Motivation to Keep On Shooting

Side Note: Olympus Malaysia is organizing a Macro Workshop on 16th March 2013. The speakers are Amir Ridhwan and Sanjitpaal Singh, both great photographers whom I admire and respect. If you want learn macro photography, learn from the best!! I will be there, so I sure hope to see some of you there too.
More info on my previous blog here (click) and Olympus Facebook Page here (click). 

I think one of the many weird traits that I do have is the persistence to keep shooting, no matter what. I never (or rarely) run out of motivation to pick up the camera to shoot. Unfortunately I am working on weekdays as a full time engineer, or else I would be out there shooting every single day. To some people who have seen me and known me in person, it puzzled them how I can keep shooting again and again without hitting the saturation point or get bored. 

So where did I find my motivation?

All images in this entry were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and DT 35mm F1.8 lens


Legs up

Free Television

A wrench in hand

1) I Tell Myself My Photographers Are Not Good Enough

I know a lot of photographers who would go around showing off their photographs and claim how good their recent work is, talking about how their latest acquired equipment helped them get that amazing shot, or what new post-processing method was used to squeeze more details out of the photograph, or discussing the results of that new technique learned from an old photography book. They all have one thing in common: they were very proud of their work, and they want people to see and acknowledge that their work is fantastic. They want the recognition, and it is nothing wrong in seeking approval from an audience that your photographs speak to. However, when positive remarks are being received, the feeling of "satisfaction kicks in" and you can see the ego inflate into whale-like proportions. That is the ultimate mind-block to push the creativity and learning to the next level, because you start to accept that you are good enough.

I always tell myself that I am not good enough. That each and every time I am out there shooting, I will improve, even just by a tiny bit, but surely over a span of a long, long time (years? Decades?) I will get there. I may not be as good as many photographers out there, that did not bother me. I only have myself to answer to. I am the worst critic for my own photography work, and by telling myself there is plenty of room for improvement, I will try harder, and push further to get that better shot. 

2) I surround myself with better photographers

Most of the photographers that I have come to know and become close friends with are actually a lot more experienced and capable in shooting than I am. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying only mix with pro photographers. However I am privileged to have known some real working pros, as well as experienced photographers who were generous and willing to share their knowledge and stories with me. Being with them, seeing them in action shooting, and hearing their thoughts, those are the strong motivation for me to pick up the camera and go out shooting. Knowing that my own photography standards are nowhere near theirs, knowing that how much more I need to learn and explore to be in their same league, gives me more courage and determination to dare myself to go on and on. Knowing that they have been patient with me, and being kind to share and guide me, I in turn did my best not to let them down, and not let their time and effort on me go to waste. 

3) I Shoot What I Want, Not What They Want

You know many photographers kept buying books about "how to become the next Vivian Maier" or "How to Imitate Henri Cartier Bresson 101" and memorize every single paragraph so that they can practice them in their shooting and become the next Vivian Maier or HCB. They would emphasize to the letter how important it is to use certain techniques, or certain cameras to get the shots, and they live and die by those rules. At the end of the day, are you sure those images you have taken were what you really wanted to take in the first place, or what you have been fed with on "what good photos are supposed to look like"? If you are not shooting what you want, then surely, in a long run, sooner or later you will lose interest in shooting at all. What is the fun in photography if you do not get to do what you want to do, but be bounded by rules and rigid guidelines? Creativity is about freedom to express yourself. Emphasis on Your-Self. 

The most important thing I always tell myself when I shoot is be true to myself. Shoot the things that catches my attention,  and the things that have some meaning for me. It does not matter if those subjects may not be approved by those "photo-critics", because they have nothing to do with me, or my own style of photography. I shoot for myself, not for them. One example is me loving cats. Street photographers would say close up portrait shots of cats on the street are NOT street photography. Well, who cares? I like cats, and I like shooting them. I say some of my cat shots are a heck lot better than human portrait shots. And I will keep shooting them, because I can, and because I love cats. 

What makes you smile? What makes you sad? What makes you jump? Those are the things worth photographing, because they can affect you, and the impact will shine through your photographs. Those are the strong motivations to keep shooting, because you find reasons to shoot what resonates with you in your own life. 

The meeting

Street Cat




Now is my turn to ask questions, what makes you want to pick up the camera to shoot? What gets you going on and on in photography? My journey in photography so far is still a short one, but I hope it will last a long life-time. Tell your motivation stories!


  1. Hi Robin,

    Thanks for offering us the chance to talk about ourselves.

    I'm similar to you in that I'm my own biggest critic. I look at my photos and see faults. I have taken only a handful of photos in my life that I am 100 per cent happy with.

    I pick up my camera because I like to express myself through art, and to me photography is an art form. In fact, photography is many art forms because different genres - such as street, landscape and macro - require different skills and produce vastly different results.

    One motivating factor is the fact that I am lucky to travel a lot and to live in interesting countries (I'm from New Zealand but have lived in Turkey, South Korea, Hungary and now Malaysia). This means that I am always surrounded by new and interesting people, scenery, cultures and so on.

    Finally, I enjoy owning nice things. This is one reason that I shoot with an Olympus Micro Four Thirds system. My E-P3 camera is very nice, and the M. Zuiko glass has something special about it. Every time I pick up the 12/2.0 or 17/1.8 or 45/1.8 or 60/2.8 Macro, I get a little tingle of pleasure. And that's before I even start shooting.


    1. Hey Newzild,
      You are so lucky !! You get to travel for work, and we must meet up when you are in KL next. You were right, being in different places, being exposed to different cultures, people and sceneries, the motivation to shoot should not run out !

      I have that little "tingle of pleasure" too before I start shooting, I thought i was imagining things!

    2. It is amazing to see other people feel just the same. I have taken pictures since probably about 15 years ago, but only sporadically. I really picked up photography again when I came to Malaysia for the first time, 4 years ago. I always enjoyed taking pictures, but it was special when I was exposed to that culture for the first time. It only got me hooked though.
      These days I'm snapping lots of different pictures, different styles and don't think I will ever really specialize. I love to try out new things, but I never get bored shooting portraits, shooting landscape shots or macro shots of even the simplest everyday things. I never run out of things to shoot - and it is just relaxing. Whether I'm shooting in Malaysia (which I still frequently visit), Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore or Europe (from which I am), there is an amazing shot waiting to be taken in every place at any time.

      As a freelancer (not photography, mind you!) my life is rather hectic, but even thinking of taking off half an hour to press the trigger and take some nice shots makes me tingle. I'm amazed you guys have that as well. This "shutter therapy" as you like to call it, is just what I need to make my day complete. Photography became more of a passion than a hobby - and I think that is also a key to never getting bored and staying motivated. An undying passion that keeps you longing for more.

      However, I have to say that from the tens of thousands of pictures I snapped to date, I had quite a number of pics I was happy with, yet not a single one that I am 100% happy with. And I believe that day, when I finally take a picture that satisfies me for 100%, might never come. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, because it keeps me hooked. As my skillset grows, my eye for detail grows as well. So whenever I get better, I also get better at seeing my own mistakes - which is probably why you managed to shoot just handful of those pictures yourself.

      I might never get the perfect shot, but I do have some that I really like and enjoy looking back at. I purposely chose an FZ200 as main camera, because it offers a wide variety of features, a flexible 2.8 lens and good image quality despite the small sensor. I put lots of thought into whether to buy an FZ200, bridge camera or DSLR. But I chose the FZ200 for the features in a small body that allows me to carry it around wherever I go. There are plenty of other cameras for those specifics, some with way superior image quality, but for me it was just the right tool and still is to date.

      And even if I should one day upgrade to a full frame DSLR, I probably will also get a light MFT alternative (or similar) as a second camera.
      Because no matter how you look at it:

      There is just too much beauty in the world to leave your camera at home :)

    3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts xtj7!

      You put it down very well, perhaps photography to many of us has evolved into passion, rather than just mere hobby, hence there is something insatiable about it, we can never get enough and we want to do more and more.

      FZ200 is a great camera, versatile with a lot of built in functions, surely capable in most shooting conditions. Yes, as you mentioned a full frame DSLR would have been more capable but hey, what is the point if you cannot bring the camera with you everywhere all the time? Photography opportunities happen at most unexpected moments. The best camera is the camera that is with you at that time !

    4. I absolutely agree with you, the urge of always wanting more is definitly present.

      Well, there is always a better camera, a better lens, a better filter etc. - and if all the technical bits are maxed out, then new things are about to come onto the market. And even with these it is still entirely up to the photographer how god or bad the pictures are going to turn out. There is no use in owning a Ferrari if you don't know how to drive :)

      Also it is much more interesting to constantly push your own and your gears limits further, learn more tricks and techniques for better pictures and improve yourself first.
      If you feel ready and are willing to spend the money to get a fabulous camera, then that is great. But a top photographer without his expensive camera is still a top photographer. You can see that very well in DigitalRevs cheap camera challenges on YouTube. If you are experienced and you know what you want, you can achieve the shot you're looking for even with cheap equipment :)

      One more thing: Thank you for this site. It has been very inspirational to me, especially in that it made me want to try out portrait photography (which I never really did before). Since I started it, I kinda fell in love with it. You can see some of my shots here:
      One of the things your blog tought me, was that the streets are offering all sorts of interesting people, animals and sceneries :)

  2. I suppose this is a chance for regular readers of Robin's blog to provide links to some of our photos. This is my Flickr photostream:

    1. NO worries, poeople can always share, we learn from each other this way. That is one wonderful collection there ! I see you have been very busy with your 60mm macro lens !

    2. Amazing shots! Especially the Macro shots are really stunning. I'm impressed! :)

  3. What makes me shoot? Well, for personal work, it's usually an expression of feelings that particular day. Or exploring light with infrared. The infrared shooting has been very enjoyable since having a camera converted to full spectrum. It's always a surprise too as some images are recorded in odd ways. Here is a USA flag where the stars and stripes (screen printed) have disappeared because those reflected color wavelengths were not recorded.

    Oddities in science have always amused me, and infrared is a great way to explore this.

    1. Libby,
      Curiosity is your driving motivation !! Indeed many things are yet unknown or unexplained, yet they are being captured with the camera. This may not be related, but I do have a friend who shoots so many different spiders, and he is profficient in identifying the spiders, and he has got hundreds of spiders that he has yet to identify in his collection of photos !

      I like how you mentioned you shoot to express your feeling. Photography is a form of art that allows an outlet for emotions. And most compelling photographs have strong emotions !

  4. Hi Robin,
    Nice b & w pics... love the street cat pic. Well, I always try to do new things on the camera, like borrowing a different lens from a friend or using longer shutter speed. Lately, I been documenting myself into off camera manual flash photography with light modifiers... So I've got a lot more to play with, I even purchase my first light stand and an umbrella to with. This is very interesting and is a different approach to photography. I recommend Zack Arias - One light DVD.

    1. Hello Johan,
      Thanks for the kind words. I love the cat too !
      It is interesting to see when someone is really into what he is doing, he never runs out of ideas or things to do ! There are so much more to explore, and experiment, surely that itself is the motivation, as you have mentioned about playing with manual flash.

  5. I shoot to record things that I've seen. But I do not shoot everything but like most people, shooting what interests me or something that I think others may find it interesting.

    Staying abroad awhile makes me realize and appreciate the landscape of KL downtown, especially some older buildings.

    Recently I explored the old KL railway station. The Northern Indian + Moorish style makes it a very unique combination for a building IMO.
    If not mistaken there's a cathedral nearby there, perhaps I can try explore that side next time.

    1. Hello Cliff,
      I am very glad you find KL very fascinating for photography !! Yes do come back and shoot more, those old buildings, some of them won't stand forever, especially with the government making way for MRT.

  6. I do photography because it is fun! I like being out and about with my camera, discovering new places, and trying new techniques.
    I also like reviewing the photos on my computer, post-processing the images in Lightroom (and sometime in Photoshop).

    I often wonder if it is the engineer inside of me that makes me think that the tecnical apsects of photography are fun to learn and to practice. I do not consider myself to be an artist, but I am always pleased when I see one of my own photographs that have some artistic aspects in them.

    Just as important, my photography seems to be a visual recorded history of where I've been, what I've done, and who I was with.
    I must have 20 photo albums full of photos that were printed at my local drug store (all made before I switched to digital in 2002). Those photo albums are all arranged in a chronological order. Now that I shoot only digital, I use Lightroom to keep all of my photos in chronological order. My photographs are a visual history of my life.

    I too, am very critical of my own photography. I'm constantly learning. I am not a expert at any of it, but I do feel like I have progressed to more than just the point-and-shoot methods.

    I also shoot what I want, but on occassion I do portraits for pay.

    My families have always had a cat as our pet, and each cat has its own unique personality. I love your cat photos, as they do capture the "spirit" of them, just like Kirk Tuck can seem to capture the spirit of the people that he takes portraits of.

    1. Hello Gregg,
      I too, as an engineer, can relate to your thinking of the technical aspects !! I sometimes consider myself void of any artistic sense, and would wonder how some art accidentally happened in some shots.

      I think photography, despite being an important artistic medium, is a more important tool for documentation. After all, it was the only medium capable of visual documentation before video recording was available.

  7. For me, its the fun of it, recording interesting things: contrasts in things, contrast in colors, contrasts in shapes, or patterns - and sometimes just shooting for memories. I love -adore even- beauty in all its many forms. And if you look really hard, there is much beauty on this planet. And much misery (again: contrasts). I like to record all of that. Another "contrast" I like is using old or even ancient equipment and often amaze myself how well it can perform. Some of the best shots were made with ancient stuff, like pre-war Contaxes and 6x6.

    1. Hello Andre,
      You described it very well, the fun comes from shooting itself, and seeing, appreciating the beauty (of the opposite of beauty). The fun is also in using the equipment ! How true !

  8. Very good points and nice article again, Robin (I have followed your blog for a few months already though this is the first time I comment on it).
    Definitely, as long as you are not taking pictures as your primary income source (an even then), photography is a way of knowing and enjoying yourself, so totally agree about capturing whatever interests you and grabs your attention, forgetting about external influences.
    I used to live in KL a few years ago, but I was not that interested in photography back then. I will return in my next holidays soon, first time in years, and will be a great chance to "re-experience" the city through my camera!

    1. Hello desartico,
      Indeed, photography, when being used for yourself only, is the most fun thing to do !
      Yes, do come back to KL and "re-experience" it from a photographers point of view. Things will be even more beautiful this time.

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  10. hi Robin, this is interesting and it sure can be another motivation material.To be honest, I do find a lot of motivation from acknowledgment from the audience. Every single comment to my blog photo will definitely encourage me even more.( It would be great if you have a view at my blog too,haha.) Of course, I will not stop after every acknowledgement but will push forward for more because i know there are more to be explored and more of myself to be discovered. Thing doesn't stop but keep moving forward,some how time management might stop my step into photography. Of course,aside from acknowledgement my interest in photography started to grow and continue to grow from me wanting to explored my own idea and and speak out my message through photo.
    Meng Yeap

    1. Hello Meng Yeap,
      I would love to see your blog but when I clicked on your profile it says "The Blogger Profile you requested cannot be displayed. Many Blogger users have not yet elected to publicly share their Profile."
      Do let me know when you have fixed it !