You probably already know how to use your camera to get the images you want. You might have a style that’s recognized a mile away, a repeatable workflow and people who love your photos. Well now what? Is it still enjoyable? What do you do to spur new growth? Consider taking a step back. Simplify, let go and stop trying so hard.

Let it go

Over the past year I experienced a lot of growth. The limitations imposed by pandemic and natural disasters created many surprise opportunities. It was also exhausting.

During this time, I started thinking about what subjects and styles I avoid and why. For example, I like studio lights and low ISO, yet I avoid lens flares. To me, lens flares were an error but it was time to let go. I decided to approach things in ways that would have been unthinkable to me earlier.

Simple ideas with Lexi

One portrait I wanted to make was inside an old, dimly lit horse stable. The idea was simple: Light my subject using a Yongnuo speedlight, a shoot-through umbrella and a PocketWizard radio trigger. Lexi stood inside facing away from the bright entrance and the speedlight did all the work. The results were pretty good once I had focus dialed in but it was a little more effort than I expected.

We simplified

I asked Lexi to turn around facing the entrance. Sunlight bounced off the cement floor and a little more was added by the speedlight.

Spontaneously she did a big stretch with her arms over her head to loosen up. I loved how it looked and asked her to do it again. As a result. she turned her face into the light and the portrait was gorgeous. The rest of the session just became a lot more fun because now we were playing.

We simplified even more

We played with the natural light and used the surroundings as our modifier. Some photos were in a garden with light bounced off a wall. Soon we ditched most of the gear and were left with the essentials: A Canon EOS RP, Canon 135mm f/2.0 and one battery. We just let things happen.

Lexi is wonderful because she’s so authentic. She’s your classic Northern California girl who’s completely comfortable with who she is so improvising comes naturally. 


We wandered to another spot where we could find window light. A breeze picked up and the sun got low. As mentioned earlier, I usually avoid lens flares, especially for portraits but not today. Today we leaned into it. It was spontaneous and fun with warm tones, windblown hair and her sister’s favorite hat. 


We were free to explore because the pressure was off. Try letting go for a while. Working too hard at photography can drain the fun right out of it.

Most importantly, once you simplify and let go you may find yourself more open. Feel free to try crazy ideas. Try it and succeed. Try it and fail! Celebrate the wins and learn from the failures. There’s growth here.