Staying Motivated as a Hobbyist Photographer

Feeling the Photography Motivation

I’ve been feeling pretty uninspired, photography wise, for the last month or so. Maybe longer?

You know when you get really wrapped up in something and love it so much that you drop all the other stuff? I’ve been really wrapped up in learning Illustrator and designing stuff, creating Andrew’s birthday party, shopping for spring clothes, growing this little blog again, trying to survive Caroline’s toddlerhood, having friends over for dinner, working out more than normal, drinking lots of coffee, making more salads, going to bed early and reading real books.

Feeling the photography motivation

These are all great things. Truly, things I want to make more time for in my life. But they’re not photography. They’re not capturing the joy on Andrew’s face on Christmas morning. They’re not looking for just the right light and doing a little happy dance when you see that glow in you kid’s eyes. They’re not pulling out your camera, looking at the scene and knowing what your settings need to be without a second thought.

They’re not spending time reading photography forums like Clickin Moms and The Photographer Within and taking workshops to grown and learn.

And I think that’s okay as long as it’s a short season. 

Feeling the photography motivation

As (enthusiastic) hobbyist photographers we face the challenge of being our own motivators.

There are no clients who call when their baby is born. There are no clients who book us for their wedding six months down the road. There are no magazines hounding us for content for their summer editions. We set our own goals, our own timelines.

Feeling the photography motivation

I’ve been teaching myself how to take pretty photos of my kids for over four years now. I seem to go through phases of high motivation and phases of real apathy. Right now? I’m just not really feeling it. I think summer will help. We’ll be outside at the pool, grilling out and playing in the sprinklers.


The days will be really long and full of hazy sunshine.

I’m also afraid my 365 Project has had the undesired effect of me snapping one quick photo and then thinking I don’t have to pick my camera back up. Well, I got one. I’m done for the day.

Starting today I’m going to change that thinking. I’m going to pick up my camera anytime I see something beautiful. If I have lots of pictures to choose from? Well, the more the merrier. And photos like these of Caroline from last week don’t hurt either. She’s so sneaky, hiding from my camera all the time, but this day she was playful and fun and let me capture her spark so perfectly.

Feeling the photography motivation

And that’s what I’m reaching for. That’s what motivates me.


What motivates you to keep learning and growing? 

How to Organize Your Digital Photos

I take a lot of photos.

I average about 300 per month and I’m really, really bad about culling photos of my everyday. It’s hard to permanently delete them – what if I change my mind, right?

My photos used to be really disorganized with random folders of downloads here and there. There was little rhyme or reason to it, and it made me crazy.

How to Organize Your Digital Photos

I started organizing my photos by month back in 2011.

Now, when I go to upload photos (which I do almost daily) it looks something like this:

How to Organize Your Digital Photos

I use Lightroom to organize my photos, but even if you don’t use Lightroom you can still use the same organization system.

I went through a lot of trial and error but I finally have a good system down, and it makes me happy. I know exactly where I’m going to put files and how I’m going to name them.

Step 1 –  Create a new folder at the beginning of each month, naming it with the year first, followed by the month so that the folders are always in dated order. If I’m uploading pictures of everyday life they go straight into the main month folder. I have many months where all my photos are contained in just one folder.

So I’m currently uploading all my pictures to the 2014_02 folder.

Step 2 – If there’s a special day or activity or if I do photos for friends that month, they get their own destination folder within the month. So vacations, newborn photos, holidays  – they all get their own folders within the month.

So if we went to the zoo next week I’d upload just those zoo pictures into a separate folder called Zoo, within the 2014_02 folder.

Step 3 – I use the file number that my camera automatically gives to each photo throughout my editing/sharing/saving process. That way I can always go back and find the original RAW file if I need it.

For example:

I do 95% of my editing in Lightroom. So if I want to save an edited photo for printing I’ll export it from Lightroom at the original size into a Print folder within its month (and special day if applicable) folder and keep its name the same, i.e. IMG_7807. Then when I’m ready to print a book or 5 x 7s, the photo is ready too.

If I want to share it on the blog or Flickr, I open it in Photoshop, apply my watermark, and save it in the appropriate size for the web as a jpeg with WEB in the name, i.e. WEB_IMG_7807. It gets saved into the original monthly folder and looks like this:

How to Organize Your Digital Photos

Sometimes I want to share a photo with friends or family through Dropbox or I’ll want to have it play on our Apple TV slideshow so I’ll need it sized differently than for print or the web.

I will export the photo from Lightroom (or open in another program like Photoshop and resize it) at the adjusted size, and save it with a special tag in front of the original name, i.e. FB for facebook sizing, SS for slideshow. If you add them at the beginning of the photo’s name it’ll keep those files grouped together within your folder and they won’t get lost.

Keeping the original file name was a game changer for me. I used to try to name my photos things like “Andrew Backyard” or “Flowers” and I was always losing them. This way they stay in dated order and are traceable back to the original file.

Step 4 – Back it up! I can’t stress this enough. Just do it. I try to manually backup to an external hard drive once a week. It’s a big pain, but so is losing my photos. I use the Passport from Western Digital. It is small and fast and easy to use.

A few simple steps can save you a lot of headache, especially if you’re starting the year with a Project 365 – that’s a lot of photos to keep up with! Stay organized friends. :)


If you’re curious about my workflow within Lightroom, you can check out my post on Lightroom 4 from last year.

Follow MeaganMusing’s board Photography Tips on Pinterest.

Upgrade to Lightroom 4

I’ve officially made the switch from Lightroom 3 to Lightroom 4.

I’ve loved Lightroom 3 for years. It’s an integral part of my workflow, and I do 85% of my editing in it so it was pretty scary to switch.

In fact, it took me a while. The upgrade is really reasonably priced so one day back in December I thought, why not, and downloaded it.

But then I couldn’t make my RAW files work with my old CS5 version of Photoshop and I really didn’t want to upgrade to CS6. So. I just left LR4 sitting on my hard drive and kept plugging away in LR3.

Then I kept thinking about buying some new presets, but I hated to buy them for LR3 when I knew LR4 was out there waiting. So, again, what to do?

Well, I had to figure out how to make LR4 and CS5 work together with my RAW files. Enter lots and lots of Google searches, and I finally figured out I needed to convert my files to DNG’s when I import them into LR4.

It turns out there are lots of benefits to converting to DNG anyway, and you can read about them in this super helpful article from Rock the Shot. There’s a lot of info there, but the main reason I decided to switch my file type was to get my LR4 edited RAW files to work in CS5.

So now that I can successfully use it with my version of Photoshop what am I liking about it?

Well, there’s quite a few new features.

The biggest one within the develop module is that we now have Highlights, Shadows, and Whites versus Recovery, Fill Light and Brightness.

Let’s look at this image opened in LR3:

You can see that LR3 opened with its preset +50 brightness and +25 Contrast. There’s also a lot of blown highlights on Andrew’s back, but his face and the rest of the image aren’t that bright.

So I wanted to brighten the whole thing up a bit while recovering some of the blown highlights on the back of his shirt. So I upped the recovery to get back those blown spots, and then upped fill light to brighten the rest of the image. I also upped blacks a bit to give it some more depth in the little bit of shadows around his edges.

It’s an okay edit and I’d be happy with it, but it’s a little too bright overall.

So how does it look in LR4?

Right off the bat you can see that all the sliders start out at zero. Also the blown highlights that we saw in LR3 aren’t there. Better start already!

In LR4 the exposure slider focuses on the midtones of the image rather than the whole photo. I admit this has thrown me for a loop a bit, but it’s nice to have a more targeted adjustment. So here I upped my exposure just a tiny bit to brighten up the midtones (which is the part of the image that’s neither a highlight nor a shadow –  it’s the middle of the histogram) in the photo. Then since I’m still learning LR4 I just played with the sliders until I saw what I liked. :)

Here are the two edits side-by-side.

I’m definitely happier with the LR4 image. It’s a subtle difference, but I felt like I had a lot more control with the sliders in LR4.

I like that the red of the tennis court kept more of its color and isn’t so washed out in the LR4 version because I didn’t have to up its brightness to increase the brightness elsewhere. And the same happened with the stones in the background. Andrew’s face looks brighter, but not as gray as it does is the LR3 version.

I’ve also been using my favorite presets from One Willow in LR4. I bought the Palette Collection which was created just for LR4 and I’ve been happy with it. It has a lot more hazy/film type options than I was able to find in LR3.

Here’s an example of a LR4 image with a Palette Collection preset.

It’s a little hazier that I’d typically go for, but it’s pretty. And I could tweak it and make it a little more subtle.

And one of the best benefits I’ve found so far is that Ligtroom 4 is faster! It takes longer to upload my RAW images as DNG files, but then working within LR4 is much quicker. It takes less time to generate a preview and I’m not waiting around for the image to come into focus when I pull it up out of the library.

So I think I’m going to like Lightroom 4. It took me a long time (and now I hear they’re testing a Lightroom 5 in beta. Hahahaha. I’ll wait!) but I think the switch was worth it.

Do you have any Lightroom 4 presets you love and want to recommend?