Make Things Happen – Keeping Motivated!

About two and a half years ago, right in the middle of the wedding season I hit a problem. A big problem. It was the day before a big wedding. I was looking at my camera gear, preparing to clean lenses and charge the batteries. I stopped still and just looked at my cameras. My wife asked me what was wrong, and I couldn’t really place my finger on it but I knew something; I didn’t want to shoot the wedding the next day.

It was a big jolt, and the first time it had ever happened. The wedding was to be fine, a lovely couple and a gorgeous venue – so I knew there was no issue there. What was it then, that was making me baulk at the idea of photographing the wedding the next day? I genuinely did not want to do it.

Of course, I shot the wedding and it was fine – but I realised that I had become saturated by being a “working wedding photographer”. As a wedding photographer I would often sit in my editing room all week – sometimes with no interaction with other people at all, editing, designing albums, dealing with emails, organising print orders, burning DVDs and running backups. I was in the middle of a run of fifty plus weddings and I realised that I’d become pretty isolated and lonely in what I once thought was the perfect business for me.

When you work alone during the week it can become tiresome and the lack of human interaction I found was putting stress on my self belief and my business as a whole. I could find solace in Twitter and on-line forums etc., but at the end of the day it was turning into a bit of grind and I found myself in a rut. I genuinely had lost the passion for my equipment and for the art that I used to love so much before stepping into it in a professional capacity.

I’m not alone either. I know lots of photographers, wedding photographers specifically, who have thought that turning their love of photography into a business is the perfect scenario. Actually, the reality of it is that 95% of the time is running the business and only 5% of it is actually taking photos. This manifested, with me, almost into a hate of the daily grind of wedding photography.

I knew I had to do something so made a conscience effort to take up some personal photography projects which I hoped would give me a new spark of energy.

I have always had a love of street and documentary photography – and whilst shooting some in the past, I had completely let that lapse. It was time to reignite that passion. I decided to take at least one day every two weeks out, in a nearby city perhaps, or even on my travels into London – simply shooting on the street. Enjoying myself.

I didn’t just want to shoot without direction, so I devised a project that is ongoing still to this day. I now have the Fuji X100S in my arsenal for shooting on the streets and this has freed me up greatly in terms of the images I can attempt to capture.

I also took on board the opportunity to get into sports photography. I am a huge rugby union fan and it seemed only right that, with some of my fast Canon equipment I looked at shooting rugby as another means to re-ignite the passion. I emailed a few of my local professional teams and enquired about the opportunity to get a pitch side accreditation. Many denied my request, but a couple of the teams obliged, for which I was very grateful.

I had to remember that the whole point of the sports shooting was that it needed to be a no-pressure situation. I didn’t want to be responsible for having to supply images to the local papers and I was conscience of not treading on the toes of the working sports photographers who were covering the games.

One of the perks of being self employed is having the ability to simply pick up the camera and go out and shoot. So few of us do this. As long as the business side of things has been taken care of I now try and do this as much as possible. I am in the process of doing a project in my local town based on portraiture of many of the elderly residents. Again, this will not be for profit – but I found out the hard way that I need to have something to keep the spark alive, other than just wedding photography.

I know some photographers who are in the same situation as I was then.

The simple answer is to seek out something you enjoy doing – and do it.

Too many of us have an idea, but don’t push those ideas forward. Way too many of us spend too long in front of the computers, on social networks, editing etc.. The business needs to be your priority of course, but if it becomes laborious then you need to do something to re-fuel your energy for photography.

We are in a very lucky position as photographers to have such a creative medium at hand, constantly, to allow us to do this.

Make Things Happen

This is more of a personal post, than and business post. But it’s relevant. The very best photographers that I know switch off at 5pm and spend time with the kids, the family, go out, cook, have fun……..

If you find yourself too obsessed with the business, if you find yourself editing at midnight, if you find yourself shooting engagement sessions at 9pm on a Tuesday, if you find yourself checking your email every time you go for a wee….. you will likely fall in to the same trap I did.

Honest. Those of us of a certain age in the U.K will remember this phrase: Why don’t you just switch off your television set and go and do something less boring instead. I’m not saying business is boring, but it became obsessive, abundantly laborious and dangerously overwhelming.

I now have a shortish list of achievements I want to aim for, outside of the business, on a yearly basis. They aren’t grand by any means, but when things are grinding, as they can during the wedding photography season, I look at that list and think “you know what, it’s time to do something”.

Think about something else, perhaps. Go on, make things happen…..

Originally by Kevin Mullins for

Leave a comment