Having a child cannot be described, it can only be experienced. Having a child will bring you joy in ways you never anticipated, but will also test your resilience skills like never before. Having a child will change you physically, and mentally. So what’s the relation with this and Photography Life? Nasim recently posted a Guest Post Contest. As I was going through the Suggestions section, I felt none of these articles would have been useful for me 1.5 years ago when my life changed and I became a daddy. I was overwhelmed, tired, lost, and photography was not my priority anymore. At least for any other subject than the baby, and I quickly became uninspired.
So here is my post to share how I got my motivation back. In this essay, I will share my personal view on something I went through, and hopefully will bring back memories to those who have experienced it as well. I’m sure the situation is different based on the type of photography you do / like before this life-changing event, and from one person to another. I’m also leaving aside all the technical jargon, as this is not related to the gear you are using.
Accept Your New Role
Is there anything greater than listening to the birds, smelling the cool morning fresh air, setting up your gear slowly, choosing the right filter, while everything else is perfectly quiet, and just wait for the sun to show up so you can start capturing the picture you were imagining for a week? Even better! There was no line up at Tim Hortons (I’m Canadian) when I grabbed my coffee at 4am! Sadly these days are gone. You now wake up every 3-4 hours because the new addition to the family is hungry, or cold, or hot, or you just don’t know. The thought of leaving your partner alone in this war zone is unrealistic. When you do have an hour or two for yourself, you are just exhausted, wondering why you decided to change this perfect life. Within a few weeks, you finally realize you don’t control anything anymore, and all you think about is the next play-eat-sleep cycle that seems to never end. You look through the window as you are putting your kid to sleep. As the sun goes down, and the clouds get pink, you wonder what is the point of having all this nice equipment under your nose if you cannot even use it. The inspiration for anything other than your baby is gone.
Good news, you are normal! But if you want to find some peace in all of this, find your inspiration back, you have to accept your new role. Otherwise you are fighting to get something back that doesn’t exist anymore. Easier said than done, trust me. I’m still struggling with this after a year and a half. But the reality is as you are accepting your new role, you will find opportunities. They won’t be the same as before, won’t be the ones you want, but these opportunities will feed your inspiration. You may not be a landscape photographer anymore, but you are still a photographer. Don’t feel bad if all you do is taking pictures of that sweet little thing. Your photographic mind is still working.
Adapt and Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
As you are accepting your new role, you start to see things differently. You are now focusing on what you can do and leave what you can’t behind. Instead of a sunset, now it’s a bird during a walk with the baby. Instead of a long exposure waterfall, it’s your parent’s landscaping during a visit. At first they feel like basic snapshots because you normally plan your shots in advance. Don’t worry, you still have that prodigy helping you thinking how you can capture each accomplishments in a creative way. You’ll soon realize you are starting to think like a photographer again, with very basic things. Photography is about freezing the time for a fraction of a second (or many seconds… ) so use this to create wonderful memories. Use your passion to share something wonderful in your own way and slowly you will start getting away from baby pictures.
After a couple of months, you are not as exhausted as you were by the time you get an hour or two for yourself. Is it because you are used to it or because you sleep a little more ? Probably both, but this is still not enough time to go out and really enjoy a landscape session. Try other kinds of photography you can do around the house. Something easy to setup for you. Food photography, candid photography, macro photography, stock photography, etc. You don’t need new equipment, just work with its limit. The biggest showstopper is you and your interests. So don’t be afraid to try something out of your comfort zone. It will only cost time (and you have plenty now right !?…). You will still be close if your partner needs you, and you will be less distracted to create the picture you want knowing you are not too far away.
You may not be a landscape photographer anymore, but you are a photographer who is exploring new things. At least for a couple months, as you are still looking at the pink clouds through the window when you put your child to sleep.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Ok great, the rough part is now behind you! Nights are now back to 8hrs or more. You don’t feel tired anymore but for some reason you want to stay in your bed as long as you can especially on weekends. You are starting to think about your next picture a couple of days in advance now. This is a good time to start coming back to what you really like. You still have a couple of months to go before you can grab a coffee without the line-up, but that doesn’t mean you cannot combine different kinds of photography. Every opportunity we have on weekends, summer or winter, we go for a walk in nature. Use your new acquired skills to create pictures you would not have thought before. Use this opportunity to be creative in a time of the day you would normally not get out with your camera. Use the compromises to your advantage.
After the little monkey is in her/his bed for the night, you can also start thinking about going out for a couple of hours and still manage to get a fair amount of sleep. This is a good opportunity to improve your night photography skills or even see your favorite spots in a totally different way. Don’t forget your tripod or get ready to get your bag dirty. If you are tired one night, stay home and leave the camera in its bag. If you are tired one week, same thing. I find that my worst enemy for inspiration is when I am forced to take a picture and I don’t feel creative.
Unfortunately this is all good until they start daycare. As one of my co-workers said: “The only thing kids are good at sharing is germs”. Good nights aren’t forever and your motivation will be tested once again. Stay honest with yourself, as you are still looking at the pink clouds through the window when your kid does not want to sleep anymore. Get some rest when you need, and don’t stress about the pictures you are missing because the clouds will be there again tomorrow.
Everything Should be Back to Normal in 20 Years
With time, your eye will change, your mind will change, and your inspiration will be back. Probably even stronger. Even if landscape is my favorite type of photography, I’m starting to really enjoy portraits now. I keep the camera close as I never know when my daughter is going to surprise me, but at the same time, I’m not afraid to put it away as I don’t want to see her grow through the viewfinder.
So after 1 year and 5 months, I finally left my place at 5am, didn’t wait in line for my coffee, and went straight to the Ottawa River to capture a sunrise while everyone was still sleeping. There weren’t many birds, the air was cold and it was -20° Celsius (-4° Fahrenheit), my hands were freezing as I was choosing/trying filters, I could hear the ice cracking all around me as I was located at the end of a small island, and I was peacefully waiting for the sunrise. Of course as the sun was about to rise, the fog rolled in and I could not see a thing. There was no way I could do the picture I wanted to do. You can see below it was still amazing. When I got back home I could hear my daughter laughing through the door as I was unlocking it. Having a kid is a wonderful adventure.