Photographer Shane Anderson shares tips for maintaining focus and creativity
We’re all looking for ways to be productive during the coronavirus lockdown. Photographers in particular face a challenge working from home with little to no face-to-face contact with clients. How do you stay inspired? How do you stay on task?
New York-based fashion and editorial photographer Shane Anderson has been taking on these questions while working from his apartment at the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. “These days, with everyone going on, inspiration is a whole new game,” says Anderson. “We have to ask ourselves, What value can I add to my situation? How can I be inspired?”
Something Anderson has been doing to stay inspired is producing a series of YouTube videos teaching artistic image editing techniques. Known for an innovative approach that explores the clash between art and logic, Anderson explores how to use image editing to bring a new level of artistry to photography. “In some ways, we’ve become complacent with the luxuries of technology,” says Anderson. “But a tool like Photoshop should open up new worlds of possibility that you can use to create art. Don’t treat it as just a way to make shortcuts. Go beyond the most basic use of the tools. Think as an artist and ask yourself, How can I use this tool to create something unexpected?”
For other photographers struggling to stay focused and maintain creative inspiration right now, Anderson shares some suggestions.
1. Schedule your day. Organize your day so you don’t accidentally wander down a YouTube or Netflix wormhole and lose hours staring blankly at a screen. Even if you don’t have appointments or client work, set a schedule to hold yourself accountable. When you can check off various tasks and move through your to-do list, it gives a sense of accomplishment and helps you maintain focus.
2. Learn something new. Learn something new that could benefit your craft. View this as an exploration, not an expectation. You could learn how to edit photos differently or more intricately, or maybe search for new pools of inspiration that could influence your artwork.
Many free and inexpensive online resources are available. And in addition to online courses, many of the world’s most notable galleries are offering free virtual tours. Find inspiration from some of the best works of art in some of the most exclusive venues—absolutely free.
3. Invest in yourself. We all have a list of things we keep meaning to do but never find time for. Without an immediate return on investment, these kinds of projects are sometimes difficult to justify . Today, we all have an opportunity to use some newfound free time to make an investment in ourselves. Focus on long-term gain and look for opportunities that could lead to fruitful work in the future.
Enjoy the removal of pressure to perform. Don’t think of yourself as being stuck inside. Embrace the gift of time to explore without the pressure to be productive. You never know where that might lead. Some people say Shakespeare wrote some of his greatest work while in quarantine from the plague.
4. Stay connected. Even though we’re all physically separated, modern technology allows incredible ways to connect with others. Cultivate new ideas and lay the foundations for future projects with other creatives. Speaking to someone and sharing ideas is a healthy practice—one that we often forget in the bustle of modern life. If you feel lonely or claustrophobic, talk to someone. And if you need to express frustration, then vent about your situation. We’re all in this together. So talk about it.
Without many of life’s normal distractions, we can focus on connecting with people and forging better relationships. Many people are working from home with schedules that are more flexible than usual. Reach out to some potential clients or partners and try to make a connection.
5. Don’t do anything. More accurately, don’t feel pressured to do anything. It’s OK to enjoy some downtime even when that downtime is forced on you. Burnout happens when we don’t stop every now and then. Slow down. Allow yourself to get back to your artistic roots. Pursue healthy practices like exercise and self-care. When you take a break and recharge, you improve your inspiration and boost your creativity. Nurture both your work and your personal lives so both can thrive.
Jeff Kent is the editor-at-large of Professional Photographer.