Photography burnout, at some point we’ve all experienced it. It doesn’t make us any less of a photographer, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’ve lost our eye or talent for photography. It just happens. Like anything else you do in your life, the more you do it the higher the risk of burning out. I think most of us get in a nice comforting zone once we begin feeling satisfied with our work. Slowly things become repetitive, maybe it’s using that one prop we love so much. Yes, maybe the prop is beautiful, but if we use it all the time it will subconsciously become boring and certainly repetitive.
Repetition is the biggest culprit of photography burn out. Repetition prevents you from taking your photography to the next level. It keeps you trapped in a so-called comfort zone which only ends up hurting your vision. Whenever you start getting that burnout feeling stop and see what in your photography has become repetitive. Avoiding full burnout or curing it is easier than you might think. Today we are going to discuss a few ways you can cure or prevent that photography burnout.
There are times when I have a specific vision of what I want my photograph to look like. I select the shooting background and area, choose some props, prepare and style the food, then I grab my camera. After a few shots I realize that the photos aren’t looking like I envisioned them. What a frustrating feeling. It can even become infuriating at times, specially when I’ve spent a good hour on all of this. In the cloud of frustration I keep pushing and pushing myself, only to end up more frustrated.
One day it finally dawned on me that it doesn’t matter how much I push myself. If it isn’t working, it’s best to walk away. Put the camera down and try again in a few hours or even better, the next day. Give your mind time to clear. Often times you’ll realize that it’s the pressure you’re putting on yourself that is causing the frustration. If you need to, take a walk and try again after you return. Many times after you’ve “cooled down” and you review the exposures, you realize that they weren’t as bad as you initially thought.
I shot about 30 photos, of the portobello steak above, during the session. When I was shooting I was so frustrated with the look and gave up. The next day looking through the photos I realized they weren’t as bad as I initially thought.
New Light In A New Prop
Breaking free of repetition can be as easy as using a new prop. You don’t necessarily have to go out and spend a paycheck on a new prop. First look around your house to see what you could use. Be creative, you may even find props to use from outside your kitchen. Maybe it is extra fabric laying around your sewing area, or it can be a table you haven’t shot on before, even a wicker chair can make an interesting shooting surface or background. Add candles, or use those little nic-nacs around your house. With a little imagination anything can become a unique new prop for you.
If you have a little extra money to spend, buy a new bowl, or plate, or colourful pot/pan to shot. You could also try painting wooden boards. Simply go to the hardware store and look through the small pieces or scraps of wood you can purchase cheaply, or even get for free. Many bloggers visit garage and estate sales to find new props. Discount stores are also great places to look for bargain props. Always purchase something different than what you already have in your kitchen. Remember we are trying to break repetition.
My newest photo prop, a pewter tea cup and saucer.
New Setting or New Shooting Area
Another thing I like to do when I’m feeling burnt out is finding a new setting. I have a small designated area where I keep my props and where I do most of my shooting. But I’ve found that spending all my shooting time in that same area makes me stick with one, repetitive, way of shooting. Instead it’s best to alternate the areas where we shoot. The new area will force you to set up your shooting space differently. Maybe the walls are a different color in that new shooting space, maybe there is furniture you can use as a background. I’ll tell you a little secret, I’ve shot in our bedroom and used the armoire as a background. It sounds silly but it not only refreshed my vision but gave my photos a new look.
My “secret” shooting background in this photo is our bedroom armoire. Sshh, don’t tell anyone;)
Finding new light to shot in can do wonders for your photography. As I mentioned in the previous section, moving to a new space will bring you new light to shoot in. Maybe the windows face a different direction, this can effect the overall look of your photos, which of course can be a great thing. Perhaps the space will limit you or force you to set up differently and the therefore the light will hit the subject differently. Again a good thing for your photography. This helps you experiment with light direction and how it affects your images.
Another great thing to try is switching the type of light you use. If you mostly shoot with natural, window, light then experiment with artificial light. Likewise, if you shot with artificial light switch to natural, window, light. Don’t feel intimidated by the new light source. Just practice, observe and learn. I love switching back and forth between the two. Each light helps me experiment and learn something new about lighting and photography. You also don’t have to spend a whole lot of money on an artificial light kit. My kit was under $100, and you can even find some under $50. (My tips for artificial light can be found here: What Lights To Use When Sunlight Is Not Available)
I recently found a new little corner to shoot. The “new” light is beautiful, plus I’m having fun experimenting and learning.
Try A New Angle
Food photography is interesting from many angles. Many of us get stuck in the same shooting angle, which is not only repetitive but also leads to burnout. Instead of only shooting straight on and from the same level, try shooting from a completely different angle. Set yourself up high above the food and shoot a birds eye view. You could also try zooming out, or stepping back further away from the subject. Tilt the camera to give your subject a little extra angle. Try placing the subject in a different spot of the viewer. I don’t think there is really a wrong or right angle to shoot food from. The important thing is to keep trying different angles and break the repetition. You’ll be surprised how refreshing this can be.
Just a few sample shooting angles.
Shoot Something Else Than Food
If you’ve tried all the aforementioned tips and are still feeling burned out, shoot something other than food. Whether you shoot food as a hobby or professionally, taking a break from food can be refreshing. I love refreshing and getting out of the rut by finding a flower, or landscape to shot. You could also experiment by shooting portraits of your family and/or pets. New subjects require different angles, light, and techniques. All of which can open your eyes to new techniques to apply to your food photography. Try it, it will not only teach you something new but it will also be fun.
Prague is one of my favorite non-food subjects to shoot.
Learn Something New
Like anything else you do, your Photography, all types, will only get better by constantly learning. Make time to learn what the functions and buttons on your camera not only stand for, but how they can be used to improve your photography. You need but a few minutes a day to learn something new. There is so much knowledge and information on photography, read it, learn it, and then put it to use. (You can start with the free food photography tutorial I’ve shared.)
These are but a few tips that can help you avoid or cure your photography burnout. Don’t give up, don’t feel frustrated. Photography is hard work and as long as you keep trying and working at it, you will succeed. But don’t forget to have fun, enjoying yourself makes it that much better.
A couple tutorials I’ve shared.
My News To Share With You
Today I also want to share a little bit about the new project I’ve been working on. The past few months I have been working on a food photography guide. Slowly it has been turning into a rather informative food photography guide. So to give you a bit more information, it will be an eBook written specifically for food bloggers. It has loads of information, which will help improve your food photography, and explain what the buttons and functions on your camera do. There are also many photo samples and graphics illustrating the explanations. The eBook has many more tips and tricks to help improve your photography.
My plan is to also accompany the eBook with shoot-alongs. What I mean is, we’ll discuss a chapter or section and it will be your “assignment” to put the knowledge to practice. You will get a chance to ask me for help, critique, or further explanations on the subject at hand. Once the project is finalized I’ll work out all the details and share them with you. I’m so very excited to share this eBook with you all, and I can’t wait for you to see it. More information and a release date will follow soon.
Sneak peek at what my photography eBook will contain.