Have you been confined to working from home, “social distancing” yourself from friends and family? And are you now beginning to feel bored, depressed, or going stir crazy in your own four walls? Now’s your opportunity to fix your work-life balance, lighten your mood, and make the most of the extra hours you’ve just gained by not doing your daily commute for a little while.
(disclaimer: This is intended as a lighthearted article! Obviously the current public health and economic situation must be taken seriously, and expert advice has to be followed)
The general idea of social distancing doesn’t really bother me too much. I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company, and I know how to keep myself busy in solitude. I like working from home as it provides peace and quiet from my regular noisy and busy work place. I also relax and recharge best when I’m left to myself for a few hours – or days.
But I’m well aware that this isn’t the case for everyone, and at this stage, we also don’t know how long this unprecedented situation will go on for. These strange and uncertain times can easily have an adverse affect on your well being, your mood, your stress levels – all impacting your immune system negatively if not managed and left to spiral out of control.
So I thought I’d come up with a few fun ideas how you can use photography to keep yourself busy and distracted over the coming weeks and months.
1. Catch up on your editing!
Personally I have an editing backlog of tens of thousand photos, going back I don’t know how many years. Not only do I need to be in the right mood to trawl through my images and edit some of them. I also need to know I have enough time on my hands and little distraction around me.
Why not use some of the extra time you may now have to do just this! Motivate yourself to look back through photos taken some time ago. Or go back to some older pictures you already edited and review them with fresh eyes! It’s amazing how your techniques and preferences change over time, so photos you disregarded a while ago as “not good enough”, may turn into some of your favourite images just by tweaking the edit with fresh eyes.
2. Learn a new skill or technique, or set yourself a photography challenge
You always wanted to try macro photography? Or improve your landscape compositions? You want to get better at shooting moving subjects? Or you’d like to shoot more with a particular lens you really needed to have, but haven’t actually used much since acquiring it?
Challenge yourself to improve or perfect one new skill over the coming weeks.
If the weather is nice and you’re in a position to go outside, head out for some fresh air (just keep your distance to other people and avoid using public transport) and make sure to take your camera and a selection of lenses with you. Being out and about will not only do wonders for your mood and mental well being. Your muscles, which may well be fatigued from sitting in your make-shift home office for the better part of the week, and suffering from a radically shortened commute, will thank you for it as well.
Thankfully this is also the time of year when nature provides many subjects worth photographing. Whether it’s spring flowers and flowering trees, birds and insects, or beautiful vistas – there will no doubt be something that takes your photographic interest.
Bring yourself to mix things up a bit though, and go against your tried and tested photographic habits! Take landscape shots in portrait format, or why not use a long lens to shoot landscapes or close-ups? Challenge the norm, challenge your own preferences, and see what happens.
On a rainy day, or when leaving the house isn’t an option for other reasons, you can still have a lot of fun in your home. Dig out your macro lens (or if you don’t have one, go for a telephoto), grab some flowers, fruit, dried pasta, cutlery, or other random items and get creative with close-up frames. If you’re into abstract photography, look around for interesting patterns, shapes, and textures! You’ll be surprised how much of a treasure chest your kitchen alone might be for this.
3. Set up a travel bucket list and research photo locations
Many airlines have already grounded their flights, countries are on lock-down, and many more restrictions are likely still to come. So the likelihood that you’re going anywhere in the coming weeks is very slim. But why should this stop you from investing time into researching destinations to visit, things to see, and places to explore for the time when things will return to normal?
Where have you always wanted to go to take photos? How can you turn this into an exciting trip? What else is there to see and do that you can roll into the same holiday?
I find travel planning (when I have the time to do it properly) can be really fun, and almost like a mini-holiday in itself. And while you’re letting your mind wander, you’re also distracting your head from dramatising, and worrying about other things.
There are some great resources out there that make planning easy and fun, including
- Instagram – find and follow landscape and travel photographers and take note of the location of your favourite photos.
- Locationscout.net – find details on exact photo locations for that iconic shot. Keep in mind that this is a community which is built on “give and take”. So if you’ve benefited from it, make sure to also contribute your tips and location details
- Wanderlust, Lonely Planet, National Geographic or similar – all great commercial resources.
- Books! Remember those? 😉 I don’t know about you, but I seem to have a distinct obsession with recipe books, books about vinyl records, and travel books. Whether it’s something like 1001 Places to see before you die, Best European Roadtrips, or a book on the US National Parks, these mostly well-researched publications tend to provide a great basis for your travel planning.
Google maps also comes in super useful for marking all the cool places you come across online, so you can easily plan your route. You can go somewhat overboard with the flags though… This is what my Google maps app looks like at the moment. Unsurprisingly my UK map looks almost as overloaded as a map showing all the pubs in this country, and apparently I need to get a bit more active in terms of finding places I want to visit in the US 🙂
4. Get active on Social Media
It’s so tedious, isn’t it, feeding your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media with exciting content. Sure there are tools out there that let you plan your posts and stories weeks and months ahead. But if you’re not that well organised (like me), and want to keep more control over your daily posts “as and when” (also me), you’ll have to put in the daily leg work.
I usually spend part of my morning commute getting the post and story set up. Choosing the shot, plus writing up a little blurb about the picture, the location, the circumstances, and coming up with 30 appropriate hashtags often takes me a good 20-30 minutes.
I would argue that a lot of us now have this sort of time available every day. The problem now is content! So go back to point 1 of this article and find a months’ worth of images to edit, sort, and get ready for upload over the coming days.
If you’re lucky enough to not have the kind of backlog I’m talking about, set yourself a weekly “a photo a day” challenge. Come up with a theme, and start shooting:
Document your new normal, or your dog’s or cat’s life now that you’re witnessing what they get up to all day long, Photograph your food and recipes using all that pasta, flour, eggs, and bread no longer on super market shelves. Or get creative with all the toilet paper you’ve recently stocked up on 😉
Or why not do a variation on a theme that takes your fancy? Post a grid of abstracts, black and white images, flowers and spring photos, cloud formations, garden birds, items of any one colour… There are so many crazy ideas, you can easily keep yourself busy with this for months.
Make sure you give other frustrated photographers some love as well though. We don’t have to practice social distancing on social media, so don’t just post your own content. Like, comment, and share, and if you’re so inclined, give shout-outs to your peers. Motivate each other to keep going during these crazy times!
5. Set up / update your website
And finally – if you have so far been keeping your photos to yourself, or only really post them to Flickr, or social media, put some time into building your very own website to showcase your amazing images!
Not only does this allow you to decide on how to display your photos. It also provides opportunities to start selling your work! It’s actually a lot easier than you think! Why not visit my Framing Places online store for inspiration? I’m using a third party facilitator to sell only the photo I wish to make available for purchase, and can choose a number of different formats to offer to customers. Don’t think selling your art on print and canvas is the limit! You can print your images on bags, mugs, keyrings, towels, shower curtains, and loads of other funky stuff. And I bet there’ll always be someone out there looking for a unique piece.
Well, these are all the ideas I’ve got for the time being. It’s only been day five working from home and only keeping virtual contact with my family, friends, and colleagues, so who knows.. Maybe if this carries on for a number of weeks or months, I’ll add another blog post with new ideas. Desperate times call for creative measures 😉
Stay healthy, keep yourself and others safe, but don’t forget to smile and enjoy life despite the restrictions and challenges.