It seems kind of weird for a photographer, but I love bodybuilding. Even though it has not the best reputation (and yes, there are many meatheads doing this sport), if you do it with all your heart it has so many things to teach you about life. One aspect for example is working consistently and patiently towards your goals. Another aspect is selectively going beyond your limits in order to improve. I’ve been applying these principles to my photography since I started regularly taking pictures. I consistently invested my time in practice and repetition of certain processes and pushed these things to the limit for a long time.
The most important aspect when doing something physically or mentally demanding though is resting. In bodybuilding, it mainly is the amount of time you rest during the day, but you should also rest about a week every three to six months in order to let your central nervous system recover. This is an aspect which I’ve never applied to my photography. Up until two weeks ago, I’ve been shooting nearly every day – admittedly because I wanted to but nevertheless, I did it.
Two weeks ago, things have been so busy that I just couldn’t find any time to spend on photography. 18h workdays, not enough sleep and an occupied mind made me decide to not go shooting and not post on Instagram until all this would be over. And when it finally was, I realised that, despite it being a physically demanding time, I actually really enjoyed distancing myself from what I’m usually the closest to for a change.
Sometimes I think, once you start having a following online, it’s easy to feel like you have to constantly deliver. Each of us probably has their own reasons for that.
For me it wasn’t so much about delivering to my audience. It was more about proving to myself that I could do as well as others. As a result, all I did the last few months was chasing after the next big shot. The shot that would look like one of “their” images – the images of who I admire. It only left me frustrated about my work because, of course, it never exactly looks like what you want it to look like. It was a downward spiral where disappointment about my images would only make me dream more and thus make me more disappointed. So what to do?
Taking a deep breath
Turns out that taking a deep breath and a step back was the best thing I had done in a long time. Not only did it give me time to recharge, I also had time to think about what’s really important to me. Yesterday, I walked through the city centre of Kassel where I usually photograph nearly every day. I was so surprised how many interesting things there suddenly were on the same streets which bored me to death just two weeks ago. Similarly, when I have a look through images I’ve been disappointed with, I now see their qualities. Qualities I previously didn’t notice. I see the reason why I took them.
All that made me so hungry to go out there again. But I’m still trying to hold myself back for a few days because that hunger which comes from pure love for the art is something that I haven’t felt in a long time. It’s a nice feeling.
Take a break sometimes
I’ve had a few conversations with fellow photographers lately who feel uninspired by their surroundings and their own work – tired of chasing shot after shot. Whenever you feel like this, I’d advise you to simply take a break. Allow yourself to gain some distance to your photography and also to Instagram. After not touching anything photography-related for a few days, you’ll start seeing things in a new and fresh way again. You’ll rediscover why you started photographing in the first place.
And don’t assume that not sharing your work for a while will have a major impact on your following online. You’ll see that things for most of us probably won’t change once you stop posting your work. Others will keep doing their thing, and regardless of whether you’re posting or not, everything stays the same. Your work might truly matter to you, but to most of the others…It’s just part of an overflowing pool of images.
You might loose some followers but they’re only following you for their own benefit. Those who genuinely care about your work will be there, no matter how long you stay away.