Photography burnout is a real issue. Like any field of work, photographers can become overwhelmed with the pressure to succeed and inevitably this brings about burnout. In high volume photography, it can be even more prominent given the sheer number of kids to take pictures of. In this blog, I focus on the description of a burnout, what it is like to have one and how you can best avoid it.
What is a burnout?
Burnouts are caused by being in a constant state of stress. All of us feel stress – both positive and negative – every day. Usually, there is some relief from it in our daily lives. Sometimes though, there is no relief from stress for several days (or even weeks) at a time. This is when a burnout can occur.
A burnout provokes feelings of physical and emotional exhaustion, social detachment, and inadequacy. Each of these can hurt your photography in different ways. The experience is different for everyone, but the first step to truly dealing with it is to recognize the different symptoms. Let’s start there.
How Does It Affect You As A Photographer?
Exhaustion is more than simply feeling tired or fatigued. Exhaustion can manifest as a weakened immune system, leading to increased illnesses, forgetfulness, loss of appetite, anxiety, anger, and/or depression. I think it is obvious how each of these impacts your photography.
Although it may not seem like it at first, photography can be physically demanding. Wedding and school photographers are constantly on the go all day long. Physical exhaustion can therefore really impact your photography.
The same can be said for emotional exhaustion. Most photography evokes some emotion. It is difficult to do this when all you are feeling is numb. Feelings of apathy will show in your photographs.
Cynicism and Detachment
These signs are what I personally associate with burnout. Loss of enjoyment in photography is usually the first thing noticed. This is accompanied by pessimism, feeling as if your skills will never improve. Burnout can cause you to experience detachment—feeling disconnected from others. You may miss your photo club meetings, stop returning emails or pull away from other activities. This is ironic because one of the things that help, at least for me it did, is to become more involved in groups to which I belong.
Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment
It can seem that no matter how hard you work at photography, you never see your skills improving. You can develop feelings of hopelessness because of this, even though your photography is developing at the same rate as before. This often makes you irritable, or at least it does for me.
All of these feelings combine to make you less productive, and even though the burnout may have started in photography, it can spill over into other aspects of our lives, such as family relationships and of course your work.
Don’t believe everything you hear! Read up on these photography myths you may still believe in.
How To Avoid A Photography Burnout
Get a Hobby (Other than Photography)
At some point, you need to put down the camera and do something different. Yes, going out and taking pictures of things other than the type of photography you do mainly for business can be relaxing, but you are still very close to ‘work mode’. Learn to play an instrument, read, volunteer…do something other than taking pictures for a little while every week to have a ‘vacation’ from the business.
Talk to Your Friends and Family – In Person, and Not About Work
Actual human interaction can do you a load of good, an hour or two spent with family or friends can recharge your batteries – as long as you aren’t talking about how much work you have to do when you get back to your computer. Relax. Let your hair down. Have a little fun now and then so that you can continue to feel excited about your work!
Time Management is Everything
Especially when you don’t have set working hours, it’s important to keep track of the time you spend on your work and the time you spend on other things. It’s easy to do a bit more editing and get booked for an extra shoot, but just keep in mind that you also need to schedule some time for things that are not photography related. This is what went wrong in my case. Back then I would have thought ‘yeah right, how am I supposed to do less? All these things HAVE to be done.’ If this is the same for you ask yourself which things are important in your work and which things you can change to save time. Maybe you just have more shoots planned than you can handle, or maybe there are things in your workflow that could be done in a more efficient way. Because in the end, a responsible workload means more personal happiness and health. GotPhoto can help when it comes to reducing your workload, find out how in this useful article.
Step Away from The Computer at Regular Intervals
Get up from the computer. Let your eyes focus on something else. Take a short walk. Do some star jumps. Just don’t stare at the screen continuously for eight hours a day. It’s not good for you. Most photographers I know would rather be out taking pictures than editing or running the business side of things. But, if you are running a business, these things need to get done. It does not mean that you cannot take a break occasionally! And you should. Stick to the rules for regular office places such as a 10-15-minute break every two hours. You will be surprised how much better you feel.
Making the most of your time is incredibly important and of course, GotPhoto can help you with plenty of those tedious administration tasks. This is crucial in getting you away from the desk. Slow Road owner Erica Morrow explains further the difference it made for her in this article.