As a wedding photographer, I find it’s all too easy to slip into a groove of doing the same thing over and over. Sure it’s a different set of clients each week, and there’s a different venue, a different dress, different food, different customs, but at some point it basically boils down to the same basic concepts; the anticipation of getting ready, the excitement of seeing each other for the first time, the symbolic beauty of a ceremony, and the jubilation of a reception. It’s easy to become (dare I say?) bored.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do. But I also love all things new and unknown, which after ten years in the wedding industry, there’s not a lot of. So how do I reinvent the proverbial wheel of my well oiled wedding photography machine? How do I move forward with my photographic evolution as an artist?
My answer is to nourish my photography soul. I do that by trying to reconnect with that little piece of me, deep inside, that connected me to photography in the first place; that spark of wonder when I dropped my first piece of RC paper into the developer tray in high school and a vague ghostly image began to appear.
Seeking out that same feeling of wonder in other ways always seems to bring fresh inspiration back into my camera.
A lot of people will tell you to bring your camera along everywhere you go and take a photo of anything that’s even remotely inspiring. Well, I don’t always find that tip useful to me. There are times when I just feel so bogged down by shoot after shoot after shoot, really the last thing I want to do is pull out my camera–again. However, I know that these moments of burnout and frustration are exactly the moments that I need to nourish my photography soul the most. So here are my tips:
- Go To A Museum. It doesn’t even matter which one. Just go! Living just outside of D.C. I’m fortunate to be a quick trip into The Smithsonian, the National Portrait Gallery, The Corcoran, and dozens of other galleries large and small. However, even the smallest of towns usually have galleries of some sort, even if it’s in a coffee shop or the local college. I find that taking an afternoon at a gallery opens my eyes to new aesthetics and refreshes my creativity by reminding me that my options are truly limitless with how I choose to create imagery.
- Join a Facebook Group. I find joining creative groups that have nothing to do with wedding photography, helps me switch my brain from “white dress mode” to “blank canvas” mode. Why not take someone (who just so happens to be in a wedding dress) and create a mood like that awesome painting you saw? Or model their posing after the shapes that were created in that modernist sculpture someone posted? Or why not try and find an amazing couch like that carpenter made that would be just perfect for that next boudoir session? Other disciplines of the arts have much to offer each other.
- Go Antiquing. If you’ve never rifled through that dusty old box filled with old photos & magazines at the back of the antiques store, then you’re truly missing out on some great inspiration! Back when photography wasn’t so instantaneous and it required minutes (and sometimes hours) to take one shot, photographers saw things a little differently. The exquisite detail they paid their compositions, their exposures, their framing, is timeless. I find rifling though these things gives me a renewed sense of what makes a photo that will continue to be admired and appreciated by my clients and the generations of their family to come.
- Give Back. Ask just about anyone how they’ve been lately and you’ll likely get a reply that includes something to the effect of “Great! I’ve just be SO busy I haven’t had time to think!” Hold it right there! It’s great to be industrious. It’s great to be productive. At a certain point though, we lose ourselves (or at least I do). I’ve found giving back to my community has been an essential way of staying inspired and balanced. If you’re not sure where to start, think of an activity you always loved to do. Chances are there’s a community outreach program that does that. For me, it’s horses. I’ve been in love with them for as long as I can remember and have been riding for over 20 years. They’ve always been a source of serenity for me so I looked for ways to combine horses and getting involved in the community and I found a therapeutic riding organization. They help anyone dealing with cognitive, psychological, or physical disabilities through working with horses. To be a part of helping someone find confidence through a difficult time, helping an autistic child learn how to handle sensory input, helping a stroke survivor regain control of her body has been profoundly inspiring in helping me break through my own perceived limitations.
As I’ve begun to incorporate these types of things more and more into my life, I’ve seen my work start to grow as well. As my work grows, it inspires me to make it grow even more. It’s one cycle I love to perpetuate and that I think all visual artists should be striving to achieve. The more we remember to relate to the rest of the world, the better we all become.
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