Sometimes, it’s best to put your camera down and take a step back from photography.
Whether you’re a die-hard hobbyist or a consummate professional, you likely practice photography a lot. But there comes a time in every photographer’s journey when things don’t go well. It can be a lack of enthusiasm, a struggle to find identity, or a general loss of love for the craft. When we hit lows in our journey, often the best solution is to take a break. And in this piece, we look at some signs that indicate you may need to put your camera down.
The Photography Aesthetic Hasn’t Evolved
I’m a big believer in progression. No matter how successful you become, you should always strive to improve and learn new things. That could mean photographing different types of subjects, or it could mean learning new photo editing skills that give your images more life.
If you spend time with your archive and notice your images look the same, it’s time to take a step back. It’s easy to get into a routine when it comes to creating. And that routine can be difficult to break. But, by stepping away from photography, you can return to it with fresh eyes. Taking a break also gives you time to gain clarity on what direction you then want to go in.
Photography Feels More Like a Chore
Even if your passion is photography, there will be phases where you just don’t feel it. You may develop resentment to the feeling that you must always use your camera. Instead of photography being a joyous thing, it starts feeling more like a chore. That’s normal and can come and go in waves. But when that feeling does arrive, take a break. It’s good to miss the feeling of making photos. It can help you realize why you enjoy doing it so much.
You’re Feeling Guilty About Your Lack of Productivity
Rather than taking a conscious break, photographers may just stop using their camera. Better known as a rut, the camera begins a life on the shelf. “I’ll make photos next week,” you may say, but next week never comes. Over time you start to feel guilty. “I should be making more photos.”
Instead of letting the guilt manifest further, and ignoring the obvious, decide to take a break. But the break has to be a conscious thing. For example, you can tell yourself, “I won’t make photographs for four weeks.” That way, you have committed to a date, and you don’t have to feel guilty. Hopefully, by the time you pick up your camera, you’ll have a new sense of enthusiasm.
You Focus Your Attention on the Negative Elements of the Industry
Every industry has its good and bad parts. The deeper you get into photography, the more you deal with egos, time-wasters, and a whole list of other issues. It’s par for the course, but people can usually handle all of that by connecting to the positive elements of being a photographer.
If you can no longer see those positives, and find that you focus your energy on the negatives, it’s time for a break. Honestly, it’s a miserable place to be in when all you see are the bad parts of something. Take a break, focus on your mental health, and come back when you feel positive again.
You Want to Have the “Falling in Love” Period Again
The romance that comes with starting photography is special. Learning new things and exploring new places with your camera is awesome. But like the infatuation stage of a relationship, it can only last so long. That doesn’t mean it stops being a good thing; it’s just more of a balanced enjoyment rather than an intense thrill.
But many photographers long for that initial buzz again. If this sounds like you, walk away from photography. Find something new to do or develop another passion. If the connection is strong, you’ll pick up your camera again. And when you do, it will feel like the beginning of a new, exciting relationship!
Taking a Break Doesn’t Have to Mean the End
Taking breaks should certainly be a part of your process. Breaks will prevent burnout and the loss of passion for what you love. Identify what you should do to be the best photographer you can be when your journey is complete. Try to see photography as a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t need to get as good as possible right away. Nor do you need to achieve all you want in a short amount of time. See your photography more as your life’s work.