With everyone already in the new year swing of things, the new has worn off and sometimes you feel a little sluggish trying to move forward with your photo projects. I know myself, I couldn't even pretend to commit to a Photo a Day project because I knew I would never keep up with it. I know I know, if I never put forth effort to maintain a project I will never fulfill one, but one of my resolutions of 2013 was to create and continually post on my blog and here you are reading it!
The largest part of this feeling of losing touch with your projects comes from losing motivation and inspiration. Poets and Composers had muses, rock stars have coma inducing drugs (I don't condone the use of the drugs by the way. Terrible terrible things, they are.) and for many photographers, including myself and most likely you, our inspiration comes from our peers and their work. Not to say that we cant be inspired by our surroundings, but when you "surround" yourself with those whose surroundings are different than your own, how can you not help but be inspired by them?
#2) HONEST CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
We have all been in that situation, where you share some of your work on a photography forum. You feel so proud of your work but you know there are things that need to be fixed, but you either receive nothing or you get ripped to shreds by someone you can't even verify is a photographer. I am not saying that forums can't be helpful, but with your group mates all there sitting around a screen or a print, you will see expressions and opinions of your photo right from the start. With everyone helping with their own opinions and skill levels, you will get a more honest answer than from people you have no true connections to.
#3) FRIENDLY COMPETITION
What's better than to have a photo contest with your friends? The winner could just have his meal paid for when you all meet up but knowing that you grew as an artist for the sake of doing the best you can is a very wonderful experience. The reason I think this works so well is because you all spend time trying to build each other up while strengthening yourself.
#4) SOCIAL ACTIVITY
It's great to have friends that love the same thing you do. You can go shooting together, have a friend to geek out over gear with and gain a strong bond with your peers.
This is one of the most important, if you have 5 friends that are landscape and nature photographers and someone is looking for a portrait photographer, they are much more likely to throw your name out there. From the other end of the spectrum, if you know a few wedding photographers, you have a great chance of getting second shooter jobs or assistant gigs that help pay the bills in between your National Geographic assignments.
So there you have it, photo groups. You need one, so go find one. If you can't find one, start one! Put a few ads on craigslist or up in your university. You will be surprised by some of the replies, you receive. There are many people out there who love taking photos and who are looking to get better. So get out there and get some photo friends!