With everything going on in the world, staying inspired and motivated to create and keep moving forward can be a challenge. There is no magic fix to get yourself back on track, but with the right mindset—and a little bit of determination—you can find your path again.

In many ways, I’m writing this article for myself. After my divorce last year, my life was derailed quite a bit, but adding a pandemic to the mix this year made everything else an uphill battle. My travel plans were put on hold, and that has been difficult because I tend to get a lot of photographs and sparks of ideas from those trips. I also sold my house and moved into a very small, cramped, one-bedroom apartment in a hip part of Portland, but since we are all doing our best to self-isolate, walking the laptop to a nearby coffee shop (or pub) to write and recharge is out of the question. This move is temporary and I hope to find a permanent home soon, but in the meanwhile I still need to continue working, creating, and building my business.

When creating I feel as if I am the most productive I can be, both professionally and personally. The fire doesn’t start on its own, it needs a spark to be ignited. So I put together a list of some ideas and things that I do—or want to try—to find the way back to inspiration, motivation, discipline, and creativity. It’s not much, and the ideas are far from life-altering originality, but sometimes all it takes is one small move to find the way back.

Get outside

A change of scenery is one of the most effective ways to reset the brain and come back to work (or play) fully charged. Whether it’s taking a walk through my neighborhood or going on a hike, I try to get out every weekend. But you don’t need to go very far to make this work. Sometimes I find that sitting on my patio using the laptop during the day—or with a cold beer and knitting project in the evening—is a good way to trick my mind into thinking that I left the apartment. Then, when I go back inside, I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back to work.

Watch inspiring videos, look at compelling photos

Whether it’s watching a training video on YouTube, exploring something new in a TED Talk, or browsing a favorite photography website, consuming art and other creations tend to start the wheels turning in my head. It helps prompt ideas and gets me thinking about possibilities and things I can do to better myself or create my own photographs. Creativity can be very contagious, and while it’s tempting to scroll social media (which I can easily get pulled into as well) it’s much more fulfilling and relaxing to look at prettier things. Pinterest is also a favorite of mine, where I discover recipes to cook (and sometimes photograph!) or other fun DIY projects to ponder.

Create a self-led challenge

Some of the things I’ve become proficient at are from the desire to challenge myself to master, all because I had the internal drive to do so. Food photography is a great example of that. In the early days of my photography career, I can recall specifically wanting to become good at food photography. And when I get excited about something new I attack it with vigor. I looked at photos, did a bunch of research, learned some tricks of the trade, and eventually, with a lot of practice, I felt that I had a very good handle on things. Eventually, I wrote a few books on the topic, which even furthered my love of food photography.

I have also done this with many other types of photography, including photographing high-speed water drops, which is very challenging but also quite fun and rewarding when you start to figure things out. Right now I’m considering refreshing my skills on both food and water drop photography, partly because they are things I can do from home, but also because I want to see if I can take things to the next level and create a new challenge for myself.

Adopt a new hobby (or re-visit old ones)

Sometimes I feel like my entire life is just one hobby after another. I think it’s because I’m a very curious person and I love to learn, so finding things that stretch my brain a bit, all while creating something in the process, makes me very happy. Some of my hobbies are things I can easily do from home, such as knitting and cooking, but others, like pottery and gardening, are something I’ll need to wait to get into until I find and move into a new home. But with the hobbies I can do, I’m challenging myself to do more difficult things within that hobby. Recently I created my first baby garment, as well as a dog sweater for a smaller dog, two things I’ve never created in the past. Even though knitting has nothing to do with photography, I find that it relaxes me and helps me scratch that creative itch when I need to, and I ultimately come back to photography with a fresh mind.

Sort and process old photos

When you have downtime and can’t get out to create as many new photos as you might like, one thing you can do is organize your older images, and maybe even discover something photographed years ago that you never got around to. When I travel I create hundreds (and sometimes even thousands) of new photos, but rarely have the time to cull them and make the best selections. I imagine that there are dozens of great images I created that are collecting digital dust inside of my Lightroom catalog. However, from time to time, I will go through my photos and try to pick out a few images that were looked over right away.

With everything going on in the world, staying inspired and motivated to create and keep moving forward can be a challenge. There is no magic fix to get yourself back on track, but with the right mindset—and a little bit of determination—you can find your path again.

In many ways, I’m writing this article for myself. After my divorce last year, my life was derailed quite a bit, but adding a pandemic to the mix this year made everything else an uphill battle. My travel plans were put on hold, and that has been difficult because I tend to get a lot of photographs and sparks of ideas from those trips. I also sold my house and moved into a very small, cramped, one-bedroom apartment in a hip part of Portland, but since we are all doing our best to self-isolate, walking the laptop to a nearby coffee shop (or pub) to write and recharge is out of the question. This move is temporary and I hope to find a permanent home soon, but in the meanwhile I still need to continue working, creating, and building my business.

When creating I feel as if I am the most productive I can be, both professionally and personally. The fire doesn’t start on its own, it needs a spark to be ignited. So I put together a list of some ideas and things that I do—or want to try—to find the way back to inspiration, motivation, discipline, and creativity. It’s not much, and the ideas are far from life-altering originality, but sometimes all it takes is one small move to find the way back.

Get outside

A change of scenery is one of the most effective ways to reset the brain and come back to work (or play) fully charged. Whether it’s taking a walk through my neighborhood or going on a hike, I try to get out every weekend. But you don’t need to go very far to make this work. Sometimes I find that sitting on my patio using the laptop during the day—or with a cold beer and knitting project in the evening—is a good way to trick my mind into thinking that I left the apartment. Then, when I go back inside, I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back to work.

Watch inspiring videos, look at compelling photos

Whether it’s watching a training video on YouTube, exploring something new in a TED Talk, or browsing a favorite photography website, consuming art and other creations tend to start the wheels turning in my head. It helps prompt ideas and gets me thinking about possibilities and things I can do to better myself or create my own photographs. Creativity can be very contagious, and while it’s tempting to scroll social media (which I can easily get pulled into as well) it’s much more fulfilling and relaxing to look at prettier things. Pinterest is also a favorite of mine, where I discover recipes to cook (and sometimes photograph!) or other fun DIY projects to ponder.

Create a self-led challenge

Some of the things I’ve become proficient at are from the desire to challenge myself to master, all because I had the internal drive to do so. Food photography is a great example of that. In the early days of my photography career, I can recall specifically wanting to become good at food photography. And when I get excited about something new I attack it with vigor. I looked at photos, did a bunch of research, learned some tricks of the trade, and eventually, with a lot of practice, I felt that I had a very good handle on things. Eventually, I wrote a few books on the topic, which even furthered my love of food photography.

I have also done this with many other types of photography, including photographing high-speed water drops, which is very challenging but also quite fun and rewarding when you start to figure things out. Right now I’m considering refreshing my skills on both food and water drop photography, partly because they are things I can do from home, but also because I want to see if I can take things to the next level and create a new challenge for myself.

Adopt a new hobby (or re-visit old ones)

Sometimes I feel like my entire life is just one hobby after another. I think it’s because I’m a very curious person and I love to learn, so finding things that stretch my brain a bit, all while creating something in the process, makes me very happy. Some of my hobbies are things I can easily do from home, such as knitting and cooking, but others, like pottery and gardening, are something I’ll need to wait to get into until I find and move into a new home. But with the hobbies I can do, I’m challenging myself to do more difficult things within that hobby. Recently I created my first baby garment, as well as a dog sweater for a smaller dog, two things I’ve never created in the past. Even though knitting has nothing to do with photography, I find that it relaxes me and helps me scratch that creative itch when I need to, and I ultimately come back to photography with a fresh mind.

Sort and process old photos

When you have downtime and can’t get out to create as many new photos as you might like, one thing you can do is organize your older images, and maybe even discover something photographed years ago that you never got around to. When I travel I create hundreds (and sometimes even thousands) of new photos, but rarely have the time to cull them and make the best selections. I imagine that there are dozens of great images I created that are collecting digital dust inside of my Lightroom catalog. However, from time to time, I will go through my photos and try to pick out a few images that were looked over right away.

Nicole S. Young is a photographer, published author, and educator specializing in Lightroom, Photoshop, and photography. She is best known for her books on food photography but is widely versed in various photographic genres, including landscape, nature, stock, travel, and lifestyle.

7 Comments

  1. Art David July 7, 2020 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Nicole,
    Been following your posts for a while now, and it’s good to hear about the activities that make you a full person.
    Divorce, moving and the effects of the pandemic are all major ‘traumatic’ events in one’s life, but it looks like you’re making the best of it, despite that.
    Well done.
    Best regards,
    Art David
    Bunnell, Fl.

  2. alex July 7, 2020 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    Nicole, nice to hear things are improving for you. Sometimes non-tech personal items make the day. Question on PINTEREST. Is it safe to download and use some of these items?
    Will be trying to go back thru some of my 17000 images even if only to delete some.

  3. Ed Adams July 7, 2020 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Sorry to hear about your divorce and issues but good to see you are moving on. At least in Portland, you have a great deal of outside areas where hopefully you can safely visit and shoot. I can’t imagine being in a small 1 bedroom apartment. I hope that changes soon. Stay Safe Nicole.

  4. Kevin Hoehn July 7, 2020 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    I’ve been following you for a few years now. You are great teacher and I’ve gotten inspiration from your lessons (Lightroom 2 minute) and posts. I use your LR presets on almost every photo I touch up.
    During the quarantine I’m going to read your waterfall book which I bought some time ago but haven’t had the time to read yet.
    Hang in there!

  5. Mary Hulett July 8, 2020 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Really enjoy reading about your journey in life, Nicole. You give good suggestions for keeping the creative juices alive and well. I, too, love learning new things. I remember you explored bird photography at Bosque and then there was the shark photography. I love to travel and see new places, try new techniques with my photography, and generally explore the world outside of myself. I miss the traveling now but it is giving me time to develop my editing skills, watch videos that I never had time for before, and get projects done around the house. Keep us posted on your progress in your ‘new’ life and I wish you the very best, my friend.

  6. Mary C July 8, 2020 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Nicole,
    Always great to hear your positive ideas and comments; even in what looks to be very challenging times for you.
    Keep on truckin’. It’s about all we can do.

  7. Charlie Dennis July 9, 2020 at 3:55 am - Reply

    Nicole

    Just found you site last month because I was looking for video tutorials on luminar. Now I am reading your article. TY

    Form my view point you are good at what you do. PS do you think that you can do a video tutorial luminar 4 because its different than luminar 3. You take care of yourself and be safe. TY for your service I am not saying this as a cliche.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Shop the Nicolesy Store

  • Lightroom Color Grading

    $20.00

    LEARN MORE
  • Watercolor Effects

    $40.00

    LEARN MORE
  • Layers & Masks

    $100.00

    LEARN MORE
  • Dirty Film

    $30.00

    LEARN MORE

Recent Posts