THIS IS A GUEST POST COURTESY OF MIA GRIGGS FINE ART PORTRAITS
Six years ago, I bought my first DSLR. I always had a fascination with photography, and I was ready to make it my sole source of income. The first few months were really fun. I discovered who I was as an artist, I found out what I loved to photograph and just created for the heck of it. Then, I started to get busy. I was taking on multiple paying clients every year, and a few years into being a legal business, I was tired. I started to dread upcoming photoshoots and even began to make excuses as to why I couldn’t take on more clients. It was taking me longer and longer to finish client galleries and get them delivered.
Two years ago, I wanted to throw in the towel and quit. I almost sold all of my gear and decided that being a photographer wasn’t as glamorous as everybody made it seem. I didn’t want to stop creating art, but it felt like photography had just turned into a normal 9-to-5 job. After taking a step back, I realized what was happening. I was experiencing “The Burnout”. Every professional photographer hits this roadblock at some point. It’s unavoidable. But, unless you want to run a successful business and still love what you do, you have to get past it. Trust me, there are more than five seemingly simple things that can help you get past the burn out phase, but these five things have become my new checklist when I feel the burnout creeping in.
1. Only photograph what makes you happy
Sure, photographing big-ticket items can make you a lot of money, but if that’s not what feeds your soul, you will never reach your full potential. Photographing genres that don’t make you truly happy, will only make you dread future work and burn you out more. They all say that if we do what we love, we will never work a day in our lives, so why photograph something that makes you unhappy? We became photographers because we wanted to work for ourselves and do what we love, right? So whatever that is, DO IT!
2. Take the rulebook and throw it away
Yea, there’s another cliche for ya. Following the rules will give you a solid foundation when you are first starting out, but constantly feeling the need to do things by the book will leave you empty and uninspired. I don’t care if your uncle who’s been photographing flowers since 1982 told you that Photoshop is cheating. I don’t care if your college professor tells you that shooting a portrait wide open is “wrong”. Break the rules! You might like what you see.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
I am SO guilty of this. Comparison is the killer of creativity. We all put our best foot forward on social media because we want our clients to see how put together we are. That Insta-famous photographer you’ve been following since day one? They aren’t perfect. They definitely have their bad days, but they don’t broadcast it to the world. We all want everybody to assume that every time we press the shutter, magic ensues. Logically, we know that that’s not true, so when you were having an off-day or a photoshoot didn’t go as planned, take it as a learning experience and grow from it. Trying to attain perfection is an unreachable goal, and will continue to leave you feeling depleted and defeated.
4. Take time for personal projects
I feel like there is such a stigma against photographers who do creative work on the side for fun. We get busy and we get so lost in the day to day of running a business, that we forget exactly why we decided to be photographers in the first place. We all started out as artists, and one day, we realized that we were running a business with no passion. Take the time to create. Get out of your own head and just MAKE something for the sake of art. I can promise that you will come back invigorated and refreshed, and ready to delve back into your business with a full
5. Accept that growth is a part of being an artist and business owner
We should constantly be striving to improve our quality of work. But if you beat yourself up every step of the way, it’s going to make you want to chuck your gear off of the 3rd story. I look at my work from three years ago, and I cringe. I have come such a long way with my technique and style, and I almost can’t believe anybody paid me back then to take their photos. I’m at a point
now where I am comfortable with the quality of work that I produce, but I’m sure that in another three years, I will look back and see the amount of growth that I have achieved since then. Don’t put yourself down for constant improvement! Be grateful that you had amazing clients who loved your work and found you worthy of investing in back then. I mean, I’m glad you don’t use selective color anymore, but we all start somewhere, right?
If you are starting to “feel the burn” so to speak, take these tips to heart. And honestly, these things need to become a habit in your daily life, not just when you are burnt out. Once it becomes a habit, I can promise that you will start to remember why you fell in love with photography in the first place.
How do you overcome photographer burnout?
This article was featured in Summerana Magazine | July 2019 | The Black and White Issue. See the full issue here.