I’ll admit that this is something that I haven’t really thought of before, but after having watched this excellent video from aows, I think it explains why I often change the topics I like to shoot. His argument is that the more you do photography, the more images you shoot, and the better you become, the more difficult it becomes. It seems odd, but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
The reason it gets harder is that you’re following that advice often told to photographers. Stop competing with other photographers. The only photographer you need to compete with is the photographer you used to be. And this is basically the problem. As you learn more, get better and your work improves, you’re setting your own bar higher. It gets more and more difficult to best yourself.
When we first start out in photography, or even just switch to a new genre of photography, everything is new to us. The very first image we create is the best image we’ve ever created (at least for that genre, in the case of the latter). Our second image is often likely better than the first as we twiddle with knobs and dials to tweak settings and shoot another. And the more we shoot, and the better we get, so do our images.
Eventually, we get to a point where a lot of what we create isn’t really any better than that which we’ve created in the past. It’s not necessarily worse, but those “oh wow, I shot that?!?!” moments come less and less frequently. And as we get better, the more time, effort and gear we throw at images, the smaller the improvements even when we do create something we perceive to be better than we’ve shot before. The law of diminishing returns is a very real thing in photography.
Picking up the basics of photography and shooting images that don’t completely suck is a fairly quick and easy process. Once we understand exposure and a bit about composition, creating some level of competency in our work is fairly straightforward. It’s the things that come after that which make it challenging. And that can lead to burnout very quickly. It’s why we often see new camera owners suddenly declare that they’re now photographers, starting a new business, and then disappearing within a year or two.
For me, as I alluded to above, I find that switching genres occasionally or just experimenting with them helps me to keep things fresh and keep trying to improve. The thing I love to photograph the most is people in the wild but I’ll dabble in landscapes, product photography, macro and other things from time to time to give me a new perspective and to try to give me new ways to approach my main genre. Sometimes, the wall we’re hitting is simply that we’re stuck in our ways and trying something a little different, pushing ourselves to get out of our comfort zones and our usual routine is just what we need to take us to that next stage where we feel good about what we’re creating again.
Getting that excitement of trying something new not only helps to push us in directions we might not have considered before – even with familiar old subjects – but it also helps to keep that magic and wonder of photography that drew us to it in the first place. It helps to prevent the burnout. At least, it does for me.
Do you find photography gets more difficult the more you do it? How do you overcome that?