Staying motivated during the off-season

 In Photography Tips, Resources

Just like in Chicago, it gets cold in Michigan. Having lived here my entire life, I’m used to the lake effect snow, the cold temperatures and the wind chills that can reach -20 degrees.

It’s winter, sure, but it’s also what I like to call the off-season.

As many of my fellow photographers will concur, winter is a tough time for work. There’s not a lot of events in the winter, most likely due to the fact that people just don’t want to travel during the slush and snow. Skies are grey, and temperatures are frozen.

But that doesn’t mean our photography lifestyle has to be.

The off-season is a time to try out new things. Try a different type of photography, try working with models inside, try checking out locations around town that you haven’t visited before.

Ultimately, it’s a time to grow as a photographer. But it takes a little (OK, a lot) of motivation to get bundled up and start taking pictures in the snow. But I’ve got a few recommendations for how to stay motivated during this tricky season:

Check out the Not-So-Golden Hour

We all know about the Golden Hour. It can produce some amazing imagery during the late spring, summer and early fall. When it’s cold, though, you’ll be lucky to see the sun in the course of seven days!

But sometimes you stumble upon that rare occasion where the sun creates some color in the sky. Take early morning, for instance. We’re used to seeing the sky as blue, or grey. But in the winter, you can occasionally see purple skies early in the morning.

What causes the purple color? If you really want to read up on it, click here. But essentially, it’s due to how long it takes the sun to rise because the angle of the sun is lower.

Get downtown, and take some long exposures. With the buildings, snow and the purple sky, you’ll get some breathtaking shots.

You can get some purple skies in the evening too. But I recommend morning simply because of that fact that you are by yourself. It’s a great time to think, try new techniques, etc., without having people all over the place commuting home.

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Join a photo club, or start one of your own

This is by far the easiest way to stay motivated, no matter what time of year it is. A photo club allows you to bounce ideas off of fellow photographers, talk your craft and get some referrals down the road.

A great place to start in terms of guidance for this is the Photographer’s Adventure Club. Based in Arizona, the PAC has chapters all over the country — including Chicago and West Michigan. Chapters plan at least one event per month, whether that be a photowalk, educational seminar or meet and greet. A lot of groups also have contests and 365 day / 52 week challenges that can push you even further.

I’ve been leading a photowalk group for the better part of two years now, and have recently organized that into the West Michigan PAC. We’re having our first official event Saturday, actually, and I can’t wait. I’ve met so many awesome photographers from every skill set. I’ve gotten referrals from it, and I’ve also made some great friends in the process.

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Take your camera on a date

OK, not really. What I mean here is that whenever you go out to eat, or out for drinks, take your camera with you. Some of my favorite photographs over the past few years have been of beer, cocktails and some really amazing sandwiches.

You don’t need any special equipment. Just take your camera, and your favorite lens. The shot above was shot with my Nikon D800, with a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens. No flash. Put it in Aperture Priority mode and go to town.

If anything, it’ll help you appreciate the art of food and drink — even if you’re as picky as an eater as your’s truly.

These three things have helped me tremendously over the years. Getting out and shooting helps you learn not only your equipment better, but also lets you experiment with different angles, different camera settings, and ultimately play around.

So get out there, and get shooting!

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