Despite our best intentions, few who have practiced photography all their lives can lay claim to have never felt burnt out. Even those who are involved in ‘lucrative’ careers, or industries that might appear volatile and fast paced can get caught up by that flat feeling or uncertainty about what it is they’re doing with their lives.
While photographers are often thought of as creative, free-thinking people, exposure to other hobbies, businesses and areas of knowledge can open one’s mind to alternative pursuits. And as is human nature, we tend to think the grass is always greener on the other side. However, the reality is that photography can be tremendously exciting, but every now and then it’s wise to follow some general practices to avoid photographer burnout.
Don’t overthink it
It’s easy for many photographers to become obsessed with the need to constantly shoot. Known as ‘FOMO’, or the fear of missing out, we tend to focus our attention on opportunities around us rather than taking in or appreciating moments from time to time. This may happen subconsciously as well without even realising it. If you’re a full-time photographer, give your mind a rest and block out your evenings. Where possible, turn your attention to exercise, other hobbies or even another creative medium, be it writing, music, design, and so forth. Return each day feeling refreshed and refrain from the need to shoot on weekends unless absolutely essential.
Mix things up a bit
If you’re a portrait photographer, why not try your hand at street photography for a little bit? Perhaps you’re a landscape photographer? Maybe you should consider shooting food? The switch doesn’t need to be about building up a portfolio of work to diversify into another category – although there’s nothing stopping you either. It can be in your downtime while on the job, or as a specific project. Approaching an alternative category with a sense of enthusiasm to learn and experiment can reintroduce that feeling of photography being an exciting ‘hobby’.
You might also want to consider experimenting with a different camera, just to renew that sense for learning on the job – one of the most exciting times, this time without the stress! Similarly, your external environment can shape your motivation, so travelling to new places, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures can help instil that enthusiasm and amusement. After all, repetition is one of the most prolific factors behind boredom, so change things around to suit.
Give film a go
In many ways we’re fortunate to live in a digital age. But, that doesn’t mean you need to confine yourself exclusively towards it. Pick up an older camera and some film, and use it intermittently for whatever takes your fancy. You’ll find yourself rethinking, and possibly reinventing the way you approach your work, which is helpful to break through that sense of monotony. What’s more, if you’ve never used film before, you’ll be learning all sorts of new aspects, including film development.
Control the situation
Anxiety is one of the factors that can turn our job into something we dread. Focusing on the negative aspects of your work, and allowing yourself to get caught up by the stress of a busy schedule is one such way to put more pressure on ourselves. Learn to control and manage your emotions, remain open-minded to job prospects, have empathy with others, but also recognise your limitations and don’t overburden yourself – you’ll find keeping a schedule helps with this.