As I was on a run this evening listening to John Mayer's "Into Your Atmosphere", I thought I'd write to all of you to talk a bit about taking a break from photography. This may mean a few days to some, it may mean a few months to others- it all depends on your personality and what's going on in your life. Sometimes this simple act can work as a catalyst helping you push forward into projects you've been holding off on, or help you create new images you might not have thought of in the past.
As a person who's captured images since I picked up my first camera at the age of 11 (now 41), I've been deeply engulfed in photography in every way possible - from planning and shooting my assignments around the world, to holding gallery shows displaying my fine art prints - writing a 50,000 word book on exposure, to organizing industry events for ASMP - dealing with all that goes into a photo business, to all the self-educating needed to keep up with the latest and greatest in gear and software - and now attempting to create tv show and be the Photoguru to the general public - it's a lot to do on a regular basis.
And even though I love my career, a few years ago I began to burn out on it a bit. I was always aware of this happening and knew to get away and take breaks from it when I had to, but at that point I realized I needed to slow down on my shooting to find that hunger again. Photography tends to ground me from time to time and has brought a lot of peace to my life, but doing it as a full-time job is whole other ball of wax.
People often think having a career as a photographer is this great job where you travel and get paid for a living - piece of cake right? Far from it. Capturing great shots is a blast, but working on deadline, tight budgets, lots of pressure sometimes, all kinds of weather issues, as well as all the other major and minor details that goes into every shoot is tough. When I get just a one-day assignment, I have to plan that day out, make sure I produce the work needed within the budget allocated, and although some think "hey, if you don't get the shot, you can always go back the next day", that just ain't the case. Your profits drop, expenses increase, and it ends up being an expensive hobby and not your main source of income.
After a few year of shooting less (finding bigger clients, more commercial jobs, and diversifying my business some to maintain the level of income I was earning) my excitement for photography came back 100%. I never stopped shooting, but I definitely cut back on the frequency. I've never been one to take a camera everywhere I go, and that too I feel has helped me stay fresh in my outlook of the art, carrying that jubilation of capturing a great shot whenever I do so.
And whether it's jammin' to Kanye while ridin' my mountain bike, or leaving my cameras at home while visiting Lake Tahoe for the weekend, I believe these mental breaks have played just as big of a role in my photography as did the times where I had all my gear- where I may have worked 20 hours in a day to complete a job, or been two weeks away from home on assignment. Photography may be my job, and yes I love making images, but it doesn't rule my life- the constant search for happiness - contentment - peace - laughter - that does.
So if you take a deep breath or sigh when you pick up your camera, find yourself getting extra frustrated when you miss a shot, or think you've reached at a plateau in the images you are creating, consider the option of back burnering your photography. Go for a ride, get back into running, or wait a while until a little dust collects on your camera. You might be thinking "What Sean? Stop shooting photos? Didn't think that would come from you." To quote Chris Rock in his last HBO special "That's right, I SAID it! And I'm looking straight at cha!" :)
So remember, you're not alone in feeling that way, and your passion for the medium will never go away. Happy humpday photo-geeks and geekettes.
Causes Sean Arbabi Supports
Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land