We can’t sit around looking at all the great pictures we’ve made. We’re photographers! We must make, we must create and we must do it better than we’ve done it before.

Doing what you’ve already done the same way you’ve already done it won’t fill you for long. I know several terrific photographers who rarely make pictures anymore because they grew bored with their work.

Here are four ideas to help you be ready to make your best work.

1. Work is the cure to boredom

The key to continuing to become a better photographer and a better artist is to work. Now, I wholeheartedly believe that working on a project is a great way to grow as a photographer — as long as it allows you to grow.

If you’re making pictures and feeling bored, then you should try making different pictures. Stop making landscapes and go make portraits. Stop making portraits and go make macros.

I don’t usually photograph weddings anymore, but making pictures for my niece was invigorating.

But don’t just give it a whirl: Put the work into it. Study how to do the other kind of photography as much as you studied when you were getting started. The work you put into it will revitalize your interest in making pictures.

2. Stay off social media

It’s incredible to think that I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter for more than 12 years. I’ve posted thousands of pictures and had a good time doing it. But I don’t think it’s made me a better photographer. It’s given me lots of good interactions, and loads of education.

However, photography requires experiencing the world. I am certain that if you forgo Facebook, Instagram, etc., your photography will improve. It’ll improve because you’ll spend more time making sure it’s good enough for you instead of wondering what other people think of it.

3. Inspire with friends (IRL)

Take the time you’d have spent on Instagram and meet with a friend instead. Share the pictures you’ve been working on and discuss what your aim is. Share pictures that inspire you. This friend can be anyone, but even better if it’s someone else who’s work you admire.

Remember, it’s not a time to talk about how great things are going. It’s a time to talk about inspiration and goals and frustrations. Talk about the gear you wish you could afford and ways to better utilize what you have. Bolster your buddy and take a good dose of inspiration in return.

4. Enter contests — with paper

Entering a print contest may be the best way to improve your work and gain inspiration all at once. And I really encourage you to enter a piece of paper with a picture on it, not an online contest (that is likely a rights grab, anyway). Printing is its own challenge which can also be inspiring — and it connects with hundreds of years of your photography heritage.

I consulted with my buddy, Erin Holmstead, and she helped me choose which picture to enter in our local contest. I won second place.

The key thing to remember about contests is that it’s not about being the best, it’s just about being your best. You’ll be amazed at how hard you’ll work to submit your best. It’ll be fun to use the meeting with your friend to help you sort through and find your best. And it’ll be a little disappointing to realize that your favorites, your babies, may not be the best for a contest. You’ll learn more about photography and loads about yourself.

I can’t express enough about how good entering competitions is. Now, I’m not saying you need to enter the WPPI print contest. How about your county and state fairs to begin with? But hurry, those are happening now.

If you don’t see a competition happening, go ahead and start one yourself. Get your pals together and see who can make the best picture during the fair, or in town on a specific day, or at the botanical garden on the fourth Thursday. Winner buys Slurpees.

Don’t rest on your laurels

You’ve made good pictures in the past, but you’ve got a lot more great pictures in you. I look back at the pictures I made 12 years ago, and I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. But I look back at the pictures I made six years ago and realize that I need to get some of that excitement back, that desire to experiment.

I need to get to work, make pictures that are good enough for me before I share them, inspire with my friends, and get some pictures printed and hung at the fairgrounds. I’ve done these things before, and they’ve energized my work. I’m sure it’ll help you step it up, too.