Almost everywhere I look there is at least one photographer who has lost the sparkle in his eye. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that sparkle you have when you first discover photography, after you take your first awesome photo and when you feel driven to succeed and become better and better.
After a while you inevitably come to a crossroad where you have to choose between photographing only what you like and making money shooting what other people want.
Personal reasons are behind each decision, so I’m not going to go into that.
I want to focus on what it’s like to extend your relationship with photography to a professional level. I believe that in 95% of cases, young photographers start their careers by photographing what a client wants and it very rarely coincides with what they actually enjoy working on.
So after doing this for a few years, the passion that once started it all becomes seriously challenged. Some compare it to marriage, but I wouldn’t go that far, not because it’s not as serious, but because it’s something even more intimate.
A rather common example is someone devoted to fine art, fashion or commercial photography, but who ;lives in an area where professional photography revolves 99% around wedding and family photography. In this case, most make the compromise and start adapting.
Few hold the line and stick to what they do best, often with the risk of eating canned food for half a year.
The real question I want to address is what you do when you feel the passion going away? Having a look at both options, it’s easy to see that the danger is far greater with adaptation to market requirements. In other words, constantly shooting things you don’t like for money will take its toll, but so will struggling in a market that doesn’t really want to buy what you’re offering.
The key to keeping your passion for photography alive in these conditions is inspiration.
Unless you strive to be constantly inspired, everything you know will seem like it’s enough to keep you running and it won’t be long before everything starts to look uninteresting.
Now, where do you find inspiration? I have never believed that simply having other photographers as idols is enough. We look to the greats to remind ourselves of how much more work we need to do, but it’s not enough. Inspiration is all around, in the things we often use to relax. Music, books and films are incredible sources of inspiration. All you have to do is connect the ideas to the medium you work in.
Staying inspired has to be a constant effort. It’s not like the cliché where inspiration strikes while you’re eating pasta. Good work comes from gathering pebbles from here and there and finally building something great with them.