I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a while now, but as with many things in my life, I’ve procrastinated on it, avoided it, and found one hundred other things to do instead of it. For me, usually that means something about the topic doesn’t speak to my soul, or doesn’t fill me with excitement. After all, how do you explain why something makes you happy?
I could tell you why puppies make me happy (uh, they’re cute and adorable and also puppy breath!?), I could probably bumble my way through a scientific explanation of why sugary, carb-filled foods make me happy. Or coffee. But photography? The thing that has me out until dark, until my fingers freeze, has me kneeling in mud and then staring at a computer screen until my eyes ache? Why does that bring me joy?
And how can I write that into a sensible blog post that will make you want to pick up a camera and start taking photos and hopefully join me in my Learning Community, or be inspired enough to sign up for a course?
And therein lies the rub. If I write this for you it is no longer about my joy, but trying to convince you to find yours. So instead, I’ll write this about me, and if you see some of yourself in me, then welcome. I hope you pick up your camera, dust off your computer, and get out into nature with your dog.
This brain of mine...
I begin this article with something of a confession, whether it’s wise or not, but perhaps better to do now while my audience is small and the post can get well buried amongst the how-to guides and photography advice.
I am neurodivergent, which is a fancy way to say that my brain isn’t normal. Which is to say, it’s less normal than everyone’s normally abnormal brain. There is a reason this is pertinent to this blog in that my adhd* brain has certain characteristics that I think make photography a passion for me. Which isn’t to say that anyone with neurotypical brains can’t enjoy photography, I think it just explains why I can obsess over, and have fallen totally in love with photography.
Here’s why. My brain likes:
- New things. Shiny things. Novel experiences. Such as, meeting new clients and their dogs, finding new locations, trying new angles or moods or themes or editing styles
- Challenges that are interesting. Not challenges like doing my taxes. But challenges which I am already reasonably good at. As a creative type, I’ve always been pretty decent at photography, but as I learnt more, I got better, and wanted to learn more, and wanted to get better, so I did. And that is rather addictive. And when I get good, I seek out new challenges – trying landscape photos, or making winter pictures beautiful, or taking lessons to learn even more editing techniques.
- The two above points can become problematic when I get “stuck in a rut” of taking the same photos with the same poses in the same locations again and again, but this drives me to be more creative and do something different.
- Challenges can also be “problem solving”, for example when I muck up the light or composition in a photo, being able to solve that in editing is a real thrill for me.
- Working on things I am good at and enjoy. I can edit for hours. I can slip into editing and use it as relaxation, the way some people can read magazines by a pool. With some music on, and a batch of photos to work through, I could edit for 4 hours and it would feel like 30 minutes.
- Lots of stimuli. I seek things to pay attention to, at the detriment of everything else. But in fact, this works quite well in photoshoots, where my attention can be spread across a dozen things: lighting, foreground, mid-ground, background, pose, mood, expression, colours, shapes, textures, camera settings… it thrives on processing all this information and turning it into a photograph. This is why no matter how often I try and remember to do “behind the scenes” photos and videos, I inevitably forget. I’m too caught up in the process of the shoot.
- Being outdoors. There is quite some research that links being outdoors, and exercising outdoors with managing ADHD symptoms.
- Hanging out with dogs. Who doesn’t like hanging out with dogs? (and if the answer is “You”, then I have to wonder why you’re here).
*I’m not sure if it’s a thing I’m meant to talk about. It feels a bit like coming out. But also, I sincerely want to be proud of my weird brain and all the cool things it lets me do, and also… if there’s any other ADHD brains out there who read all this and feel a little less alone, or like maybe they can do something cool like starting their own photography business or traveling across the world with their dog or whatever, then that has to be worth something.
That's all well and good for you, but...
Alright, you’re thinking. Good for you and your weird brain. What does this have to do with me, the reader who is, all things considered, relatively normal? (Or not, I don’t know you 🤷🏻♀️.)
In this day and age of instant gratification, I get the sense that many people see beautiful photos and want to make their own beautiful photos. They buy a camera, try and use the camera, don’t know how to use the camera, look online for instructions, get overwhelmed, take some photos on auto, put them in an editing program, slide the sliders around, get overwhelmed, give up, and use their phones forevermore, just raising the saturation a lot in editing and calling it a day. If you don’t get a bit addicted to learning something that you find interesting, maybe you need some other reasons to pick up your camera (or phone!) and fall in love with photography.
- Strengthen your relationship with your pet. I really think that having dogs (or cats or rabbits or whatever) as our models, keeps us humble. Unlike human models where we can tell them to stand here and lean like that and make this kind of expression, many of our dogs aren’t incredibly well trained, don’t know what we want, have no idea what this photography gig is all about, and have better things to do than stand there while you fiddle with your camera.
- Use this time with your pet. Reward them. Teach them. Interact with them. Accept that they are learning and only though time and practise will they be top models. We have such a short amount of time with our pets, in the grand scheme of things. Instead of either going for a walk OR doing a photoshoot (and them potentially not being very good at it), mix the two together. On your walk, practise stays. Get them to hop on objects, or stand under ferns, or near tree trunks. Make it a way for the two of you to bond and work together. Before you know it, they’ll love modelling for you, and you’ll be less stressed about trying to get them to behave and model while you find the perfect angle and settings.
- Capture memories of your pet (or other people’s pets!). As I said, our pets are with us for such a short amount of time. They are puppies for such a short amount of time! I took literally hundreds of photos of baby Journey and I still wish I had more.
- Maybe your photos aren’t perfect right now, and you’re looking at them and thinking: “They’ll never be as good as XYZ photographer” but here’s the thing…. they will never get BETTER, unless you take hundreds of photos in the first place. Unless you go out there and practise for hours, and look at your photos, and learn from why they aren’t looking how you want the to look. And if you’re really serious about improving, sign up for some online classes! I have some, even if you’re only using a phone! Your photos won’t get magically better unless you’re actually taking photos. Trust me when I say that even the worst photos you could possibly take will be better than none at all.
- Learn a new skill. I know many people in my Learning Community picked up their camera during lockdown 2020 to take photos of their dog for Instagram and fell in love with it. Our brains love learning, once we remind them how.
- Create something beautiful from something mundane. One of my favourite things is taking a pretty average-looking photo straight out of the camera and turning it into a beautiful image. Even better, is when the location itself was ugly or nothing particularly special. To me, there’s something incredibly powerful about this process of creation, and of turning something into art.
- Finding joy in the unexpected. There is something so exciting and satisfying about looking in the back of the camera and seeing a photo that you know will be incredible, even before you start working on it… or, maybe even better, is when you don’t check the back of the camera, get home, import your photos and find expressions you didn’t know you’d captured, or moments that surprise you. The two photos below are exactly like that.
Go get started!
Have I convinced you to find the DSLR you got given as Christmas present 3 years ago that has been gathering dust in the back of the cupboard ever since? I hope so!
If you’re not sure where to start, and you’re remembering the dread of the last time you tried, that’s ok. Here is a little guide to help you on your way!
- Go check out this blog post on the things I wish I’d known when I started taking photos. Think of it as my “top tips” for pet photography.
- Have a look around the other blog posts here and make sure you subscribe to the mailing list (there’s a form at the bottom of this post!) because I’ll let you know about new blog posts and I send helpful tips and information to my subscribers!
- Check out my Reels on Instagram! I’ve been doing a whole “Quick Critiques” series where I give some quick advice in a 30 second frenzy.
- Join my Learning Community if it’s open! You get access to my courses, as well as a TON of bonus resources, full editing tutorials, critique sessions, Q&A sessions and live workshops (and more!)
- Sign up for a self-guided online course, to work at your own speed through text, videos and images to help you really learn your way around your camera, how to work with natural light, composition, perspective, basic editing and more!
- Share your work! I have a public Facebook group now, for friends of Inspawration. Go and join, participate in my monthly challenges and share your work! It’s small at the moment, but just you wait!
Join us! Normal and abnormal brains are all welcome.
Yes it’s a mailing list but I promise I won’t spam you. I don’t have the time or energy for that, and you can always unsubscribe if you get sick of me ☹️