Photography burnout, at some point we’ve all experienced it. It doesn’t make us any less of a photographer, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’ve lost our eye or talent for photography. It just happens. Like anything else you do in your life, the more you do it the higher the risk of burning out. I think most of us get in a nice comforting zone once we begin feeling satisfied with our work. Slowly things become repetitive, maybe it’s using that one prop we love so much. Yes, maybe the prop is beautiful, but if we use it all the time it will subconsciously become boring and certainly repetitive.
Repetition is the biggest culprit of photography burn out. Repetition prevents you from taking your photography to the next level. It keeps you trapped in a so-called comfort zone which only ends up hurting your vision. Whenever you start getting that burnout feeling stop and see what in your photography has become repetitive. Avoiding full burnout or curing it is easier than you might think. Today we are going to discuss a few ways you can cure or prevent that photography burnout.
There are times when I have a specific vision of what I want my photograph to look like. I select the shooting background and area, choose some props, prepare and style the food, then I grab my camera. After a few shots I realize that the photos aren’t looking like I envisioned them. What a frustrating feeling. It can even become infuriating at times, specially when I’ve spent a good hour on all of this. In the cloud of frustration I keep pushing and pushing myself, only to end up more frustrated.
One day it finally dawned on me that it doesn’t matter how much I push myself. If it isn’t working, it’s best to walk away. Put the camera down and try again in a few hours or even better, the next day. Give your mind time to clear. Often times you’ll realize that it’s the pressure you’re putting on yourself that is causing the frustration. If you need to, take a walk and try again after you return. Many times after you’ve “cooled down” and you review the exposures, you realize that they weren’t as bad as you initially thought.
I shot about 30 photos, of the portobello steak above, during the session. When I was shooting I was so frustrated with the look and gave up. The next day looking through the photos I realized they weren’t as bad as I initially thought.
New Light In A New Prop
Breaking free of repetition can be as easy as using a new prop. You don’t necessarily have to go out and spend a paycheck on a new prop. First look around your house to see what you could use. Be creative, you may even find props to use from outside your kitchen. Maybe it is extra fabric laying around your sewing area, or it can be a table you haven’t shot on before, even a wicker chair can make an interesting shooting surface or background. Add candles, or use those little nic-nacs around your house. With a little imagination anything can become a unique new prop for you.
If you have a little extra money to spend, buy a new bowl, or plate, or colourful pot/pan to shot. You could also try painting wooden boards. Simply go to the hardware store and look through the small pieces or scraps of wood you can purchase cheaply, or even get for free. Many bloggers visit garage and estate sales to find new props. Discount stores are also great places to look for bargain props. Always purchase something different than what you already have in your kitchen. Remember we are trying to break repetition.
My newest photo prop, a pewter tea cup and saucer.
New Setting or New Shooting Area
Another thing I like to do when I’m feeling burnt out is finding a new setting. I have a small designated area where I keep my props and where I do most of my shooting. But I’ve found that spending all my shooting time in that same area makes me stick with one, repetitive, way of shooting. Instead it’s best to alternate the areas where we shoot. The new area will force you to set up your shooting space differently. Maybe the walls are a different color in that new shooting space, maybe there is furniture you can use as a background. I’ll tell you a little secret, I’ve shot in our bedroom and used the armoire as a background. It sounds silly but it not only refreshed my vision but gave my photos a new look.
My “secret” shooting background in this photo is our bedroom armoire. Sshh, don’t tell anyone;)
Finding new light to shot in can do wonders for your photography. As I mentioned in the previous section, moving to a new space will bring you new light to shoot in. Maybe the windows face a different direction, this can effect the overall look of your photos, which of course can be a great thing. Perhaps the space will limit you or force you to set up differently and the therefore the light will hit the subject differently. Again a good thing for your photography. This helps you experiment with light direction and how it affects your images.
Another great thing to try is switching the type of light you use. If you mostly shoot with natural, window, light then experiment with artificial light. Likewise, if you shot with artificial light switch to natural, window, light. Don’t feel intimidated by the new light source. Just practice, observe and learn. I love switching back and forth between the two. Each light helps me experiment and learn something new about lighting and photography. You also don’t have to spend a whole lot of money on an artificial light kit. My kit was under $100, and you can even find some under $50. (My tips for artificial light can be found here: What Lights To Use When Sunlight Is Not Available)
I recently found a new little corner to shoot. The “new” light is beautiful, plus I’m having fun experimenting and learning.
Try A New Angle
Food photography is interesting from many angles. Many of us get stuck in the same shooting angle, which is not only repetitive but also leads to burnout. Instead of only shooting straight on and from the same level, try shooting from a completely different angle. Set yourself up high above the food and shoot a birds eye view. You could also try zooming out, or stepping back further away from the subject. Tilt the camera to give your subject a little extra angle. Try placing the subject in a different spot of the viewer. I don’t think there is really a wrong or right angle to shoot food from. The important thing is to keep trying different angles and break the repetition. You’ll be surprised how refreshing this can be.
Just a few sample shooting angles.
Shoot Something Else Than Food
If you’ve tried all the aforementioned tips and are still feeling burned out, shoot something other than food. Whether you shoot food as a hobby or professionally, taking a break from food can be refreshing. I love refreshing and getting out of the rut by finding a flower, or landscape to shot. You could also experiment by shooting portraits of your family and/or pets. New subjects require different angles, light, and techniques. All of which can open your eyes to new techniques to apply to your food photography. Try it, it will not only teach you something new but it will also be fun.
Prague is one of my favorite non-food subjects to shoot.
Learn Something New
Like anything else you do, your Photography, all types, will only get better by constantly learning. Make time to learn what the functions and buttons on your camera not only stand for, but how they can be used to improve your photography. You need but a few minutes a day to learn something new. There is so much knowledge and information on photography, read it, learn it, and then put it to use. (You can start with the free food photography tutorial I’ve shared.)
These are but a few tips that can help you avoid or cure your photography burnout. Don’t give up, don’t feel frustrated. Photography is hard work and as long as you keep trying and working at it, you will succeed. But don’t forget to have fun, enjoying yourself makes it that much better.
A couple tutorials I’ve shared.
My News To Share With You
Today I also want to share a little bit about the new project I’ve been working on. The past few months I have been working on a food photography guide. Slowly it has been turning into a rather informative food photography guide. So to give you a bit more information, it will be an eBook written specifically for food bloggers. It has loads of information, which will help improve your food photography, and explain what the buttons and functions on your camera do. There are also many photo samples and graphics illustrating the explanations. The eBook has many more tips and tricks to help improve your photography.
My plan is to also accompany the eBook with shoot-alongs. What I mean is, we’ll discuss a chapter or section and it will be your “assignment” to put the knowledge to practice. You will get a chance to ask me for help, critique, or further explanations on the subject at hand. Once the project is finalized I’ll work out all the details and share them with you. I’m so very excited to share this eBook with you all, and I can’t wait for you to see it. More information and a release date will follow soon.
Sneak peek at what my photography eBook will contain.
On a final note I would also like to let you know that I will be taking the rest of the week off from blogging, and all other internet activities. I am nearing the eBook’s completion and I want to dedicate all my time and energy to the final sections of the project. I’ll be back next week with more recipes and more eBook news. Wish me luck!
Reem | Simply Reem says
Very well written Nancy!
I myself feel under so much pressure sometime and end up with bad pics…
I agree 100% with all you have said here…
What a great project! I can’t wait to hear more about it…
I know that feeling! Terrible and yes, you are right, sometimes it is better to call it a day and try alter on.
farwin @ Love and other spices says
I couldn’t agree with you more.Wish I had the patience to go through it the next day,too ! Eagerly awaiting the release of your ebook.
Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb says
Oh thats some exciting news nancy. =)
I pretty much agree with everything you said above. Stress never makes sense when u want to be creative.
I can’t wait to hear more about the launch/release of your e-book. Thank you for putting that together and all of your hard, dedicated work!
Thanks, loved your news! Can’t wait to your ebook release!
Such great info, Nancy! And congrats on your ebook…I will buy one for sure!
all the best nancy and congratulations too. waiting for your ebook :-)
thyme (sarah) says
Fabulous information. The messages are all those that knock around in my head. Try new light? Don’t become so repetitive. We food blogger/photographers can bore OURselves. I often fall asleep at night dreaming of not only what I want to cook but how I want to shoot it. Good luck with your e-book…it sounds great.
Vita @ Juicer Depot says
Lots of luck to you. Thanks for all the photo tips and inspirations. Your ebook will be a great success.
Victoria of Flavors of the Sun says
Very helpful. I almost never have any time to set up my food photos as I often take them as a part of class, when I am running around like crazy. All of this information I am taking to heart. Thanks.
Laura (Tutti Dolci) says
Congratulations on the eBook, Nancy! Can’t wait for the release :).
This is such a great post and I completely agree with your advice to walk away to gain fresh perspective, or shoot in a different room, etc. I love your prop tips too!
Laura @ Family Spice says
Good for you! Can’t wait to see your ebook! I started one, and it’s super difficult blogging and working on the cookbook at the same time. Major burnout. So, your post was very meaningful to me – except walking away isn’t totally helping right now!!!
Wonderful tutorial and such exciting news! Your ebook will be an amazing resource for any food blogger. Your photographs are works of art :-)
Nancy, you know I’m all ears when it comes to your photo tutorials and advice. Sometimes I am not that thrilled with a look of a dish and I just don’t try that hard to get a great photo. I’m trying to work harder on my choice of background, lighting and props. I am guilty of using the same plain black and white bowls/plates. I have some beautiful graphic or floral plates but they always fight the food in the picture. Urgh.. there is so much to learn….. Glad we have you there giving us tips. :)
Victoria of Flavors of the Sun says
I forgot to say congratulations as well. Well done!
Lisa H. says
Congratulations on your e-book…
Well said Nancy and Yes… Its horrible when we have the burned out… At times I lost my mojo for weeks :(
Looking forward to read your e book :D
Lea Ann (Cooking on the Ranch) says
First of all, congratulation on the Ebook!
This is just a great post. Full of good information. Thank you. Repetition is my worst enemy, as usually I’m shooting food that is placed on the dining room table for weeknight dinner. Hubs is eating away, I’m hungry and I don’t want the meal to get cold. I need to work on that. :) Some of my better shots are on weekends when I have time to plan the photography before I make dinner.
Suzanne Perazzini says
What a great project to be working on! There can never be enough resources on photography and having one specifically for food will be very useful. I try to constantly shake up how I photograph food, hence not having a specific style – at least I don’t think I have a style. The variety is the fun part of it.
Vicki Bensinger says
Nancy this is all great information and although I truly don’t know the first thing about photography I’ve managed to take a few decent shots but much improvement is needed. My first thing is that I really need to get something other than a point and shoot. Right now I use a Canon Power Shot SD1200IS Digital ELPH whatever all that means. I want to purchase a better camera but don’t know what to buy. So maybe you can tell me. Then when your ebook is out I can follow along with your tutorial and assignments. That all sounds so exciting to me.
I’m looking forward to seeing your ebook. Good luck on completing it this week or getting the bulk of what you need done.
Great post. Sorry I haven’t been by in a while, I’ve just been so busy, it’s hard to find much time during my day to do much more other than post on my own blog.
Wow Nancy, awesome tutorial!!
Congratulations on achieving this and hope the days ‘off’ will be both fruitful and enjoyable. I am working pretty hard on a number of projects and apologized to a child psychologist friend this morning for having left our cowork/correspondence in abeyance. A few minutes later came back the ‘tart’ reply: ‘What do you mean, you’re sorry! Didn’t know you were a LP record always turned on’!!! Not bad: I’ll be planting my spring garden for the rest of this week :) !
sister you speak the truth! i keep making leaps in my photography i’m proud of, and then i just plateau….it can be so hard to break out of habit. i’m working on it right now, with mixed success…these tips will help :)
what a helpful guide.
Another wonderful tutorial! Thanks so much :) I hit the flea market last weekend and picked up a few new (old) plates, and now you’ve given me the seeds of some ideas to try out. I really need to freshen things up!
Can’t wait for the ebook and project – I’ll definitely be signing up for that!
Thanks for all of the information that you have provided in this post and I can’t wait for the ebook! I loved the interactive concept of the book! You better be ready for the response, because I’m sure it’s going to be HUGE!
Nami | Just One Cookbook says
I feel like you are seeing my struggle and sharing this post! :D Thank you for writing this post. I’m going to listen to a pro and try to experiment with different things.
And… I’m SO looking forward to your e-book. Is it too early to congratulate? :)
Angie@Angie's Recipes says
I can totally relate to what you said. Guess it happens to all of us.
Thank you so much sharing this.
I love your photographs and i am so excited aboutyour ebook! It will help me soooo much.
Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) says
Thanks for these helpful tips, and best of luck with finishing up the e-book!
All the best keep rocking as usual and your pics are always amazing..
Good luck with the book! And good post. I used to walk away a lot – I’ll bet most of my first dozen or so posts I reshot the food, and even then it wasn’t that good. Now if something isn’t working, I’ll just do something else. I usually try to get at least 2 different looks per post, and often 3 or 4. So I’ve got lots of ideas I can fall back on. For the last year or more I’ve mostly been taking “portraits” of food – just the food with minimal props, and relying on lighting to tell the story. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve set up elaborate tableau’s – maybe time again? Good post – thanks.
What a great tutorial! I’ve been feeling a little burned out regarding my food photography lately so your timing is perfect. :)
I am so, so, SO excited for your ebook!! Your photography is always so beautiful and inspiring and I can’t wait to read it.
Rowena @ Apron and Sneakers says
Such great tips Nancy. When I feel like there’s something wrong with what I am doing, I do leave the camera, sit down and refresh my mind for ideas. It usually works that way for me. Good luck with your project. It sounds like a very good one!
Excellent post Nancy!!! I just can’t wait for the project. And all the best for your e-book :)
Joan Nova says
Good luck with completing the book. I’m always inspired by your work and look forward to learning more about your ‘shoot alongs’/
Jen Laceda | Tartine and Apron Strings says
This is an awesome share, Nancy! Good luck and congrats on the new eBook! Your tutorials and tips are always helpful.
Baker Street says
Such great info, Nancy! I really appreciate that you take out the time to share such information. Congratulations on your ebook. I’m totally looking forward to it. :)
Sandra's Easy Cooking says
Very well written info, and I appreciate it! Congrats on the new ebook…
Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) says
Nancy, I’m always inspired by your photography and appreciate your tips. I’ve experienced photography burn out only to be renewed by the tips you’ve suggested here to escape repetition. Since I’m suffering from jet lag, I was up at 3 am this morning and guess what, I was imagining a totally different layout than I’ve been using for my photo shoots (it’s obsessive sometimes). I tend to fixate on one set up until I get bored with it then move on and I completely understand when you envision something that doesn’t translate as well as what your mind conjured up. That said, I think your picture of the portobello steak is lovely. Congrats on the ebook–no doubt it will be a very useful tool for many including me. :)
beautiful work lovely post
I always learn so much from your tutorials! While I don’t think that I photograph enough to experience true burn out, I certainly find myself in a rut when shooting food. These are all great tips for shaking things up a bit.
Winelady Cooks says
Hi Nancy, Congratulations on your new project. I can’t wait until you share it. I love photography but I’m not as good as I should be. I do remember one of your tutorials I read last year helped me with staging some of my photos. I’m looking forward to your new project.
Spicie Foodie says
Thank you, I’m so glad to hear that you found helpful information from a previous tutorial. The book will be available for order next week. I can’t wait to share it with everyone:)