Just like with everything else, it’s important to have fun in photography. Because as soon as the newness wears off, or especially when it goes from being a hobby to becoming a job, we might forget this.
A common reaction might be to buy some new gear, and it’s probably why most photographers suffer from GAS. While this is certainly enjoyable it mostly doesn’t last long. So in this article, we’ll focus on more longterm ways to have fun in photography without buying new gear.
There’s a lot of other things that can sideline your photography and make it not so fun. Maybe you’ve lost inspiration, are frustrated with your lack of progress, or just can’t find the time.
Luckily these can all be solved.
So here are a couple of techniques that make sure you have fun with your photography, or let you find it again if you’ve lost it.
How do you keep your photography enjoyable? Let us know in the comments!
Table of Contents
1. Limit Yourself
This is even more true for photography, and while it may seem to be restrictive at first, it’s a great way to inject some fun in your photography. Whether it’s for a day, an assignment, a project, or a whole year.
Here are some ways in which you can impose some constraints:
- Only use one lens.
- Focus on a specific shape.
- Shoot in black and white.
- Light with just one light.
At least in my own photography, I find that limiting myself makes the process a little more enjoyable and the final result is often something I’m more proud of.
2. Read Books
John Waters told us to “never to fuck someone who doesn’t read”, and many famous photographers advised us to “buy books not gear“.
Because in the end, it’s not the camera that makes the picture great, but the photographer.
Let’s say that the average (photo) book costs around $50 (and many a lot less). So instead of buying just one new basic lens for $500, you could spend that on 10 top-notch books about photography, marketing, business, or even just some fiction.
This will provide you with endless inspiration which you can tap in at any moment. Or you’ll learn new things to create even better images and book new clients. Even reading novels can teach you a lot about storytelling.
Getting lost in a fictive world is not only fun but can even be seen as a cheap way of traveling, which is also on this list.
And oh, reading is sexy.
Each month, I send one email to a private email list with around 5 amazing books that I’ve read and think you’ll like as a photographer or creative. Books that will change your business, or even better, change your life.
3. Start A Personal Project
One of the best things about personal photo projects is that it keeps you focused.
Photography can be very fun, but this also means that there are a million subjects, things to learn, techniques to try, or things to buy. And at the same time, life can get in the way.
So doing a photo project is a great way to focussing on one aspect and keep you motivated.
There are many types of projects you can do. For example:
- Take a photo every day of the year (a 365 photo project).
- A 30-day photo project.
- Create a self-portrait series.
- Focus on one theme (poverty, a specific color, one tree,…)
In the end, the best way to learn is to shoot more and have fun while doing it. So what better way than with a fun, creative, photography project?
Photography can be a lonely job. From traveling alone to editing for hours at your desk in your pajamas.
And often we’re also our own worst critic, which can suck out all the fun out of your photography.
So share and show your work to others!
Get a Facebook page, invite your friends and start posting your images. Or create an Instagram account and learn how to use hashtags to grow your following. Make sure your photography website is optimized to show your portfolio.
Austin Kleon even has a whole book dedicated to the benefits of showing your work.
Getting positive feedback and support from others is a fun way to stay inspired and keep going, it might even land you some new clients.
5. Learn A New Skill
Sometimes you’ve just exhausted almost all the options with everything you know.
A great way to get out of this can be learning a new skill.
This helps you focus on something new and lets you experience the joy of learning and discovering something else. And it helps you take a break from what you’ve been doing before so that you can return to it later with a fresh perspective.
And it doesn’t have to be strictly photography related as well.
There are many great online photography courses you can follow, or maybe there are workshops in your neighborhood that you can attend. Of course, books are always a great investment as well when you want to learn something new.
6. Travel (Far And Near)
Traveling is one of the best ways to stay inspired and keep your photography fun.
The clash with different cultures and places forces you to see things from a new perspective. In fact, it’s often easier to shoot something as a stranger then it is as a local.
Then again, you don’t need to go that far to get a fresh perspective. Getting out of the house can be enough. Just take a walk around your neighborhood or get on the bus for a short ride.
7. Take A Break
8. Shoot With Film
Shooting analog with a roll of film is a great way to change up your photography experience.
Everything slows down, it forces you to think in different ways. No more cropping and editing in lightroom later on, so you have to think before taking the picture and decide on which roll of film you’ll use. (Try Kodak Portra 400, Fuji 400H or Kodak T-MAX 400)
The most fun part is the anticipation while you’re waiting for your roll of film to return from the develop lab (or learn how to do it yourself!), and the thrill of seeing what you’ve created for the first time.
Even better, analog camera’s are incredibly cheap and can be found in mint condition second hand.
9. Print Your Photos
With the rise of digital cameras and even smartphones, we stopped printing our photos.
And while being able to shoot as many images as you want without a cost and getting instant feedback on your screen is a great way to learn, there is nothing quite like seeing your images as a print.
It also lets you sit down with some family and friends and go through all your photos this way, just like in the good old days.
10. Learn From The Masters
Although the masters of photography (like Ansel Adams, Saul Leiter or Vivian Maier) can’t teach you how to use Lightroom or how to use your flashes, they can learn you a lot about storytelling, vision, and style.
It’s the best way to build your own vision and style.
And think about it, all the greats have heroes, so get yourself one.
For example your favorite sports star or celebrity. When they’re asked who their hero or heroine is, they all have one.
Someone that inspired them or got them into whatever it is they do, but more importantly a hero that keeps them motivated and striving for the best, providing inspiration along the way.
Here are some great photo books to start with:
- Vivian Maier: Street Photographer – Vivian Maier
- Uncommon Places – Stephen Shore
- Early Color – Saul Leiter
- Magnum Contact Sheets – Magnum
- Portraits – Annie Leibovitz
- In the American West – Richard Avedon
11. Join A Group
12. Stop Aiming
The famous photographer Robert Capa once said: “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough“.
Many other photography quotes also allude to getting closer to your subject, often with a wide angle lens.
And while getting closer isn’t mandatory for this technique, I do find that using a wide angle lens can inject some fun in your photography in a totally different way.
Because you don’t have to aim so much.
While shooting with a telelens or regular lens, you have to look through your viewfinder to compose your images, as you don’t have much room for error. This means you have to make decisions about what to include and what not, where to position yourself, and so on.
But sometimes this leads to thinking too much, and you get stuck creatively.
In those cases, I always found it liberating and fun to take a wide angle (like a 24mm) and stop aiming. Just point the camera in the general direction you want to shoot. You can put it on autofocus or do zone focusing. Try keeping it above your head or very low to get some interesting angles.
It’s a great technique to try during events, parties or street photography. You can even add a flash like Bruce Gilden or Marc Cohen:
The most fun part is that you don’t know what you’ll get. Like a “lighter” version of shooting with film, you’ll only know later what you managed to capture.
Just remember to get close enough.
13. Remember What “Fun In Photography” Meant For You In The Beginning
14. Figure Out If Photography Is A “Should” Or A “Must”
In April 2014, Elle Luna posted an essay on Medium called “The Crossroads of Should and Must“.
In it, she tries to distinguish between a job (“something typically done from 9 to 5 for pay”), a career (“a system of advancements and promotions over time where rewards are used to optimize behavior”), and a calling (“something that we feel compelled to do regardless of fame or fortune”).
In photography, the fun can get easily lost when it turns into a job or something you “have” to do instead of something you used to do for fun.
So try to find out what photography is to you.
Even if that means giving up on your photography business dreams to regain enjoying it again.
15. Buy Something New
Although I said above that new gear isn’t always the best solution (GAS anyone?), it remains a great way to inject some fun in your photography. Because who doesn’t like unpacking things, fiddling with buttons and experimenting with new stuff.
There are of course the usual suspects like getting a new lens, camera or lighting gear.
But it doesn’t always have to be so expensive.
Here are 3 things that I not only found fun to play with but are useful in your workflow and photography as well, without breaking the bank:
- If you like turning dials and get faster at editing at the same time, the Loupedeck is for you. A slick hardware controller for Lightroom and Photoshop. One of the best photography related things I ever bought. (Store/Amazon)
- Less sexy than a new lens but just as valuable: camera straps. They saved my expensive gear a couple of times from falling to pieces (and even theft). Want the best ones? Get the Peak Design straps. Quick-connecting, versatile, and seriously good looking. (Store/Amazon)
- Add some color and fun to your photography with color gels. They are inexpensive but can have a dramatic or subtle effect, transforming your images from dull to interesting. I use the Rogue Color Filters with a Flash Grid, but also hear good things about the MagMod kits.
16. Wake Up Early
Maybe you always shoot during the day, when the sun is high up in the sky. This often leads to hard shadows and difficult light situations.
So try getting up (very) early, before sunrise. Take a walk or scout out a perfect spot to go take a landscape shot beforehand.
Then, enjoy and use the beautiful light during this golden hour while the sun rises to create some landscape photos or portraits you can’t get any other time.
17. Go Shoot With A Friend
18. Visit A Photography Exhibit
It is one thing to look at images on the internet and in books, it is quite another to stand in front of a true masterpiece in all its glory.
Many of the prints you’ll see at exhibits are original, and hand made or signed by the photographer.
So how do you keep your photography enjoyable? Let us know in the comments below!