I’ve talked a lot before about things like “photo-a-day” projects and other ways to get a little bit of photography into your life on a daily basis. And I do think that it’s important to be creative daily. It’s just like exercise: If you don’t use it, you lose it. The last thing we photographers need is to let our creative muscles waste away.
But there’s one problem with photo-a-day projects. They’re just not all that practical. They’re a nice thing to do for a month or a year, especially when you’re just getting started as a photographer. But to continue to do these projects year after year — it’s too much. Most all of us simply don’t have time to go out photographing every single day or to even sit down in front of our computers and work on post-processing every single day. Maybe those of us who are career photographers can do this, but the rest of us have families, jobs and lots of other things vying for our attention.
So the question becomes, how can we keep our creative muscles exercised on a daily basis?
I think the trick is to find small things that we can do. We’ve all got a limited time, so sometimes, we only have a chance to spend a few minutes on these things in a given day. The photography trips, the hours spent post-processing and so forth — these are all things we can safely set aside until we have large blocks of time to work on them.
In the meantime, think about what you could do daily that might take less than 10 or 15 minutes. This could be something like spending a little bit of time reading about photography. If there’s a book that you’re interested in reading, then set aside time to read a chapter each day. Or go online and read a blog post on a daily basis. Spend a little time on Youtube watching tutorials — anything that is both creatively oriented and instructive that fits into those little chunks of time that you have.
Or, if you want to keep things purely creative, then you could always spend time simply looking at photography. Coffee table books are a great way to spend a few minutes just studying, and there are plenty of places online where you can enjoy the work of others.
Another idea is to set up daily thought experiments. On your way to work, or while you’re running errands, find a few minutes to pause and really look at your surroundings. It doesn’t have to be the photographic destination of your dreams, nor do you have to take any photographs. Just spend the time thinking about how you might compose an image in this setting. What details would you focus on, where would you stand, what types of compositions would work best? This is just a simple exercise that helps keep your photographic eye sharp.
You can also spend a few minutes brainstorming. In the morning, in the evening or whenever your mind is sharpest. Just those ideas for photographs down so that they’re handy whenever you do have time to take the camera out.
Photography doesn’t have to be something that takes hours each day. A lot of times, something quick and simple is all you need to exercise those creative muscles!