you can think of many others. Most of the stuff I have mentioned above I have tried myself to a limited degree and they do help keep some interest going. However, for me, and maybe for others too, it may be time to re-explore these avenues again to help give my interest levels a significant boost.

Thanks for Reading,

Neil

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