Avoid photo project burn-out!
Keep your energy high with this simple strategy
One question I’m asked fairly often is:
How do you keep up the energy on a project when the initial enthusiasm begins to wane?
I’m never surprised when this issue pops up. Creative minds like ours thrive on novelty and the pursuit of fresh ideas. It’s our super power in a lot of ways.
We have a much harder time when it comes to the work of seeing things through.
When our once-thrilling project gets difficult – or gets stale – we struggle. And often, that means veering off to a new project that feels easier, or is simply new.
- How do we get through these tough moments?
- How do we restoke that fire?
- How do we revive creativity?
Enter the Inspiration Board!
This is a really straightforward idea. You’re simply pulling together images that inspire you into one place.
But there’s a trick to it.
How to create a board AND make it effective
1. Decide on a platform
Choose how you want to view your inspirational images. Some methods include:
- a Google document where you cut and paste images found across the web
- a poster board where you cut and past clippings of images from publications
- a binder with images held in sheet protectors
- a Pinterest board
It doesn’t really matter how it’s done, as long as it is a method that really helps you feel inspired. You know best if you need a printed paper in front of you, or if a digital inspiration board can work fine. (Personally, I need a printed image in front of me.)
2. Curate inspirational images
Next step is loading up your inspiration board with images. You can:
- use a Google search on a topic you’re photographing
- sift through a pile of magazines
- use hashtags on social media to find shots that speak to you
Put your project in the front of your mind, and look for images that resonate with your project concept, style or desired impact.
If you’re working on a story and looking for some specific inspiration, this exercise can be done in one sitting. On the other hand, if you’re looking for inspiration for your photography in general, this might be an ongoing exercise as you pull images in as you find them over time.
NOTE: You aren’t just pulling in any image that you think is pretty or interesting. You’re looking for images that cause you to stop and really pause – for a reason.
You need to recognize a little of yourself and your project in them – whether it’s a hint of your own style that you want to work on polishing, or a technical level you’re aspiring to reach, or an approach to crafting a storytelling image that you really want to try.
For example, I’m always returning to Mac Stone’s Grasshopper Sparrow story in Audubon magazine. There’s so much to this work that mirrors how I like to approach a story. So it helps to recenter me.
But another big benefit is simply reviewing Mac’s personal creative brilliance. This sparks a drive in me to push harder at the limits of my creative thinking, and see what fresh approach I can bring to my own story.
Images from this specific story always pop up on my inspiration boards – for a reason.
If you don’t see any of yourself or your aspirations reflected in the image, then it doesn’t make the cut.
3. Return to your inspiration board frequently
The last step might be the hardest. It’s easy to build something like this and then never look at it again.
So create a routine.
If you’re working on a specific story that has an end date, make a routine to look at your board each morning.
Or maybe you’re working on an ongoing project and need to keep that enthusiasm going. Make a routine of a weekly sit-down, where you spend 30 minutes contemplating your board while you enjoy a cup or coffee or a glass of wine.
However you decide to build your routine, reflect on your inspiration board at least a couple times a month. The goal is to avoid burn out or a waning passion for your project. So you need to revisit and revisit and revisit those things that keep your creative fire stoked.
Get to where you can call up that inspiration at any time, even when you’re out in the field, camera in hand.
One final note: Keep a can-do attitude.
Inspiration boards are intended to be a creative spark. So – Don’t look through your inspiration board with an attitude of being “less than” the photographers whose work you’ve pulled.
That just makes this a “comparison board” and that doesn’t do any good at all.
When I look at my inspiration board and all the phenomenal images loaded onto it, I’m not thinking, “I’ll never be this good! I should quit now! Waaaaa!”
No, I’m thinking, “Sheesh that’s such a good shot. I know I can create something like this too… See how she did this, and set up the angle like that, and how it accomplishes this? Yeah…I’m gonna try that…”
And the inspiration flows.
Can. Do. At.ti.tude!
Alright your turn! Grab that glue stick and construction paper and get cracking!