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How to keep yourself motivated and take better photos?

As I'm looking back to my ten-year journey in photography, I realize that I have had my ups and downs. The thing that I have found out to be one of the keys to my success and for the other photographers I spend time with is perseverance. It's not a surprising thing, but how many of us overlook it? I certainly did. Why? Is it because we don't want to admit that it takes a long time to create beautiful work? 

It's much easier to focus on things that don't matter. Or it might be because someone else is developing stunning work, they must have it in their genes? Why do we do this? It's paralyzing! 

As I have been creating the Day & Night video course, I have realized that I can't focus on many things at the same time. It led me to focus only on the course, which then lowered my ability to go out and photograph. And I haven't been active on social media either. Looking back over the last two months I have barely gone out to shoot which has dropped my confidence in creating beautiful work. If you didn't know by now, I'm not perfect. 

I haven't seen many posts about motivation when it comes to photography, so I decided to write one. I'm sure all of us sometimes lack the motivation to take photos, but I think it all depends how fast you can bounce out of it.

For me, it's sometimes hard to find balance. I love to share my knowledge with people, but if I "can't" go out to photograph I feel uninspired. I think we all have these assumptions of how we are and that we cannot do anything about it. In fact, I think that those are just scripts that run in the back of our mind to keep us taking action needed to break out from the jam we are.

So what are the steps we can take to break out of these excuses and keep us motivated to create beautiful photographs?

1. PLAN

Make a plan that is easy to follow through. I use an "easy-motivation-planner" I have created when I'm planning my week. I don't plan all of my weeks like in the below example. Instead, I use it if I haven't been photographing lately or find it hard to go out and take photographs. The planner has a day, time, place, goal and ideas sections.

A preview of how the planner looks like.

Here is a breakdown of the planner:

  • The Day, of course, is the day you want to go out and photograph in a specific location.
  • Time is when you need to head out from your home, so calculate enough time before the sunrise, sunset or any time you want to visit a location.
  • The Place is a specific location you want to visit that time. If you don't have a place in mind, use Google maps as a location scouter.
  • The Goal is what it is that you want to capture, is it perhaps seascape or landscape or anything you wish to achieve from the location.
  • Ideas are from your idea archive. Put at least one idea for the shoot in this section.  Don't know how to create ideas that are unique? Check out my video course

Download a copy of my easy-motivation-planner here.

2. Make it Impossible to fail

I bet there have been times when you have woken up but felt that you need to keep on sleeping instead of heading out to photograph. I know I have. Or you have been busy doing something else and forgot to go out and capture the sunset. We all have many excuses not to go out and photograph...

One of the best things you can do is prepare for it. Take the excuses away!

  • Charge your camera & gear beforehand
  • Pack your gear into your backpack and keep it ready
  • Make sure you have enough gas in your car if you wish to travel with it

When you want to capture the sunrise

  • Keep your clothes prepared near your bed
  • Make it easy to take a coffee or tea with you or grab one on the go
  • Cook your breakfast the day before 

You can add any steps you think makes it easier to go out. If you have gone through all of these, I bet you would feel stupid not to go! 

3. TAKE ACTION NO MATTER WHAT

It sounds counter-intuitive but if you doubt yourself the only way to break out of that doubt is to take action. Go out and take photographs, no matter what. When you make a plan, you can always say to yourself that this is what you promised yourself when you were thinking about the best interest of your photography. So listen to your past-self and take action. Action-cycle is where you want to end up!

4. GO OUT WITH OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS 

Chat with a fellow photographer and plan a trip, whatever it takes for you to start taking action and going out to photograph. If you make yourself accountable to other photographers, you will make progress. "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." Yeah, it's a cliche already, but having people around that increases your positivity is crucial! Having like-minded people who want to create work that stands-out makes you feel inspired.

5. STOP SPENDING TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Scrolling the internet (except my site of course) or using the smartphone instead of going out is a way to kill your productivity. I'm not saying that you should entirely stop using social media or any platforms that connect you with other creators and followers. I'm just saying that you should have more time for creation than for watching what other people have done. Create work that inspires you!

 

The above steps have worked for me, let me know if you find them useful!

I know this post was something different, so leave a comment and let me know if you want to see posts like these in the future. Enjoy Spring everyone! 

 
 

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New Video Tutorial - Day & Night

Happy New Year everyone! For the past two months, I have been working on my first pro video course Day & Night. In the tutorial, you will learn how to capture, create, edit and produce ideas for fine art photography and manipulations. It will be fast-paced, straight to the point learning experience. 

This year it will be my 10-year anniversary in photography, and I'm happy to announce I will be posting three different pro video courses in 2018. In these tutorials, I show you all of my techniques and knowledge I have gathered in the ten years I have been photographing. 

What's in my camera bag - 2017 edition

The most typical question I get is what do I currently use for my photography. So here is the 2017 version of the gear I use daily in my photography and also some unusual stuff such as my favorite books at the moment. 

Camera Bag

Let's start with the obvious, the camera bag. I have used plenty of different camera bags most of them from Lowepro. Currently, I use a Lowepro Protactic 450 AW. The customizability and size are perfect for my equipment. 

What's on my shopping list

The f-stop SHINN looks impressive for long hikes when you need to have room for all of your gear and essentials. 

Cameras

I use two camera bodies the Nikon D810 and D800. Mostly I just have the D810 with me, but for longer travels, I have the D800 as a backup. I also use the D800 to shoot timelapse while I have the D810 to shoot stills. 

What's on my shopping list

Nothing. I'm very pleased with the D810 at the moment, but if Nikon releases a successor to the D810, I'm sure I will be considering an upgrade. 

Lenses

To be honest, I have too many lenses at the moment. Most of which I leave at home and don't use at all. I'll be selling those because I don't need them anymore. Recently I received a Laowa 12 mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle lens which is excellent for night sky photography. What I love about the Laowa is the smooth focusing in the dark because of the hard mechanical stop for infinity. 

In My Bag

Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 - My go to lens for landscapes and star photography - sharp! 
Sigma 20 mm f/1.4 ART (Canon version here) - My newest lens is a great addition capturing Milky Way - so good!
Nikon 50 mm f/1.4 G - A great low light lens for shallow depth of field. Weights nothing!
Nikon 70-200 mm f/4.0 VR II - Sharp telephoto lens for landscapes and detail shots. 
Laowa 12 mm f/2.8 (only Canon and Pentax mounts avail at the moment in Amazon) - Excellent for astrophotography, weights about half of the Nikon 14-24 mm. 

Lenses I use sometimes but not often enough

Sigma 24 mm f/1.4 ART Nikon (Canon mount) I use this for northern lights, it's sharp from 1.4!
Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 ART Nikon (Canon mount) I hardly put this lens on, sometimes when I capture our dog... 

Lenses I don't use anymore and will be selling

I first bought most of these when I switched to the D800, and since then have been gradually upgrading to the ones I have in my bag. All of these would be good enough for what I do. I think the upgrades have not really impacted the quality of my work so remember that when you first start. 

Nikon 16-35 mm f/4.0 VR - Great sharp wide angle for landscapes with screw on filters.
Nikon 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 VR- Small, cheap and light tele zoom.
Nikon 105 mm f2.5 AI - A legendary sharp lens for tight landscapes and smooth backgrounds.
Samyang 14 mm f/2.8 - Light and sharp astrophotography lens with huge wave distortion  (fixable though).
Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 - As sharp as the Nikon I use, but much heavier, so it has been sitting on the shelf for too long.
Sigma 70 mm f/2.8 Macro - Excellent for macro photography, sharp but slow autofocus.

What's on my shopping list

I will be getting a Nikon 28-300 mm f/3.5-5.6 VR soon as a travel lens, and it is what I will be carrying with me for the long hikes accompanied with an ultra wide angle lens for landscapes and star photography. 

Tripod & Other Accessories

I recently bought a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Tripod with BH-40 LR Ballhead and quick release lever. I also got the TA-3-FRC Rock Claw Foot for it. These are fantastic for a slippery surface and of course for rocky terrain. The best choice was to get an L-plate for the Nikon D810. It makes it so much faster to change from vertical to horizontal and likewise. The only thing that is a bit annoying is that when it's freezing, the quick lever seems to jam in the middle. If I want to change the camera to the horizontal position I need to slide it from the end of the quick release platform and slide it back and then lock it in the position. 

Remote Controller

I use a standard Pixel remote controller for time-lapse work. And a Hahnel Giga T Pro II when I need more than 20 second's to get in the frame of my shot. Usually, I use the self-timer on my camera to get sharp images with either 2 sec or 5 sec timer. 

Filters

I recently received a set of Nisi filters with the filter holder for the Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8, and I must admit the holder feels much more robust than the equivalent Lee holder. The only downside to the Nisi holder is that it seems to jam the zoom slightly when you screw it on the Nikon 14-24 mm which makes the zooming feel uncomfortable. 

Nisi Soft IR GND8 (0.9) - soft grad for balancing the exposures. 
Nisi IR ND1000 (3.0) - 10 stop filter, excellent for long exposure. Seems to have less vignetting than the Lee Big Stopper. 
Nisi HD Polarizer - This is a great filter to remove reflections or boost them. You can quickly rotate the holder so it's adjustable. 

Mavic Pro

I recently purchased a DJI Mavic Pro fly more combo to widen my possibilities in capturing different perspectives. I love using the Mavic Pro. The drone is small and easy to operate, and it fits perfectly with the rest of my gear in the camera bag. 

Favorite Resources

I'm currently reading

I used to have a lot of different books lying around my office, but once I got the Amazon Kindle, I have been using it a lot. It's so convenient to take with you rather than all the 40+ large books I have stored in it. I love the look of the display and I can read it in complete darkness when my wife is sleeping, and don't want the lights on anymore. If I really enjoy a book I will get a printed copy as well. 

Tim Ferris - Tools of Titans. Fantastic book with insight to some of the World's most successful people. 
Dan Brown - Deception Point. A fiction book with an unusual and intriguing story of Nasa and science discovery. 

I'm currently watching

Chase Jarvis - Inspiring photographer, entrepreneur and creator
Casey Neistat - Probably the most watched vlogger at the moment
Marques Brownlee - Tech review guy on YouTube
Peter McKinnon - Great source of inspiration and tips for photographers
Tales by Light - Inspiring photography documentary on Netflix

Apps I'm Using

Photographer's Ephemeris - Great tool for sunset and Milky Way scouting
PhotoPills - Another tool to make plans and see the Milky Way location
Star Walk - A stargazing app, great to learn stars and planet's

Eight key things that make you stand out on Social Media – Major PING Alert!

Here is something a bit different from my regular posts. However, I believe it's something you will enjoy and learn from, whether you are a photographer, business owner or a freelancer.

Last year I had the pleasure to teach a workshop in PING Helsinki (maybe you saw this post back then), which was a fantastic opportunity to share my knowledge about photography. This year I had the pleasure to get an invitation as a Content Guru. 

So what is PING Helsinki? It's THE place where businesses and content creators are gathered together to share their vision and knowledge but most of all it's about the community and fun! I enjoyed the inspiring keynote speakers and workshops; I learned a lot. The most important message from the festival for me was that it made me remember what is the most important part of my work. The community! 

I have been a photographer for over seven years and through the time, I have been part of many communities. My first real online community was Flickr, which was the biggest photo sharing network at that point, and still people are using it. Getting feedback about my work was an essential part of my journey. I never would be here if I would not have been part of this community. See one of my first posts on Flickr. Getting comments from other photographers gave me the courage to continue with my work.

I have had my share of luck with social media, for instance, my Facebook page has now over 870 000 followers. I believe it's because I have always tried my best to keep up with the comments and share my knowledge as best as I can. Answering to messages and emails and by replying to comments can take up time. I still think it's essential. I have also been sharing my techniques and photography knowledge. It's about the community; it's not just about you or your work even though it all starts from there.

Eight key things that make you stand out on Social Media

  1. Create the kind of work YOU enjoy doing
  2. Do it regularly
  3. Share your work
  4. Keep your work consistent
  5. Fail
  6. Learn from your mistakes
  7. Engage with the audience
  8. Repeat

And I believe this works for any work you put out and for different kind of platforms as well! 

 PING Helsinki 2016 – That's me second from the top left with a bunch of my fellow Instagrammers – see my huge ears and a black cap...

PING Helsinki 2016 – That's me second from the top left with a bunch of my fellow Instagrammers – see my huge ears and a black cap...

Shoutout to my fellow Instagrammers from Ping Helsinki

If you didn't know this is my Instagram: @mikkolagerstedt

Juuso Hämäläinen – @juusohd
Jaakko Kahilaniemi – @jkahilaniemi
Jaakko Kivelä – @jaakkokivela
Julia Kivelä – @julia_kivela
Anna-Elina Lahti – @annisellis
Sofia Lavaste – @slavaste
Joonas Linkola – @joonaslinkola
Konsta Linkola – @konstalinkola
Pekka Pelkonen – @pekkelsson
Konsta Punkka – @kpunkka
Teppo Tirkkonen – @teppotirkkonen

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it! If you have any suggestions for future tutorials, leave a comment. Finally, thank you PING Helsinki for the hugely inspiring festival! 

If you are on Snapchat, follow me there to see behind the scene footage! Click here @mikkolagerstedt to add me on Snapchat. (You need a mobile phone with IOS or Android to use it)

Presets Collection Saga

After a long wait, I finally present you the new fine art landscape and night sky Lightroom Preset Collection Saga! If you want to add a unique look to your night and landscape photographs the Saga Presets are perfect for you! It includes over 180 presets to suit your style with my post-processing techniques. The collection uses the same technique of step by step process as the Phase Presets. Below you can find before and after photographs edited with the new collection. 

video on how to use Saga Lightroom Presets