Let's face it. The world has become an ugly place. People are divided by just about everything. Tribalism has run amok. Some people seem so committed to their tribe that nothing else matters. Multiply all that by 10 if you spend any time in the online photography forums. It's bound to make some of you unhappy. Believe it or not, this very negatively impacts your photography. My pal Rick Sammon likes to quote another famous photographer (Freeman Paterson) when saying, "The camera looks both ways." If you're walking around with a frown on your face, I guarantee you that your images are simply not going to be as good as they would be if you were smiling.
Being happy is a choice. There are tools you can use to help you be happier, and since I want to help everyone smile (and therefor make better images,) I have 10 tips for becoming a happier (and better photographer.) Here you go:
1. Eliminate as many negative influences from your life as you can. That friend who is always negative? Excuse yourself when that behavior is on display. That camera club where everyone grouses about how bad photography is these days? Quit going. That online forum where all they do is cut down other people's work? Stop reading it. Avoid consuming too much television or talk radio. Don't argue with people. By eliminating negative influences from your life you'll find yourself more positive. It's just common sense.
2. Stop comparing yourself or your gear or your work to anyone else. Just stop it. It's one of the most unhealthy things you can ever do. There is only one you - and that is YOU. Nobody else can do you. And likewise, you can't be anyone else. So don't worry about the other person and what they have compared to what you have. Just be thankful and move on. Comparison is a waste of time because even if there were a valid reason to do it, the closest you can come is YOUR OPINION of that comparison - which may be totally wrong! (In other words, don't let your opinion of your circumstances guide your actions.)
3. Be grateful. Make a list every day, and write down something (or someone) that you are grateful for. Your camera is good enough. Your lens is good enough. Your house is good enough. Your car is good enough. It's all good enough, and it's all something that you should spend time being grateful for. If you manage to create this gratitude list, and populate it every single day, I guarantee you that you'll be a happier and better photographer. (You'll probably also come to the conclusion that you're better off than you realized!)
4. Learn to forgive. This one is a hard one, and it took me a long time to learn, but once I did, wow it changed everything for me. I can't tell you how much better I feel now that I have cut loose of all the grudges I used to carry around. Whatever someone did to anger or hurt you, chances are, they didn't mean to do it or have no idea that they did it. Carrying anger and resentment around in your heart won't help - it certainly won't hurt them - but it certainly WILL hurt you.
5. Money can't buy happiness. Understand that a new camera will make you happy for a few days, but after the new wears off, you'll just start coveting something else. Stop investing in stuff as a way to make yourself happy. It won't work. I tried it. I failed. Invest in relationships. That works for me, every single time.
6. Stop chasing fame, fortune or money. My grandfather used to say, "Scottie - don't chase money - because if you do, you'll never find it. Instead, chase your passion and the money will find YOU." He was right. Success is something we all measure differently, but if you think that being a "success" will make you happy, I can guarantee that you'll never find ENOUGH success to pull that off.
7. Photograph what you love. Do something meaningful with your talent. Believe in your own artistic vision and serve that. Challenge yourself to do something that makes the world more beautiful. If you spend your time doing this, you won't have time to worry so much about yourself and your own perceived problems.
8. Be generous. Do you know a beginning photographer who you could help with a few free lessons? Can you afford to give money or time to charity? How about being willing to loan someone less fortunate than you a camera lens for their next trip? Shoot a portrait session for a family in need. Finding someone to help will focus your energy outwardly, which stops it from looking inward.
9. Smile. It sounds too good to be true, but if you smile, your personal relationships will improve and so will your attitude.
10. Show some appreciation. Spend time (hand writing) and sending thank you cards to people who have improved your life or made you happy in some way. If you know someone who's worked hard on something that benefitted you, take time to call them and personally thank them - or go see them, shake their hand, smile and express genuine thanks for their time. You'll feel better once you do, and that will make you happier.
In closing - I can sum most of this up simply by saying the following - think of yourself less, and others more - if you can put this into practice your life will improve, and so will your photography. It's counter-intuitive, but if you want a happy life, put others and their needs, wants and desires ahead of your own.
Here's hoping something I wrote here makes your day a little bit better. That would make mine a whole lot better. Thanks for reading.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Bourne is President of US Operations at Skylum Software (Formerly Macphun,) an Olympus Visionary and a professional wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He was one of the founders of This Week In Photo, Founded Photofocus.com and is co-founder of the Photo Podcast Network.
Scott is a regular contributor to several photography related blogs and podcasts and his photography has appeared in more than 200 books and magazines. He is a trainer at both ThinkTapLearn and lynda.com, and is the author of 11 photography books.
Scott is available to speak to your birding group, photography group and for both private and small group bird photography workshops. For more information on engaging Scott as a speaker or workshop leader, or for image licensing and print information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.