Devaluing your camera - A guide to increasing your shutter count

No one wants their camera to lose its value, however it is a tool at the end of the day - and even though I take good care of my equipment; it is well used. 

 Long exposure of Brighton's West Pier

Long exposure of Brighton's West Pier

I am not sure if there is an equivalent of writer's block for photographers - but I often hear of people losing their mojo, lacking inspiration or struggling to find the time to get out with their camera. Below I go through some of the resources that keep me inspired and how I plan my weeks ahead. Most importantly though, you have to want to do it. If you start a 365 and are not really enjoying it, then you are destined to fail. 

 The Dohnut

The Dohnut

I was lucky enough to be interviewed on Stephen Cotterell's photography 1-2-1 podcast, and in the time that I spent with him he asked me some difficult questions. Stephen asked me lots of 'whys?' that I had not asked myself, and I would recommend everyone to put themselves under the same 'spot-light' to get some direction. Everyone will have a different story about how they got into photography, why they have kept it up; and where they think they are heading. Up until this point, I  had not asked the question, but when I did I realised that photography was my escapism. It allows me to escape from my day job, and it helps me get out of the house at the weekend, and discover new places with a fresh perspective. If I didn't have a camera, I would never have experienced as many sunrises and sunsets as I have, or visited some of the places that I have been. 

So, how do I manage to stay inspired and stay creative?

The first step is to get some ideas for photography projects. Going out aimlessly with your camera without a real goal will be difficult, as there are endless photographic techniques that you could use on countless subjects at limitless locations. For example, if I were to go out and shoot a landscape, I would have a location in mind and research the best time to go there (based upon weather/tides/season etc); you could perhaps do a recky when the weather is not so grand. If it is a new location, I would research online how other photographers have shot that place so that I can begin to get my bearings. When I get to the location I may stick my tripod in the exact same place as the shot that inspired me to go there in the first place, however I would also do a full 360 of the location to make it my own. You have to remain flexible though, since you will not always get what you set out to achieve. If the weather was not as it was forecast, then consider it a recce and you will be better prepared when you return again. 

 Palace Pier and Wheel @ Sunrise

Palace Pier and Wheel @ Sunrise

Put it in the diary

I also have a long list of photographic projects, one for all seasons. If it is a rainy day, I will learn a new photoshop technique, watch some youtube tutorials, or shoot an indoor 'stock' image that I use for cards to send to friends and family on birthdays and other special occasions. The longer this list, the better chance you have of getting the camera out of the bag. I don't specialise in one photographic genre, which makes my life easier, whereas if you like shooting star trails, then you may not have anything to do on an over-cast evening...

I have something called 'landscape Tuesdays' and I will go out every Tuesday before and after work (subject to season!) and shoot a landscape of my choosing. My Tuesdays are always kept clear and I stick to it, which will lead to at least 50 great landscapes a year! 

Other sources of inspiration, as touched on by Dade Freeman in the Brighton Photographers Facebook page, are books and podcasts; which I will add magazines. There are numerous excellent and free podcasts that I listen to on my daily commute that are a great source of inspiration, providing that you can say no to the allure of the latest gear that will be discussed. Inevitably podcasts will be sponsored by photography related companies that want you to spend your money, but this is the same for photography magazines. There are podcasts specifically about gear, and there are others that focus on the thought process of creating and the artist behind the images - there is something for everyone. 

Books on the other hand can be expensive, so I tend to buy them on Amazon pre-owned; and I personally prefer them to reading an e-book on my ipad. If you want expert knowledge on a specific topic, then I would always head in the direction of a book. A podcast on architectural photography will last say an hour, which would just cover the basics, whereas I have books on interior architectural photography that cover everything in great detail. The experts don't give away all their best tips for free, the experience that they pass on has a cost to it. 

Social Media

Of course, there is always in internet and social media - but we only get to see a small proportion of our facebook friend's feed, and we have to input something into Google to get the inspiration, so what do you type? I follow some of the world's leading photographers on social media, so that I can see how it should be done. This makes me up my game, and at least gauge where I am on my photographic journey.

There are of course other things that can make you want to pick up your camera, a holiday, your child's birthday, visiting friends on the beach. Whatever camera you have, make sure you take it with you and share your images with others. If you post an image of a bluebell woods, guess what, you will inspire many other people to go out to a bluebell woods the following weekend - and you won't even know it. 

If you want to learn a new skill the consider going on a course or get some tuition from someone that you admire. Meet up with like-minded people, and go out with a similar goal, whatever it takes to get the camera out of the bag. 

Personal Projects

I like to revisit locations over and over, to see if I can find new angles and variations not seen before. If you can do this, it is rewarding when someone else that visits that place over and over says, "I have never looked at it from that angle." Below are some of my recent images of West Pier that, although I have been photographing it for nearly 8 years, are new angles that I have not shot before. 

Thanks for reading, and I hope that I have given you some ideas. Happy image-creating.