If you find it stressful to shoot everyday or are feeling guilty for not shooting more often, allow me to let you off the hook. Don’t get me wrong, there are many great reasons and benefits to shooting everyday. And when I began my photography journey 8 years ago, I did shoot everyday and continued to do so for at least 2 years if not 3, or even 4. While I never completed an official ‘365’ I guarantee I did a couple. I shot everyday out of love for learning and because I felt inspired to shoot everyday. Because I was constantly shooting and evaluating my images, my learning was fast and furious and I have many memories & images to show for it. I would never discourage you from shooting everyday if you are inspired to do so, but if you are at a point in your photography that you aren’t feeling that constant inspiration, I believe it is ok and sometimes beneficial not to pick up the camera. So allow me to give you a few reasons to ease your guilt!
Before we begin though, I think it is important to recognize that there are 2 situations in which we pick up our camera to shoot. The first is when a moment speaks to us so strongly that we instinctively reach for our camera. We may be inspired to capture some amazing light, a touching or memorable moment among our loved ones, a sudden sighting of wildlife out our window, or an epic sunset, etc. For this reason, my camera is kept close by in the center of my house. It is at the ready for these moments!
The second situation is more planned, set up, or manipulated. This may be heading out for a sunrise landscape session, setting up a macro, self portrait, or still life shoot, or grabbing the camera and kids with the purpose of a photo session in a particular setting or activity. When I was first learning, I took this approach often but these days, it is harder for me to find a good window of time, or when there is, the energy to capitalize on it.
So here are a few reasons that support “not shooting everyday”
1) Avoiding Burnout - Anything you do at a high intensity for a long time can lead to burnout. This is especially true if you begin feeling less than inspired or self motivated to keep up this intensity. If you are constantly pushing yourself to keep doing something even if you aren’t feeling like it, burn out is more likely. Allowing yourself to take a break when you aren’t inspired allows you to recharge and let the creativity come naturally.
2) It gives you the freedom to shoot a lot in particular inspiring situations (such as on a vacation) and indulge in spending time with those images without adding more images to your cue or backlog. This is a big one for me personally. When we travel, I come home with hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of images of both family and landscapes and these are some of my most treasured images. I want time to work through those images and I know that shooting more on the heels of this travel will just add to my unedited archives.
3) Post Processing Boost! Not only does the time allow me to go through those unedited archives and keep me from adding more to my to-do list, but it gives me time to expand and fine tune my post processing tools and vision. Editing is a very important part of this art and an additional way we put our own voice into our images. Gifting ourselves the time to spend on this aspect of our art and not rushing ourselves along is so important to growing our imagery. This time editing also allows me to reflect on what I might do differently in the field next time.
4) It means I pick up the camera when I am truly inspired, which I believe will lead to images I love rather than images I took because I needed a ‘shot for the day’. Now…don’t get me wrong, there is definitely value in pushing yourself to be creative and get that daily shot. But at this point in my photography, I know what will speak to me and what won’t. And with that extensive backlog I mention earlier, if a shot doesn’t impress me, it won’t move into the editing cue. So I choose not to add more clutter to my EHDs unless I know it is worth it. Quality over quantity.
5) Taking that daily shot off your to-do list can free you up to getting something else done. I know when other life is weighing me down, sometimes I need to tackle other tasks so that my brain can be less cluttered and distracted, opening up my mind to creativity.
6) Observe and Experience life without the camera up to your eye. Taking the opportunity to simply see the beauty and moments in life can help rejuvenate your inspiration. Taking away the pressure to capture every moment can allow you to recharge and inspire your creative eye. Other activities can spark ideas for photographic ideas. Or perhaps some time reading about creative techniques will bring ideas for something new to try!
7) Breaks are good for the mind, body and soul. Even in things we love, breaks are good, allowing us to feel a continued passion and creativity. And I believe even when we are learning new things, giving space in our practice can allow the sub conscious to digest what we are learning. While repetition and practice are valuable no doubt, so is physical and mental rest. As a former freelance harpist, I will always remember coming back from a two week vacation to my gig playing the harp for the afternoon tea at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. I wondered how it would feel to play after two weeks away, fearing I’d be rusty. And I distinctly remember being surprised by the way my fingers felt so light and fluid over the strings, more so than before my break. Additionally, in our practices of art, music, sports, etc., quality practice can be more important than quantity.
So if you are inspired to shoot everyday, by all means, continue on! But if you have days you aren’t feeling it, I offer you these reasons to give yourself permission to let the camera sit until the next time you feel inspired. I guarantee the inspiration will come if you give it the space to return!