As a photographer, sometimes you get the sense that opportunity is just not finding you. There are no new places around you to take interesting new photographs and there is not the time or money to head out on a trip to somewhere exotic. You fall into a kind of doldrum, unable to move forward, finding that it becomes an incredible struggle just to get the inspiration you need to create something new.
Worse, that attitude often extends into other areas of photography. Your work isn’t being published or displayed because no good opportunities have presented themselves to you, for instance. Once you get into this mode of thinking, it can be incredibly difficult to break free, to keep going. I’ve been there myself. The thing is, an opportunity is not something that will come to you. Though it is a challenge, an opportunity is something that each photographer makes for himself or herself. Let me show you some ways to make the opportunity happen.
Make Photographs Happen, Don’t Wait for Them
It is common for photographers to become frustrated with the area that they live in. After so many years of exploring and documenting all of your favorite haunts, you start to think that you’ve seen everything there is to see and done everything there is to do within a certain radius of your home. Even more frustrating, as I said before, there just isn’t time or money to visit exotic locales as much as you would like to.
However, I would argue that chances are, you have not seen and done everything in the area that you live in. Part of making opportunities is finding the time to explore, to ferret out the hidden secrets that you may never have noticed even though you’ve walked or driven past hundreds of times. Find a day where you can simply get out and drive or an evening where you can go for a long walk and do it. See what happens, see what you can find.
If you still are not having luck, then it might be time to get a map of the city, county or locale that you live in. Look at every single route on that map, from the major highways down to the tiny little service routes and alleys that are open to the public. Make a point to travel every single road at some point. As you travel the roads, mark them off so that you know you’ve been there at least once. And, as you travel, keep a journal so that you know where you’d like to visit again. You’ll find that even within your own community, there are probably many, many roads that you have not traveled, which means many photographs waiting to be taken. If you have traveled all the roads within a certain area around your home, then maybe it is time to get a bigger map! Move on to the next county or city and start exploring again.
Exploration isn’t the only thing you can do when you’re looking for a way to make photographs happen. If it just isn’t a good day for exploring, look around the house for things to photograph. You might find yourself spending the day on macro photography or creating still life images on your dining room table.
Don’t Wait for Publication to Happen
Almost every photographer harbors the dream of publication or recognition of one kind or another at some point in their careers. As with the photos themselves, however, you can’t simply wait for that opportunity to arrive. Instead, you have to reach for the opportunity — without letting a sense of discouragement get in your way.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to work toward your goal of publication or recognition. One of the easiest things you can do is start a website or update a website of your own that has been languishing for some time. This will get you some exposure and who knows, you may even have some offers come your way. But don’t stop there. Submit photographs to magazines or portfolios to galleries — and keep on doing it until something happens. Every photographer faces rejection, sometimes hundreds of times. Don’t let those rejections stand in your way. Another thing you can do is enter a photography competition. You may win an award and even if you don’t, the satisfaction of summoning the will to participate is something that you can use to encourage yourself.
Strive to do as many of these things as you reasonably can and you will be miles ahead of most other photographers. And, like I said, don’t let rejection get you down. All photographers face it. Remember this: If you don’t submit, then there is no chance at all for an opportunity to find you.
What to Do When You Can’t Figure Out What to Do
No matter how hard you push, there will still be times when you simply don’t know what to do with yourself. Perhaps there just isn’t time to go out on a photo walk or lay out a still life on your dining room table. You’ve already worked on portfolios and submissions as much as you are able. Now what? I say, do something else!
And by something else, I mean pick up a new photography book that you’ve not read. Go online and look at blogs and photography websites. Order a new magazine subscription. Perhaps you can slip away to a local gallery or museum for an hour or two. Make yourself a checklist of various “downtime” activities so that the next time you are feeling stuck, you can simply pick something from the list and move forward.
There is always something that you can be doing to further your photography goals, to make opportunities happen instead of waiting for them to present themselves to you. Always be thinking about things you can be doing and then make time to get them done. And, of course, don’t forget to take a break once in a while. Though your efforts may yield opportunities aplenty, it is no good if you’ve exhausted yourself too much to take advantage of them fully!