Kellie Bieser is a returning Reset Conference speaker, and we adore her creativity and heart for educating and motivating other photographers. She is based in Columbus, Ohio where she lives with her husband, five kids, dog, cat, four goats, and a bunch of chickens. As a kid and family photographer, she strives to capture the emotion of each moment, to reveal the personality of every subject, and to tap into what moves her audience. Her work behind the camera has earned her a spot speaking on the Nikon stage and in the Profoto Legends of Light line-up. You can find her speaking at conferences and events around the world and see more of her work at Shutter & Glass.
I, like so many other mothers, have a full plate. I have five kids’ worth of laundry to do, dishes to clean, and homework logs to sign. There are meals to cook, school functions to attend, and toilets to scrub. We have pets to care for and grass to mow and boo-boos to kiss and bedtime stories to read and we do it all because we are mothers and that’s what we were made to do.
But as a photographer, all of that busy-ness can zap our creativity pretty quickly. And that’s the opposite of what we want because if you are like me, chances are that those little angels who keep you so busy are the reason you picked up a camera in the first place! The last thing we want is for the tasks of motherhood to make taking photos seems like just another chore.
So today I am sharing simple ways that you can stay inspired even in the midst of the busiest of seasons. These little acts of self-care have cured innumerable creative ruts and they are guaranteed to keep you snapping away and full of ideas for your next photo session.
Get some fresh air
pI am pretty sure that humans were not made to sit inside staring at a screen all day long. And yet, that’s where we find ourselves so much of the time.
As photographers, we spend a lot of hours editing and strategizing on social media. It’s part of the gig! But without some balance away from the screens, our creativity can be zapped pretty quickly.
That’s why I am urging you to get up a few times a day, open the door, and breathe in some fresh air. Let nature energize you! You will be amazed at what a little sunshine or a cool breeze can do for you.
And if you have more than a few minutes, take a stroll or go for a hike. Getting your heart beating while taking in all that nature has to offer is sure to inspire some new photo ideas. I love taking a jog around my local parks. Not only does the fresh air and activity energize me, but I often find great spots for sessions as I make my way around!
Surround yourself with creativity
pIt’s pretty difficult to stay inspired all on your own. Even the most creative minds need to draw inspiration from something.
The most productive creatives surround themselves with the creative work of others. Turn on a great album, hang art that you love, watch beautifully made movies. When you surround yourself with creativity you will undoubtedly find yourself inspired to create more yourself.
Every once in awhile I take myself on a creative date. I head to the museum or to our local conservatory or to a concert and I take in the beauty around me. Every time I witness the masterful work of others in other media I am inspired to pick up my camera and try to create my own masterpieces.
Take something off your plate
pI will be honest here. This is a tough one for me. In a world where being busy is celebrated and being idle is seen as lazy, it’s difficult to justify taking time for ourselves.
And yet this is so wrong! We need time that is unstructured and free to recharge our creative batteries. It’s not laziness…it’s self-care and that’s just as important as any other item on the to-do list.
So if you are feeling particularly drained, take a look at all of your responsibilities and see if there is something that you can take off your plate. Of course, there will be things that have to stay on there. But my guess is that there are a few things on there that you can either delegate or take away altogether.
Every once in awhile I pay a little extra to have our groceries delivered. Our local store lets you create lists and they will shop for everything on it and deliver it straight to your door in just a few hours. It’s a small price to pay in those weeks where my list is too long and my stress levels are high. Stress is the enemy of creativity and so you will want to keep it at bay when trying to stay inspired.
pWho else is a Parks and Recreation fan?!
While Donna and Tom might have been treating themselves to all of the expensive material things they desired, I am not telling you to drain your bank account. Instead, I want you to take time to identify the things that are just for you that make you feel inspired.
Maybe it’s getting your nails done or treating yourself to a massage or facial. Perhaps a new pair of shoes makes you feel like a new person. Go to dinner at your favorite fancy restaurant and get the best glass of wine on the menu. Eat dessert with no regrets!
As a mom and a creative, I find that most of my days are spent for others. And I love that! But I have also found that taking care of myself lets me take care of others better. Even more, it fuels me to be a better, more inspired photographer.
Borrow new gearp
I love all the new gear. Like, when a new camera body or lens is announced, I want it. And old vintage lenses? I want them too! LOL
But it doesn’t really make sense to own all the gear. There aren’t enough hours in the day or enough dollars in the checking account.
That said, I am a firm believer in the ability of a new piece of gear inspiring me to create new kinds of work. That’s why I am a happy customer of my local camera store’s rental department. This allows me to try the gear that I love for a short while without making the big investment to buy it.
Try using something that wouldn’t necessarily be practical for your genre of photography and see what it inspires in you. I recently borrowed a lens made for astro photography (something at which I am objectively terrible…ha!). It was manual focus and totally impractical for the fast-paced nature of my family sessions. However, it had the most amazing bokeh and allowed me to slow down and really consider my portrait subject, inspiring me to capture him like a painter would rather than a photographer. I love the results and am excited to create more work like this in the future!
Have a personal projectb
There aren’t a lot of jobs out there that people also want to do for fun. I don’t know many lawyers who read briefs in their free time or accountants who do math for fun.
But photography is different! We have created a career out of something that is very often our creative passion. However, work is work and even the best most creative job can feel like a job when we do it all the time.
That’s why I think it is extra important to use your camera for a project that isn’t about work. Have something that motivates you to take photos that isn’t about making money or getting new clients. This kind of project will keep you motivated to reach for your camera and you will likely find that what you learn through your project will inspire you in your client work, too.
Having trouble thinking of a project? I have ideas for you to try:
• 365 Project (take at least one photo every single day for a year)
• Same place, different times (take a photo of the same place at different times of day
throughout different seasons to see how it changes over time)
• Creative portrait project (photograph people who are connected in some way)
• Macro project (get an up-close view of everyday items)
• Same subject, different lenses (capture the same scene with various focal lengths to illustrate how different it can look)
• Self-portrait project (commit to being in the frame regularly)
Be a student
pThis is probably the most important item on this list. Because being a student means that you are always learning something new and there is nothing as inspiring as a fresh experience.
Luckily for us, photography is an art where there is always something to learn. Even the most accomplished photographer in the world doesn’t know it all! And with an industry that is perpetually evolving, there will always be something new to discover.
So sign-up for a class online or watch some YouTube videos. Read blogs. Test out a new technique. Challenge yourself to be a beginner and learn something new.
My favorite way to be a student is to attend an in-person conference (hello, Reset!). This not only gives me the opportunity to learn from a lot of different photographers, but it gives me the opportunity to learn alongside other photographers who share my love for creativity. There is nothing as inspiring as being surrounded by others who care about making photos and want to do it better.
No matter what we do, inspiration will have ebbs and flows. And that’s okay! With this list, you can ensure that you will be ready to create when inspiration is high and will be confident that inspiration will return when it feels like its in short supply. I can’t wait to meet you at the 2020 Reset conference and find new sources of inspiration together!
Love Kellie’s work? Be sure to direct message her on Instagram for her discount code and attend her class “Getting Personal: The importance of personal projects in professional development”.