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What If You’re Not Motivated to Shoot?
My secret to building momentum with photography
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One of the roadblocks you might hit as a photographer is the inability to go out and practice photography. Photography can come easy when there’s a subject to be excited about—or a couple stacks attached—but what if that isn’t there? What do you do when there’s this mental block that just seems to hold you back from practicing photography for photography’s sake?
Make It An Assignment
One of the easiest ways to get your ass out the door and practicing photography is making an assignment for yourself. Almost as if you were a journalist for a paper, create an incredibly simple premise to go out and photograph. Door knobs, dog ears, blue stuff… whatever it may be, just write down something simple that comes to mind and make that your mission for the next few hours.
This is something I do often, especially overseas where things can quickly feel overwhelming. In late 2022, when I found myself at the incredibly busy Parry’s Market in Chennai, I gave myself a simple assignment to focus my attention: hair.
Yes, hair! My job for the next three hours was to just keep my eyes out for anything that felt like it related—even remotely—to hair. This was the first gentlemen that caught my attention. I went up to him and told him I loved his hair and beard, and needed to get his portrait. He obliged.
It only took a few more steps before I saw my next subject. This time I wanted to frame some young and old hair in the same frame. Side note, I used to love Carrom as a kid. I really should
school teach my kids about this game.
The funny thing about assignments is that if you approach it with intention, you start to really believe it and feel like it’s your actual job! I made eye contact with this man and he could see me just go WHOAAA! when saw that stache. I told him I had to take his portrait.
This woman had such a striking face and had recently shaven her head for a religious ceremony. Sometimes you give yourself an assignment and catch something that subverts it a bit. Indulge that feeling and take the shot!
Look at that mane! I had never seen someone grow and groom the hair on their ears with such pride. And this man was equally excited to stand for a portrait to show them off. I threw the ears out of focus to make it feel like more of a reveal when someone lets this image marinate but I’ll be honest, I go back and forth on whether it was the right decision. Regardless… hair!
The funny thing about this technique—if you wanna call it that—is that you might end up shooting more by catching moments that are too good to pass up. Like this one here, a portrait of a child that sits among my most favourite from that trip.
In a different life, photojournalism would’ve been my calling. And while I can’t make that my career now, I draw so much inspiration from those that do. I’ll use assignments to track short- and long-term projects. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I could use this idea of assignments to practice photography more often, especially when I’m feeling unmotivated.
I’ve said it multiple times in previous posts, the conditions are rarely perfect. There’s gonna be many instances in your journey where you just don’t feel like shooting. What I’ll challenge you to do is recognize this feeling when it happens, take a step back and ask why?
So long as you don’t have a critical reason to not pick up a camera (eg. family, health, safety), then give yourself a simple assignment. A tiny, understandable, EASY assignment that you will focus your entire attention on. Something so easy, you can’t help but go out a try. Because if you’re asking me, so long as you’re getting out and practicing photography, you’re already winning.
Each month, I run a contest for the Church & Street community and try to feature something that I think people will appreciate.
For September, I’ll be giving away the MTW Backpack from Moment. This is a super versatile backpack that can adapt to just about any kinda lifestyle you throw at it. I have one myself and love using it for times I’m mixing laptop work and photography.
How am I picking the winner? All you have to do is be a member of this community and you’re automatically entered. As with every contest, I’ll be randomly picking one person, confirming they meet the requirements and then contacting them directly before announcing the winner publicly.
Once again, this contest is void where prohibited by law. Good luck!
My thanks to the team at Moment! Not only for this contest but for being the longest supporter of my work online. They’re a lean team of passionate creators that truly believe in supporting other creators on their journey. Whether it’s a new camera, lens, workshop, or just some great articles, visit ShopMoment.com today.
Reader Question: What’s a random thing you bought recently that brought you a ton of joy?
I picked up a passport-sized notebook from Traveler’s Company. It’s this leather cover that can house 2-4 separate notebooks and something that has just simplified my life. Anyone that knows me, knows that I love putting pen to paper. I have all sorts of notebooks for capturing different kinds of thoughts: meetings, inspiration, sketches, etc. When I learned about this, it was a revelation. One notebook that could house all ideas on the go? Yes, please.
And look, I know this won’t be for everyone, especially when you can throw all your thoughts on a phone you already have. But I prefer to start my ideas on paper and this notebook has made that process a lot more enjoyable.
I’ve been shooting a lot more film lately and sticking to a habit of tracking the environment/settings with every shot. I don’t know if this should become a future post but there’s something about this process that I feel could make for some sort of value in a future tutorial or walkthrough. Maybe something like My Film Settings for Street Photography type of thing?
My ego just moaned, “How VERY original, Gajan!” Haha.
Anyway, that’s enough for this week. Appreciate all of you that have read this far. See ya next time!
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