Earlier this year I decided that I want to be shooting every day. The goal was not so much to create a new photograph I’m proud of daily and that I would want to share with the world, because I don’t think it’s possible. Some days no matter how long you shoot, things just don’t work out. But I knew if I kept shooting daily, I will not only get better at using my camera (and shooting with Leica is still a learning process, even years later), but I will also get more creative and hopefully a better photographer.
While reading several books on creativity, I keep coming up with the concept of doing something creative every day – even if something small. Jerry Seinfeld apparently writes jokes every day, and the way he keeps track of it is through a calendar where he marks off the day he wrote jokes with a big far “X”. After a few consecutive days he doesn’t want to break that chain of Xs on his calendar, and this exercise becomes easier because you’re so invested into it.
After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain. Don’t break the chain.
I liked that idea, so I tried it for a while, starting in March. I wanted to focus on shooting my family, and building that set of images that I make of my own kids, my wife and documenting our life together. It’s a subject I care deeply about, and it’s also mostly available without any extra effort on my part except being there. At first it wasn’t easy to do because at least five days a week I’d come home after work and would not have the time to go anywhere and I had to take those pictures at or near my house. We’re so used to these surroundings that they always seem bland and boring. But after a while I keep finding new angles, new pockets of light, new things to shoot, all within our home – inside and outside in the front yard, back yard, etc. The days would get longer too so it helped that I could still get a good hour of light even if I came home at 7:30pm.
But then came a time in July when they stayed in Utah for 10 days and I came back to California. That’s when the chain broke and I stopped shooting daily.
To be honest, I feel like I needed that break. After 100 days of daily shooting, it became a chore and I no longer felt inspired by what I was doing. I started to repeat some of the shots that I felt worked out earlier. I heard the same from other photographers who make it a practice to shoot every day, but do need to take a break every once in a while. Elena Shumilova told me this exact same thing when we talked about it back in May – that she does make an effort to shoot every day, but a break is needed every few weeks or months to recharge the creative batteries.
After three weeks of not shooting my family much (and also shooting three weddings in that period, which wore me out even more), I feel like I’m ready to start another chain of daily shooting. But I think when it comes to photography, breaks can be very useful and needed.