Turning Burnout into Creativity

December 21, 2015

After approximately 15 straight months of traveling 1-4 times per month for photography and 2 moves, I was feeling pretty burnt out to be perfectly honest with you. Actually, I literally just got home an hour ago from my last shoots of the year in fabulous New York City! It has been an incredible year, not just for me, but I know for many of you all. With success and all the joy that brings, there also comes stress and I’m not afraid to talk about that side of things. When we put ourselves out there, we never know what we may get back, am I right? This can be a crazy job. So much of our hearts go into what we do. Many times I ask myself what I’m doing here with this camera. What’s my purpose? It all starts to look the same. Do you ever feel that way? The feeling comes and goes, I know. I think most creative types feel these things at some point or another. It’s pretty normal, actually. More importantly, what can we do about it when we feel burnt out?

My solution was to take some time off, then go out and photograph something I wouldn’t normally photograph, using equipment I rarely use. So I took my two loves–my husband and my Mini Cooper–out to Donner Lake in California, along with a 35mm camera, a few rolls of Portra 400 and a 45mm tilt shift lens. Truthfully, I had no idea what to expect when I sent these off to be developed and scanned, but I was pleasantly surprised. I like the story they tell. Are they the best photos I’ve ever taken in my life? No. But they captured that day and the way I was feeling. I will forever treasure the image of my husband’s hands as he drives my baby car. The process of taking these, sending off the film, then getting the scans back and tweaking them a bit really helped combat the burnout I was feeling. It’s nice to photograph something new. I’m normally photographing brides or couples or adorable children, so mountains and pine trees was way different for me. Shooting these images (a few of them shared below) were like hitting a reset button for me. I came away from the experience feeling pretty refreshed. So my advice this week, dear friends is when you’re feeling burnt out or feeling like it all runs together and looks the same is to get out there and shoot something your heart isn’t necessarily in. Have a little change of scenery. Play. Don’t mind the results, there is no good and there is no bad for a little minute. There is just you and a camera and the purpose is to document something, whatever you choose. It doesn’t have to be your typical style.

There are so many photographers out there who will tell you how to do things the “right way.” My style is typically pretty light, pastel-ish, emotional. These mountain/tree images are none of those things, so I was a bit apprehensive about sharing them at all. But then I thought, no. I’m sharing them. Nobody but me gets to dictate who I am and what I photograph. Nobody but me gets to say if I share only my triumphs or both my wins and my struggles. I’ve realized recently there’s a whole lot of anxiety simmering below the surface of social media. Share this, don’t share that. Be like this, not like that. Does it ever feel restrictive and outdated? It does to me. Uptight is another word that comes to mind. I think when we listen to ourselves first and foremost and do things the way we want without regard to what anyone else thinks is when we reach our true artist selves. Share or do not share your struggles, it’s up to you. If you’re more comfortable only sharing wins, hey, I don’t judge you. But don’t let that artist self get drowned out by the photography business self. It’s perfectly okay to be who you are–an imperfect human person–in front of other people. It gives them courage to also be themselves and it creates a ripple outward effect of friendship and creativity.

So here, friends are my perfectly imperfect burnout-combating tilt shift film images of a day well spent being in love and trying new things. I hope that if you are feeling the end of the year crash that you will consider this advice and please do share your “reset button” images. We love to hear from you all!

 

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IMG_3271Hi, I’m Ashley Noelle Edwards, a hybrid photographer and business owner who specializes in creating elaborate photo sessions all around the world. I also enjoy blogging, styling, floral design, and mentoring. I want everyone to become a photographer and am very open when mentoring other artists. My education is in psychology, which often informs my blog posts on photography and business. I (newly) live in Sacramento, California with my wonderful husband and travel frequently for photography.

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