Danny’s Blog

Shooting for Yourself vs. Shooting for Work

Burn out - the sensation of total, crippling exhaustion -  is a very real risk we all run. Much of how we organize our lives is centered around mitigating burn out, whether it be personal, creative, professional, etc. In this particular case, I’m going to talk about how to prevent photographic burn out when you already eat, sleep, and breathe photography.  

First off, let’s identify some common photographic burn out (henceforth PBO) symptoms:

- Does the thought of opening Photoshop make your skin crawl?

- Do you keep your camera in it’s bag out of spite?

- Does seeing someone else with a camera cause you to sneer uncontrollably?

- Do Capture One upgrades make you feel gassy?

If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s time to step back and reassess things.

First off, create a clear delineation between your personal and professional work.  Does your professional work also happen to be your personal work? Not anymore. If you shoot architecture professionally, schedule some time to wander around downtown to shoot street. If editorial is your thing, go explore a forest. No forests? Go to a park. If you shoot street, practice shooting a hat like you would for a client. These skills compound to make you a better photographer, even if they do so obliquely. The goal is to remove yourself from whatever you define as conventional.

My personal delineation between work and play is shooting film. Everything we shoot at the studio (like most studios) is digital. Not only is it digital, it’s highly involved digital - lots of lighting, moving pieces, and post work to do. My personal work is almost exclusively available light street work. The set of criteria for what makes a great commercial shot vs. a great street shot is vastly different, and that’s awesome! It means that on the job, I’m utilizing a different set of skills than the ones I rely on when I’m wandering around a city. If PBO is plaguing you, you need to uncover your own film/digital equivalent. What different skills come into play for your personal and professional work? What set of criteria do you adhere to? What rules can you break? 

Setting time limits for yourself can help stave off PBO, too. Choose an arbitrary time, and decide that beyond that, the computer doesn’t stay on, or you don’t deal with clients anymore that day. So much of how photography is digested now is in the digital realm. When was the last time you sat down with a photography book and ran your hands over the pictures? Do you ever print your own work? If not, I highly recommend making some prints. Allow yourself to marvel at the fruits of your labor. Instead of obsessing about everything you HAVEN’T done, drink in everything you HAVE achieved. “It’s not a photograph until it’s printed.” I’m with that.

Ultimately, consciously setting up anything that creates a barrier between personal and professional is going to benefit your sanity big time. The wonderful thing about photography is that every photographer’s situation is unique. What works for me likely may not work for 90% of other photographers. The constant uniting factor photographers share is the insatiable need to create, document, comment, and otherwise record images. In that sense, this is a universal guide. Hopefully the questions and suggestions posed here will help you ignite any fire that may have dwindled to embers.

Personal work - Konica Hexar AF, Kodak Ektar 100

Studio work - Nikon D800e

Using Format