Photography Burnout: What it Is, Causes and How to Recover

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation.


Burnout can be an opportunity to rediscover what really makes you happy, to slow down and give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal.


It is important to remember that these times will pass, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if you cannot see it yet.

You May be on the Road to Burnout if:


  • Every day is a bad day.

  • Caring about your photography seems like a total waste of energy.

  • You’re exhausted all the time.

  • The majority of your photography tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.

  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

  • Loss of motivation.

  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done.


Causes of Photography Burnout:

  • Lack of recognition or reward for good work.

  • Unclear or overly demanding photography expectations.

  • Doing photoshoots/editing that’s monotonous or unchallenging.

  • Spending too much time on photography tasks, without enough time for socializing or relaxing.

  • Perfectionistic tendencies; nothing is ever good enough.

  • Not getting enough sleep.


How Long Does a Burnout Last?


In one study on burnout recovery, researchers found that how fast people bounced back after burnout depended on the coping mechanisms they used to deal with symptoms. For example, those who didn’t address their problem (i.e. used avoidance-based coping mechanisms) developed more severe burnout symptoms over time.


Additionally, your recovery will depend on factors such as:

  • Your mental health before burnout,

  • The amount and quality of support from your environment,

  • Whether or not you have the internal skills to support yourself: self-awareness, self-compassion and emotional resilience.


Dealing With Photography Burnout


Take a moment now to think about how much time you have invested into your photography. Think back to when you first started, compare it to where you are now, and it may just make you appreciate where you are at with it all.


Set firmer boundaries. Make sure you rest.

1. Set Boundaries and Take a Daily Break from Technology.


Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the commitments you want to make. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email or social media.


No texting, no social media messages, no phone calls after 5pm and on Sundays you’re off. In a world where we’re always connected, it’s important to establish boundaries.


2. Price Yourself Properly.


There are so many photographers who are undercharging for their services that they have no choice but to shoot hundreds photoshoots in a year just to pay their bills. To be a successful photographer, you need to understand how to price your photography based on your time, effort and market value. At first, focus on covering your costs, but then as your business grows you can adjust your rates to truly reflect your talent.


3. Nourish Your Creative Side.


Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities unrelated to photography. Trying something new will give you the same logarithmic learning curve feeling as when you first started doing photography. This may inspire you to return to photography feeling refreshed, or give you an idea of something to take photos of based on your new skill.


4. Support Another Photographer/Teach Others.


You may not want to pick up the camera, but what about others? Are there any skills or pieces of advice you can offer to someone just starting out? It is just as important to give back to the community, as take from it.


There’s nothing like being around new photographers who are just discovering the art form for the first time. Their enthusiasm for learning something new is infectious.



5. Set Aside Relaxation Time.


Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response.


Watch a film. Don’t focus on the story, instead look at the cinematography/camera work. Observe the angles and distances used – often there are very deliberate choices made that help to tell a story.

Read a book. Reading something that is not related to photography can inspire you to make a project or body of work on a certain topic of area of interest.


Get plenty of sleep. Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout by causing you to think irrationally. Keep your cool in stressful situations by getting a good night’s sleep.



6. Take Time Off. Put the Camera Down.


If burnout seems inevitable, try to take a complete break from photography. Use the time away to recharge your batteries and pursue other methods of recovery. It may be weeks, months, or even years before you pick it back up.


Taking a break from photography won’t be easy.


"I immediately thought about all the content I’d miss out on or the moments I wouldn’t be able to capture, and I had to make myself take a break. But when I did, I came back more appreciative, creative, focused, and passionate about photography than ever before."


Take the time to take care of your mind.

7. Realize The Needs of Your Soul.


You may think your needs are met when you have a roof over your head and food on the table. But these are not all human needs. Your soul has a different set of needs. These revolve around doing something that gives your life meaning.


The more we go after taking care of these needs, and therefore our souls, beauty will start to really radiate from the inside out!


That’s why the very important step to recovering from burnout is to realize the needs of your soul. This is not the kind of task you can accomplish overnight. It requires you to look within and examine how you’ve been living so far. Take time to think about your hopes, goals, and dreams.


Then, you may ask:

Is this how I want to spend the rest of my life?


It’s not an easy question to answer. But, curiously, burnout helps with that. When you hit a wall and crash, it makes you realize what you certainly don’t want. This is how you reverse your course. By eliminating what you don’t want, you move closer to meeting your soul’s needs. And that doesn’t just help your burnout recovery — it also teaches you how to live a meaningful life.


Take the time to take care of your mind.

You’ve got this.

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