how To Improve your photographic self-motivation

Kirk Schwarz explains how shooting a series helped him regain his passion for photography, and why it could do the same for you.

 This is how I often felt when I even looked at my camera, but having something creative to challenge myself has given me a new lease on life.

This is how I often felt when I even looked at my camera, but having something creative to challenge myself has given me a new lease on life.

How do you stay motivated? It’s a tough question, and one I ask myself daily! Keeping your focus as a photographer is not an easy task, especially when you rely on other people or the elements on location (anyone remember the really bad weather we had [insert most days here]?). However, in order to avoid relying on outside influences that I can't control, I recently decided to force myself to commit to something. It had to be something easy, and something that could weather my often waning motivation. I was going to start a photo series.

 This was from our Ping Pong video a while back, I was already mulling the idea over, and I got to execute it here.Seeing the final result gave me the push I needed.

This was from our Ping Pong video a while back, I was already mulling the idea over, and I got to execute it here.Seeing the final result gave me the push I needed.

What’s a photo series? Well, it’s just that really. It’s a set of connected images which fit together with a central theme. You can keep updating a series regularly, or take a break and come back to it at a later date. It can be ever evolving or trickle along like a tepid stream, entirely dependent on your whim. While I may be looking for a boost (read: kick in the butt), having something to channel myself in to while not feeling pressure to deliver is extremely invigorating. With a fresh sense of creative drive, I needed to sit down and decide on the parameters. This is what I came up with:

1      Black and white only

2      Close up, but with a sense of environment

3      Props are ok

4      Find an emotional connection.

So that was that, I knew what I wanted to achieve, I’d set limits and rules (more like guidelines) and I went for it. I didn’t want to use models, I thought it would result in an endless line of identical images, robbing me of an interesting project. So, I did what any half-crazed person would do and started stopping people in the street. Not just the street either, at work, on the train, anywhere I found someone with interesting hands. It started to grow, I noticed the intricacies in the hands of everyone I photographed. Each line on a workman’s paws carrying a story of hardship. Every blemish on the youthful, as god intended. The lack of care I put into maintaining my own manicure regime. It was all there, and I became fascinated. I wanted to continue this series to see where it leads. Something that started as a simple way to push myself out of a funk, actually gave me a new reason to carry the camera on my adventures.

 An example of emotional connection, the intimacy I associate with receiving a letter really makes this one for me.

An example of emotional connection, the intimacy I associate with receiving a letter really makes this one for me.

Of course, you don’t have to photograph hands. In fact, I implore you not to, that’s my thing. I’d rather you put your mind to something unique to you and push yourself, one photo at a time. Come up with a subject, then include a set of guidelines to ensure your shots have a sense of cohesion. Shoot everything in high quality and make your editing consistent, which for me was black and white, with a lot of contrast. I tried to make sure the backgrounds were plain, and not distracting, and I made sure the light was as directional as it could be to create shadows. I also shot everything at a shallow depth of field, as shallow as my lens would allow. You may think that this sounds extremely simple for an epiphany, but actually, all the best ones are. Simplicity leads to creativity.

 A fellow photographer was using an old Nikon F5 with his craggy hands, both of which carried amazing stories in their own rights.

A fellow photographer was using an old Nikon F5 with his craggy hands, both of which carried amazing stories in their own rights.

We’d love to see what your series looks like, maybe it’s just the first shot, or maybe you have a few under your belt. If you haven’t begun, why don’t you grab the camera now and make a start… it’s only 1 photo!