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Episode #026

One Simple Strategy Saves You From Photo Project Burn-Out


UPDATED: May 21, 2023


Inspiration boards are super helpful – but only if you understand the strategy behind creating and using it so it's actually effective in restoking your creative fire.


Not your average inspiration board

Project burn-out is real. Sometimes it's a full-scale asteroid-hitting-Earth kind of burn out, and sometimes it's just that slow camp-fire-melting-into-embers kind of cool off. 

Either way, it's disappointing. And common. And overcomable.

A creative strategy that's talked about a lot is an inspiration board. But what isn't talked about much is how to make this strategy actually effective. 

Because let's face it… it's easy to create it then never look at it again. And what good does that do? 

So, let's talk about strategy!


You'll Learn

  • Choosing the right platform for your inspiration board
  • The trick to sourcing images that are effective in sparking your creative drive
  • The simple method that makes an inspiration board actually helpful in an ongoing way

Episode 026: One Simple Strategy Saves You From Photo Project Burn-Out

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/26

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)


Jaymi Heimbuch:
One question that I'm asked fairly often is, how do you keep up the energy on a project when that initial enthusiasm begins to wane? Your photography just doesn't feel fresh or you're not excited to go shoot for this project. Now, I am never surprised when this issue pops up. I've experienced it too. Creative minds like ours, we thrive on novelty and the pursuit of fresh ideas. It's kind of our super power in a lot of ways, but that means that we have a really hard time when it comes to the work of seeing things through. When our once thrilling project gets difficult or it gets stale, we struggle and oftentimes that means we veer off to a new project that feels easier or it's simply new. It's got that shine.

So how do we get through these tough moments inside of a photography project that we care about, but we're losing momentum? How do we re-stoke that fire? How do we revive creativity? Now. I recently experienced this myself and I turned to one simple but very powerful tool and I'm going to tell you all about that tool in this episode because I really believe that like me, it can help you stay on track inside of a photography project even when that momentum starts to fade even when that shine of something new looks super appealing. All right, let's dig in.

Welcome to Impact the Conservation Photography Podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch, and if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild, then you're in the right place from conservation to creativity, from business to marketing, and everything in between. This podcast is for you, the conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in.

Hello and welcome to another exciting episode of Impact. Now, before we dive in, I want to let you know that this episode is sponsored by Conservation Photography Courses. This is the only online education platform designed specifically for conservation visual storytellers, and it's exciting times because enrollment is opening soon for the digital course Conservation Photography 101. This is my signature program for helping you master how to uncover, photograph and pitch a powerful conservation story.

Now, whether you are brand new to the scene of conservation photography or you have some experience, but you want to take your skills to the next level, you likely already know that you need a systematic approach to discovering and photographing fresh stories and a strategic way of getting them into the hands of editors. And that's what my signature online course offers. It is a roadmap for finding a compelling story, crafting storytelling images, and writing an eye catching pitch to send a publications enrollment for this in-depth educational opportunity is starting soon.

So head over to ConservationPhotographyCourses.com to hop on the wait list, That's ConservationPhotographyCourses.com and when you join the wait list, you will be first to know when enrollment opens. All right, let's dig into this episode.

So this tool, this oh so powerful, awesome magical tool. It's actually a very straightforward concept. All you're going to do is pull together images that inspire you inside of your project into one place. So you're going to head out there and you're going to look for ideas that make you feel just energized and excited to work inside of your own photography project. And you'll pull them into one place. But see, there's a trick to this and that's what I'm going to walk through in this episode. We're going to use an inspiration board, but not only are we going to create an inspiration board, we're going to actually make this effective because you might have tried something like this before where you go around and you curate all these images and you throw them into a folder or you throw them into one place or a Pinterest board and you never look at it again.

Right? Well, we're going to talk about how to actually make this inspiration board effective to reenergize you and keep you going inside of your project. So first things first, decide on a platform. How is it that you want to actually view your inspirational images? And you want to think critically about this. What is something that you can return to on an ongoing basis that feels really natural?

So for example, there's a few ideas that we can start off with. You could create a Google document where you cut and paste images that you find from across the web where you can create a poster board where you cut and paste clippings of images from publications. Or you can keep a binder with images that are held in sheet protectors or you can create that Pinterest board, but you have to really decide on a platform that feels very natural and easy for you to go look at on a regular basis.

So it really doesn't matter how it's done, how like where you create this inspiration board as long as you do it inside of a method or on a platform that really helps you to feel inspired. So you know best if you need it to be on a printed poster board in front of you. Or if a digital inspiration board can work just fine.

Personally, I need those images in front of me. I need it hung in a place where I can just glance and see it. Because if it's in a digital platform, Oh my goodness, it gets lost among all those tabs that are open in my browser or I never remember to go look at it. But if it's hung on a wall, that's really helpful for me. So first, decide on a platform that works best for you. The thing you'll do is to curate inspirational images.

You're going to load up your inspiration board with images. So again, there's a few methods that you can use. You can do a Google search on a topic that you're photographing. You could pull together a pile of magazines and start sifting through them. You could use hashtags on social media to find shots that really speak to you. However you do your searching, you really want to put your project in the front of your mind and look for images that resonate with your project concept, your style, or the desired impact that you want to have.

And here I really encourage you to go beyond typical wildlife nature conservation photography. I encourage you to go into realms that you might not have thought of before, such as design, architecture, fashion, go into areas where you will find things that inspire you or intrigued you or resonate with your project, but they are not necessarily created by fellow wildlife or nature conservation photographers.

This is going to really spark creativity and spark thought, really critical thought around the images that you want to create and that help to keep you inspired and stoking that creative fire. So if you're working on a story and you're looking for some specific inspiration, this exercise can be done in a single sitting. But on the other hand, if you're looking for inspiration for your photography in general or on a project that's very ongoing or complex, then this might be an exercise that you do on an ongoing basis as you pull images in as you find them over time.

Now again, you aren't just pulling in any images that you think are pretty or interesting. You're really looking for images that cause you to stop, to pause for a reason. So you want to recognize a little of yourself or a little of your project in them, whether that's a hint of your own style that you want to work on polishing or a technical level that you're aspiring to reach, or an approach to creative storytelling that you really want to try.

Whatever it is you want to see a little bit of yourself and a little bit aware you want to go inside of that. These images should not only spark some inspiration, but they should also have a little bit of that feeling of nudging you outside of your comfort zone a bit. That's kind of at the core of inspiration. It's something where you see a little bit of familiarity and you're getting pushed into new territory.

So the first thing you did as you figured out a place to put all of these images that you'll return to often. Then the second thing you did is you went on a hunt to really find not just cool images, but images that resonate, that really inspire, and you've pulled those in. Now, the third thing that you want to do is to return to that inspiration board frequently, and this last step might actually be the hardest.

Like I said earlier, it's easy to build something like this and then never look at it again. So now we are going to build a routine. If you're working on a specific story that has an end date, then make it a routine to look at your board maybe every morning or maybe you're working on an ongoing project that your enthusiasm has started to fade on and you really want to keep that enthusiasm going. So you might make a routine of a weekly sit down where you spend 30 minutes contemplating your inspiration board while you enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Or you might even make it a weekly sit down where not only do you spend some time contemplating your board, but you're also going to add one to two more images to it. How ever you decide to build your routine, reflect on your inspiration board at least a couple times a month.

Because the goal is to avoid burnout or to avoid a waning passion for your project. So you need to revisit and revisit and revisit those things that keep your creative fire stoked. You want to be able to get to where you can call up that inspiration board at any time in your mind, even when you're out in the field camera in hand, you can kind of picture it and seek that inspiration out whenever you need it.

Now, one final note on this. You really want to keep a can do attitude. Inspiration boards are intended to be a creative spark, right? So you don't want to look through your inspiration board with this attitude of being less than or not equal to the photographers whose work that you've pulled. That just makes this a comparison board and that doesn't do anyone any good. When I look at my inspiration board and all of those phenomenal images loaded into it, I'm not thinking, Oh my gosh, I'm never going to be this good. I should quit now. This is so awful. Dah, dah, dah. No, I'm thinking, Oh my goodness, that is such a good shot. I know that I can create something like this too and okay, so see how she did this and see how this angle set up like that and see how this bit of light accomplishes this look. Yeah. Okay, so I'm going to go try that. I really want to try that the next time I head out and that inspiration flows, that inspiration board has fulfilled its purpose.

So your attitude in how you look at that curated set of images means everything to how effective and inspiration board can be in keeping that momentum going or rejuvenating your excitement and love for a project. All right, now it is your turn. I want you to grab a glue stick and construction paper and some scissors and some magazines or whatever it is you want to do to create your inspiration and get cracking.

And I encourage you to do this even if you are not currently feeling any flagging enthusiasm about a project. Because again, that inspiration board, it can do so much to boost creativity and to keep a fire stoked. And it can do so much from the start of a project all the way through. So don't wait until it's too late. Just get going. Now. It's so worth the time and the energy that you put into not only creating it, but routinely viewing everything that you've curated.

Now, if you have any interest in sharing an inspiration board that you've created, I invite you to come into the free Facebook group for conservation photographers. There's a link to join the group inside of the show notes. And inside this free Facebook group, we hang out, we keep each other inspired, we troubleshoot, we ask questions and answer questions. We just keep each other going. And seeing your inspiration board could spark a whole lot of creativity in others who are working inside of conservation photography as well. So please feel free to hit that join button and I hope to see you inside the group. And meanwhile, I will talk to you next week.

Before we wrap up, I would love to ask you to do one quick thing. Subscribe to this podcast. As a subscriber, you'll not only know when each week's episode goes live, but you'll also get insider goodies, like bonus episodes. You might miss them unless you're subscribed and I don't want you to miss out on a thing, so please tap that subscribe button and I will talk to you next week.


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