If temporarily unemployed, you suddenly find yourself with a huge amount of time available. Even if still working but from home, you no longer have commute time in your schedule. While relaxation has some value (I keep telling myself that), I challenge you to stay motivated and make good use of your extra time.
Shoot the Kids
If you have kids, they are extremely important to you but finding time in overlapping schedules is often a major obstacle for photographing them. Your schedule and their schedule have likely been cleared, green-lighting this project. I promise that you will not regret having the images and your kids might find it of value to share the pics on their social media (market that usage to get their buy-in).
Shoot formal portraits ranging from full-body (slightly wide-angle to normal focal lengths) to tight headshots (telephoto lens), find brightly-colored clothing and props, go wild with lighting, photograph them doing something they are passionate about, make them go out and get some exercise while you work a run and gun approach to catch them in action, etc.
When the kids lose patience, move to the pets — or consider including the pets to extend the kids' patience.
Perhaps your Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media profile pictures are lacking in quality? No need to hire someone for this — go into full selfie mode. Consider photographing yourself doing something you frequently do such as exercise (which should always be part of your routine) and consider using an exposure long enough to create some motion blur as motion is a minimum requirement for exercise.
Shoot Something Different
If birds and wildlife are your thing, try shooting architecture. If you are a portrait photographer, try wildlife. Browse Instagram, Flickr, etc. for ideas. Now is a great time to learn to shoot video. Perhaps the portfolio you build from this experience will open new doors.
Shoot with Something Different
A lot of the fun of photography is using new gear and that is a valid reason to try another brand camera. This is a great time to try a mirrorless camera model. Tilt-shift lenses are very educational (and useful).
A new season is coming and now is a great time to research the gear you need to capture it. If unsure about your future with that gear or you can't afford to buy it, go big for a small cost by renting something. It is super easy to order a camera, a lens, lighting gear, etc. from Lensrentals and have it show up on your doorstep.
Shoot from New Heights and Angles
Shoot from positions that require you, your tripod, and/or minimally your camera to go into positions they are not normally used in. This may be from up high, down low, very close, very far, etc. Go for a walk with your camera with a self-imposed limitation such as "All images must be captured within 6" (150mm) of the ground.
I know, that electronic viewfinder level not showing all green makes us perfectionists hesitate to press the shutter release but sometimes it is OK to take a not-gravity-level photo. Consider imposing a limitation on the angle of the camera such as angled 45° downward, tilted 45° sideways, or both.
Shoot Your House
Think like a real estate photographer and photograph your house. Shoot the exterior during the blue hour. Stage and photograph the interior with an ultra-wide-angle lens, timing the shooting with exterior light levels if relevant for your space. Then market yourself to the local real estate companies.
Shoot Something Small
Especially for a macro lens, there are unending subjects available.
Bring a flower in from your garden. If your garden is bare, perhaps a neighbor would trade one of their flowers for a much-longer-lasting print. Or, perhaps you can buy a subject.
Go through your cabinets and drawers looking for interesting subjects that could include noodles, candy, utensils, etc. Find colorful art supplies such as crayons and pencils.
Hint: if it comes in a box or bag and is in your cupboards, it might make a great pattern subject. Consider photographing one unique small subject among a significant amount of similar subjects.
Hint 2: Avoid eating too much of your subject until the project is finished.
Hint 3: This is a great time to learn lighting including with flash.
Hint 4: Try focus stacking.
Hint 5: Try strong white balance adjustments.
Everyone loves a lens blur and an easy way to get artistic is to intentionally blur a scene by making it out of focus. I often shoot intentional focus blurs when testing lenses and sometimes I like the results enough to keep them. Shooting these blurs will teach you how to approach a scene differently with the structure created by color and contrast taking over the frame.
Consider going really crazy with zoom blurs. Use an exposure long enough to allow you to turn the zoom ring a noticeable amount while the exposure is being captured. A tripod will usually improve these results.
Attach your camera to something moving. Use an exposure duration that is long enough to make the scene blurred with, ideally, whatever the camera is attached to remaining sharp. If lacking a good mounting platorm, simply hold the camera in front of a colorful scene and, while using a long exposure, pan the camera left and right to create a sea of color. Note that a Neutral Density Filter may prove vital for achieving exposure durations necessary for optimal results.
Include something very close in the foreground that adds blur to an otherwise-common-appearing subject such as a person (please do not block their face).
Consider using a tilt-shift lens to create interesting blurs.
Focus calibrating cameras and lenses can be time-consuming but the adjustments can be worthwhile to make. Go through your kit, shooting a Datacolor SpyderLensCal or other focus calibration aid and fine-tune your combinations to perfection.
Shoot for the Background
Find a background that works superbly with the focal length you are using and then find an attractive subject to place in the foreground for a sure win. Sometimes different lighting on the subject and background can create a look that stands out.
Research Your Next Shoot
Determine what subject you want to photograph, determine where and when is optimal for that subject, and make plans to be there with the right gear. Utilize apps such as The Photographer's Ephemeris and Photo Pills to determine the alignment of the celestial attractions.
Sign up for a workshop going to a location that interests you. Enjoy the anticipation of capturing your planned image(s).
Improve an Image You Already Shot
Re-post-processing is a thing. Hopefully your photo editing skills are improving and likely you captured some great images in the past that could now be re-processed for better results. Perhaps some challenging images you didn't attempt processing are now within your capabilities.
Now is a great time to learn a new software application. Consider adding Photoshop & Lightroom, Capture One, and/or Luminar (use coupon code THEDIGITALPICTURE to get a $10.00 discount) to your kit and skill set.
Share What You Shot
If you are not already maintaining a portfolio site, now is a great time to set one up. I use SmugMug and highly recommend their service which optionally includes selling. Plans start at only $48 per year and a 14-day trial is available.
Consider taking your marketing/professionalism to the next step by purchasing a personal domain name and hosting for it. Through experience, I can tell you that there are a lot of bad web hosts out there. There are also some very good ones and an inexpensive host I have grown to trust is InMotionHosting. SmugMug can also utilize your custom domain name with their hosting.
If you already maintain a portfolio site, this is a good time to remove the lower-grade images still there. Your skills are surely improving and some of those old images are no longer reflecting your abilities.
Print What You Shot
You now have time to create that family or trip photo book you have been putting off. Perhaps it is time to put some of your prints on your walls. Consider metal prints — they are awesome and you don't have to select or buy a frame. Also not requiring a frame and loved by most are canvas prints. Printique (formerly AdoramaPix) is one of my favorites.
Backup What You Shot
You have a backup plan that includes secure, remote off-site storage, right? If so, make sure that those backups are current. If not, fix that problem ASAP. WD My Passport external drives are a great option.
Scan What You Shot
Still have prints and slides hanging around? Don't wait any longer to digitize them. I used the predecessor to the Epson Perfection V550 Photo Film and Document Scanner to digitize my old prints and the kid's artwork and still use it to eliminate most of my paper receipts.
Learn to Shoot Better
Learning is worth intentionally interrupting work for and the decision to spend time learning during a forced interruption is a no-brainer. Our Photography Tips page is a good place to start. Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has made a huge set of free online classes available.
Upgrade your Computer and Home Office
You have been tolerating that old, slow computer for long enough. It is time for a change and you have time to set up a new system, migrating your images and workflow. A faster system will save you valuable time later and a more reliable system will save more than time. I have been using Dell XPS computers for about 20 years.
While at it, if kids are involved, upgrade all of the systems. Education is extremely important and making learning easier will encourage that practice.
Is your printer adequate? A wireless printer makes life much easier in our house.
Do you enjoy music while at your desk? A quality sound system can make a big difference.
During a time of change is a good time to drop bad habits and start new ones. Hopefully something just said has stirred your creativity and motivation. Move in positive new directions. This world is a better place with you in it — carpe diem.
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