Developing your Creativity and Avoiding Burnout

Jon Williams has been a professional photographer for the past 38 years, with clients including The United States Forest Service, Weber State College, and many other businesses. In 2006, Jon opened his own photography school called Jon Williams Photography Seminars and Expeditions®. Students come to him to learn a wide variety of vocationally oriented photography and business skills. Hundreds of student photographers and many ascending professionals have enjoyed these classes, seminars, workshops, and expeditions. Today Jon shares some tips on avoiding the inevitable creative burnout all photographers are likely to feel at some point in their career.

Keeping the creative process rolling along requires a certain degree of nurturing and maintenance. Likewise, for most photographers, "creative burnout" is pretty much predictable and inevitable. Thankfully, it’s largely preventable.

Diminishing creativity happens to the best of us, and it’s not unusual to experience it in any profession. For us "creative types," however, it can be a lot more devastating. That’s because within any process of creation there’s an important relationship between the positive emotions that enable artistry and the negative stressors that can all but kill a creative vision.

Here are a few tips to help you strengthen your creativity, while minimizing the chances for creative burnout.

Personal Factors relating to YOU!

  • Do let yourself feel, act, and dress like an artist. Enjoy your identity as a photographer.
  • Do continue to take pictures "just for fun" on a regular basis. Keep the magic alive.
  • Do protect your mental, emotional, and physical health. Work to stay fit!
  • Don’t overly obsess about what others are doing. It doesn't matter that much to your success.
  • Don’t look so much at other photographers' blogs and websites. It’s discouraging and irrelevant.
  • Do maintain other interests other than photography.
  • Do reserve time to think, ponder, dream, read, and imagine.
  • Do study history, fine art, artists, and classic paintings and photographs.
  • Do continue to attend educational opportunities and classes.
  • Do foster and maintain amicable relationships with family members and close friends.

Work Load Related Factors

  • Stop "overshooting" jobs and creating unnecessary work for yourself.
  • Shoot carefully and accurately. Refuse to take a worthless picture.
  • Review your original /unfinished images – in person – with your clients instead of posting online.
  • Combine your proofing, sales presentations, and order taking into one session whenever possible.
  • Minimize and limit bookings and shooting sessions to what you can stay up with.
  • Set limits on how many jobs per week you will accept. Don’t be tempted to overbook!
  • Use technology to your benefit.
  • Schedule your work load carefully and keep it in writing. Allow plenty of slack time.

Satisfaction / Rewards / and Sustainability

  • Whenever possible, try to photograph subject matter that you are most passionate about.
  • Stop giving your work away! Establish reasonable and profitable rates (in writing) and then stick to them.
  • Resist "greed" when pricing your services and products. There’s no "Golden Goose." You need to work hard!
  • Vigilantly protect your copyright. Sell an image multiple times – not just once.
  • Sell finished photographs and not just digital files. See the image through to completion. Create and sell prints.
  • License your images to people that want them. Don’t sell them outright.
  • Do your own thinking—especially concerning your own unique vision and values.
  • Be wary about "the next big thing." Almost all of it is irrelevant to your success.
  • Be unapologetic in selling yourself, your services, and how you see the world.
  • Accept your own creative vision. Live it and enjoy it.
  • Take responsibility for your work. Be accountable for the influence, quality, and power of your work.
  • If it’s not working out, consider returning to amateur status if income is not critical to your family.

Customer Relations Factors

  • Put it in writing so there are no misunderstandings. Narrow and define client perspectives.
  • Say "NO" to unjust demands from customers. Clients are not always right in this business!
  • When necessary, educate your clients as to "what it costs" to provide your services on their behalf.
  • Put your name on your work – literally. Sign your prints. Warrantee your services and products for life.
  • Don’t accept customer relationships when you sense that they may drive you crazy. (You know who they are.)
  • Learn when it’s time to dissolve relationships with difficult customers.

To learn more about Jon's phenomenal photography classes, be sure to view his full class schedule here. He has an upcoming street photography workshop on December 1st, so be sure to check it out and get registered!

November 2012