Help, I’m a Photographer In Isolation
How My Isolation Began
Like many of us when the social distancing first began it wasn’t so bad. It meant time at home and it was almost like a holiday. It wasn’t long though before the reality began to set in and I found myself in need of all the things that were no longer available. I live in a flat so space is limited, I missed being outside, being with people, breathing fresh air, having a moment to myself. In the absence of these simple things it wasn’t long before I felt as though the creative parts of me were in danger of drying up.
I manged to survive those first few days finding ways to accommodate the new routines in my life from a simple trip to the shop to the new ways of working with other people. In those first few days I don’t even think the reality of what was going on had fully settled in.
It was only when the normal aspects of life got affected, even something as simple as going out for a walk had become something of a mission or couldn’t even be done. The social aspect is possibly the hardest to overcome, it doesn’t need to be a big family get together or social gathering. Just any form of social contact was now being met with restrictions.
As a photographer it was always exciting to receive emails with new enquiries for my services. Even those emails had now become something that I was beginning to dread, which client would be the next to postpone or cancel their photography session.
That was when I started to feel that loss of motivation. How could I keep going day after day so that I could do more than just survive. Business before COVID-19 had really begun to take off and I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to continue to thrive?
I felt as though the creative parts of me were in danger of drying up
Shifting My Perspective
I still sat at the same desk every day and went around doing the same things that I had done before the isolation had started. I started to think about how I would survive. The government have now put in place a package to help those like me, the forgotten self-employed. That package though is nowhere near what I would have earned each month. Based on profits, not income, it’s not even enough to pay the bills that you incur as a photographer. The website hosting, subscriptions, insurance, the list goes on. They are all bills that I now have to pay out of what I would have paid myself.
Not being able to get out to take photographs I found myself looking at stock websites to find images for content to use. That was when it struck me. I had been here before, back when I first started photography.
In those days I didn’t look for a quick fix to earn the money I looked at what I enjoyed doing and found ways to work that would continue to work or that I would be there for the long haul, not just a reaction the situation that I found myself in.
The world had changed but the opportunities were still there, you just had to find them.
Look To The Stories Of Others
With time on my hands where I was not inundated with editing I found that I had spare time on my hands. I had already found my first advantage to the situation that I was in. I had time to look around not only at what other photographers were doing but to also see where I wanted to be going.
Since I started my photography business started it has evolved in ways that I didn’t even imagine it would. Would this be another opportunity for me to evolve even further as a photographer? Was this a time to start doing something new?
I didn’t just spend my time looking at how other photographers were acting to the situation, I looked towards others who’s work I had been following. The photographers who often gave me my inspiration when I had lost that creative edge.
It was time to start looking with fresh eyes and see how I could adopt some of the work and styles into my own work.
I Didn’t Want To Compare Myself To Other Photographers
Over the last couple of weeks I have seen how other photographers have followed trends set out by others, it’s all about how they can offer workshops or free advice on their websites. I’m not against doing that, however, with the influx of photographers rushing to the trend how quickly is that market going to become saturated.
As I reviewed what the other photographers were doing it set my mind in motion that I didn’t want to compare myself to others. I wanted to use other photographers, amongst other sources, to enhance what I was doing and develop the skills and styles that I already have.
The second advantage of living in quarantine had become apparent. I had time to learn and try out new things. I had time to see how I could engage those aspects and styles of photography that interested me into my own way of work.
It was time to take a step back from what I was doing
Limitations – An Advantage Not A Restriction
It was time to take a step back from what I was doing. I had spent so long looking at ways to enhance my photography in the wrong way. I had been investing in new equipment for each new adventure. Forced to stay indoors and only work with what I had it was a time to develop new ways to use what I did have. To use what I already knew in different ways.
Before I had often felt constricted by the limitations of what I had or the space that I was in. Now I was beginning to see that as an advantage not a restriction.
Fighting the Rut: Trying New Techniques, Consistency, and Exploring Other Genres
Many artists will tell you about being in the ‘creative rut’. If you look around there are so many photographers out there who will tell you about how they overcame their own creative rut. One video I like in particular is by Tommy Reynolds (Overcome Your Creative Block) and it is one that I still want to do.
The focus of the video isn’t just about the ballet shoot though. It’s about taking time to do something for yourself. Finding time to try out new techniques, genres or styles.
As a busy photographer you can find yourself always sticking with the tried and tested methods of doing what you have always done (trust me at a wedding where you have to think fast is not the time to start playing around).
Isolation has given me that time to do things differently, time to try those little projects that I always wanted to do.
The other things that it has done is stop me thinking big. I have always thought of a project as a ‘big project’. One where I get all the lights out rent a space and get people in to model for me. That would still be my ideal dream however in this time of isolation it is time to think small. It’s an opportunity to get creative in different ways.
A Break Can Be Good
The other opportunity that I have found is ‘me time’.
I know it sounds a bit silly but being self employed you always find yourself working around the clock. You rarely get time off, people will still call or email you.
Social distancing means that many of my services have stopped for the time being. I can’t be at a wedding if weddings are not allowed or headshots can’t be taken if only essential work is allowed.
The new social distancing has given me that break that I feel that, even if I didn’t realise it, I needed. I needed the time to relax and focus on others things apart from how work was going.
A Message To Other Photographers
I know at the moment it can be had to see beyond how the social distancing and other restriction are affecting what, as photographers, we like to do. If you are self employed it is also a time of worry.
If I could give a message to any photographers out there it would be to see the advantages that this time has given us. The opportunities to see each day in a different way.
Take the time to spend time with loved ones and to relax. Make the most of what you have and don’t dream about things that could have been or feel restricted by what you don’t have.
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If you would like to know more about my photography please visit my website www.cjhphotography.co.uk