2020 wasn’t quite the year we had hoped for. The pandemic meant canceled travel plans and spending more time at home. There have been ups and downs but not being able to travel has, for many of us, had a negative impact on our inspiration to create new images.
I think most of us were looking at the new year with a glimmer of hope of soon being able to travel again but I know many countries have started it with new lockdowns.
Being confined to your house is not the most ideal way of starting the year, so to help you make your time home more productive, here are a few things that can help to stay inspired during a lockdown:
#1 Catch up on your backlog
You know that never ending pile-up of photos you have stored on the hard drive that you told yourself you would eventually get to? Well, now’s your time!
Dive into those archives and start processing the images you haven’t tackled yet. Once you start going through all your photos, you may find you have a lot more images with potential than you initially thought.
I have a backlog of images from at least the past three years. Sometimes going back that far can seem like a massive task but trust me it’s worth it. You’ll feel so accomplished after you’re done and you never know what you may find in there!
#2 Learn new skills with an online course or resources
There’s a lot of information out there about photography and the learning opportunities are endless. In-person photography workshops, especially those including international travel, aren’t happening at the moment but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to learn.
These resources make it easy to learn all at the comfort of your own home, making you ready to capture amazing images when the world re-opens! Here are a few of our most popular:
#3 Explore places close to home
I know being confined to a small area makes it hard to get out and explore, but perhaps there are places right outside your door that you haven’t really paid attention to before.
Grab your camera and head outside. Some ice crystals may have formed interesting patterns and textures or perhaps there is a forest nearby just waiting to be explored.
The Covid restrictions don’t mean there aren’t photographic opportunities at your doorstep. You might be surprised by what you can find once you step outside and start looking. Try playing around with macro photography or perhaps the ICM technique to keep your creative juices flowing!
#4 Review and Organize your images
Ok, I’m going to be honest here, my photo organization habits have been pretty much non-existent. My husband bought me a new hard drive for Christmas and told me I was only allowed to have it if I used it ‘properly’, which meant organizing my images better. So that turned into my new year’s resolution!
Now is your chance to do the same. When going through your images try to start using these few steps:
1. Organize your images into folders
First things first, organize your folders on your hard drive so you know exactly where everything is. Don’t just throw all your images in one folder, that is going to be a nightmare.
I generally organize my images by landscapes -> year -> place. I sometimes go a step further inside the ‘place’ folder and have another set of folders with the date and exact location the images were shot. This helps me find specific images when I’ve been on long photo trips with lots of time spent shooting.
2. Add keywords to your images in Lightroom
Adding keywords will save you a lot of time. It’s a daunting task to look for a specific image or a genre of images if you haven’t added any keywords.
You can easily do this when opening an image in the Library Module by clicking and expanding the Keywording Tab on the right side of your screen. Simply enter the desired keywords in this box.
3. Rate your photos in Lightroom
I use the stars to rate and organize my images in Lightroom. I tend to give a 1-star rating to anything that has potential and a 2-star rating to my absolute favorites. After I have processed and finished an image, I give the completed file a 5-star rating so I can find my finished images easily.
You can rate your photos from 1 to 5 by using the numbers on your keyboard or by clicking on a star beneath your photo, such as in the example below:
Organizing based on an image’s rating is done by clicking on the stars beneath the bottom right of your image, see highlighted area below. Lightroom will then only display the images that match your criteria.
4. Use Color labels in Lightroom
Color labels are another useful tool to help you remember additional information about your images. They can, for example, be applied to series of images that are used for focus stacking or exposure blending. This is something I recently started using but it has made life a whole lot easier.
Exactly how you use them is up to you. There’s no right or wrong way. For example, I add a red color label to all the images I use for focus stacking.
It’s easy to apply a color label to an image by right-clicking and selecting ‘Set Color Label’ from the drop down menu. Here you can choose the desired color. You can also apply them by using these numbers on your keyboard:
- 6 = Red
- 7 = Blue
- 8 = Green
- 9 = Blue
How you use the color labels is up to you but remember to keep it consistent. Otherwise, this won’t be a very helpful tool!
You’ll be well on your way to easier workflow if you follow the four steps above on a regular basis. Why waste valuable time when looking for images?
#5 Put a series together
I’ve been a bit notorious at only processing my absolute best image and letting the rest of them sit on my hard drive, never to be seen again.
This is something that I’ve recently changed and I’ve chosen to instead look at the bigger picture of how a series of images can work together. My less extraordinary photos can sometimes work well beside my best ones to create a strong series. These galleries tend to tell your audience more of the story.
One thing you can do to stay inspired during the lockdown is to go through your images and see which could work together in a series. You can then give them a similar treatment in post-processing to keep a theme, making them work well together.
Here’s an example of a series I recently put together from a trip to Slovenia before the pandemic. I kept the same color, theme and mood to all these images so that they would flow nicely together.
#6 Ask for critique
It can be hard to get honest feedback on your photography. Yes, we get lots of comments on social media saying ‘Great picture!’ but how reliable are these generic comments? Do they help us grow as photographers at all?
Truth is, you can’t be sure how honest they really are. Many people write a generic comment just to get you to check out their own work and while it’s really nice to hear, it doesn’t help us grow as an artist.
It’s important to create a trustworthy group of other photographers that give honest feedback. You might not always like or agree with what they have to say but it’s important to listen and learn from their comments.
Reach out to other photographers who inspire you and ask if they could give you some constructive criticism. This will help you grow as a photographer.
#7 Reprocess old images
The more you practice photography the more you learn and your processing style has probably changed over time as you picked up a few more skills.
It’s not unlikely that some of your old images could use a tune-up. Go through some of your old favorite images and try editing them. Compare the difference between your first edit and where you are today. Has it changed much? Do you prefer your newest edit or would you rather stick with the older one?
Sometimes when I do this, I’m surprised with how far I’ve come with my editing skills and I start seeing a lot more potential in my older images. This is a great way to see how much you have learned and grown over time!
Being in lockdown is not a situation any of us want to be in but it is important to make the most of it. There are many factors involved in being a talented photographer and not being able to travel shouldn’t make you give up. You might not be able to practice new techniques in stunning landscapes but you can use this time to learn something else.
Pick up a book or course on a topic you want to learn. Spend some time getting more comfortable with Photoshop or other processing software. Go through your archives and look for old images to work on, perhaps even doing some organizing along the way.
There are many ways to stay inspired with photography. Don’t just leave your camera on the shelf collecting dust. Use this time to practice photography and sharpen your skills.
What are you doing to stay inspired and creative through lockdown? Let me know in a comment below!
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