How to Stay Inspired & Shoot for Yourself!

When I first started taking photos, I took my camera everywhere. When I became a professional, however, I stopped taking my camera around with me when I wasn’t working. Unfortunately, this means that I have no pictures of family, friends, or vacations. It’s crazy! I knew I had to make a change.  

Recently, I have been trying to get myself back into the groove of shooting on my off time and staying inspired by what I see through the lens. Here are some tricks and thoughts that have helped me, and I hope they help you!

Slim down on your gear.

I hate carrying camera gear around when I am not working, because it is heavy and makes you sweat. Not fun! My solution was to get a small camera bag that just fit my camera and lens. I went with the Bowery from ONA Bags.  It is so much lighter and actually looks like a purse!

If you are traveling to a foreign country, the ONA bag is great because people aren’t expecting you to have expensive gear in there. Having a great small camera bag eliminates the painful neck and shoulders you might have lugging a big backpack around on vacation, or even just to the park for the afternoon.

Photo © Hoyoung Lee

Improve your client work.

When you shoot on your off time, your client work gets better. You get better at observing light, color and composition. Even when you are shooting pictures at your niece’s kindergarten graduation, you’ll improve your skills. The things that you learn on your off time translate into your client work.

Show clients who you are.

If you have personal photos from vacations, you can blog about them, making your clients feel more connected to you personally. People love being able to connect to you on a personal level. Who knows, you might get a cool portfolio picture out of a trip! I recently went to the Dominican Republic, and I made a Pinhole Pro Landscape Photo Book with shots from the trip! It’s a nice little touch to my coffee table that people can flip through when they come over! It’s more personal than a portfolio book of portraits, and it acts as a great conversation starter with clients.

Turn vacation photos into money.

Another thing you can do with photos you take during your off time is try and turn them into money! You can sell stock, art prints, or maybe a company or client will contact you directly to purchase an image. Personal photos don’t have to just sit quietly on your hard drive. You can also try to pitch personal projects and stories to magazines or online publications. You might get published and paid!


It can be a hard thing to stay inspired when you aren’t working, or when you want to take a break from shooting. However, it is encouraging to remember that we are always growing in our craft. Remembering to shoot in day-to-day life is important for personal documentation and can be extremely beneficial to your career. So, get a small camera bag and take that SLR with you!


One Response to “How to Stay Inspired & Shoot for Yourself!”

  1. Monika says:

    Thank you for this. I have felt this way for years and it’s nice to know I am not alone. This was very timely as I am about to head abroad for my vacation.

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