On Motivation and Photography

You, of course, refers to a fictitious person herein. You have all this fantastic gear. A brand new camera, terrific lenses and a designer bag for the whole lot. Everything revolves around gear. You buy more gear because you’re sure it makes you a better photographer. You have a smaller camera for on the go and an larger system for the serious stuff. You have what’s praised as the top of the line among reviews and pro circles. You’ve got it all. Now all you need is… good photographs.

I had many great cameras. And the deeper we venture into the digital age, the quicker I seem to get bored of them. Next one please! And in the end, after having used a camera not even close to its life expectancy, it’s sold in pristine condition and somehow I notice that all along I was more preoccupied with gear rather than photography…

Stop! Of course, this is purely hypothetical. I live and love the passion photography. Still, it’s easy to get bored now and then while waiting for motivation… Good photography doesn’t come easy. Yet we’re conditioned to expect quick results.

Now there are two different main types of motivation:

  • Intrinsic motivation is when you do something because you love doing it. You’re not after the money, all you’re after is the process of photography. Right, the journey is the reward. Photographing is not just a 9 to 5 grind you get bored of. It’s your passion and what keeps you going. Unfortunately, that’s the more rare kind of motivation.
  • Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is doing something for a reward that happens later or for something you expect. For instance, you’re supposed to take pictures of this and that because you’re supposed to share your experiences. You turn into a copycat. Gear has become an end in itself to satisfy lust for gadgetry. You do it because others do it. However, hardly a drop of lifeblood is involved.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the latter motivation is a much less powerful one. If you do something for the sake of doing it then you’ll soon get lazy and hate doing it.

Snapping with passion | THEME
Snapping with passion | THEME

Same goes for photography. The world can be a very small place. Maybe shooting the same subjects/objects again and again has become pointless or boring. Maybe just a little more discipline and one would cross the threshold that separates mediocrity from outstanding work.

But how to increase that intrinsic motivation that seems to be so much more rewarding and profitable?

When you do what you love to do. Just practice what you freaking love to death. Who cares that there are so many other great photographers out there.

Your best photographs will be the ones you really liked taking. And only then will photography keep you going.

Don’t expect praise or a reward. Don’t wait for the moment you’re discovered and become famous. There are no extrinsic riches in photography, only intrinsic ones.

All comes back to what inspires and motivates you. If you do it for recognition or the money, well then better look for a better job.

And find your niche, your field of expertise. The best photographs are often the ones that become authorities on very specific topics.

Go back to what only you know. To old haunts. To what fascinates, pleases and troubles you.

  • Drazen B

    Oh so true again, my friend…you hit the nail on the head as many times before.

    I luckily belong (or at least I believe so) to the first type of motivation you described.

    Hope to stay that way for many years to come, at least for the passion of something I love immersing myself into and for the sake of maintaining my own sanity ;-)

    • So true, the pursuit of photography as life’s balancer…

      Maybe a follow-up post on inspiration and photography is in order.

  • “Go back to what only you know.”

    If I go back any further I’ll be back in the photographic womb and owning a 4×5 which is what I started with. I miss it.