Over time, we all develop our own unique sets of comfort zones. It might have to do with genres. Maybe while I enjoy doing landscapes, you’re more comfortable with portraits. Your comfort zones could also be techniques. Tried and true photographic methods that you’ve used so often that they’ve become second nature to you.
Sometimes, the comfort zone is one based on location. I have destinations that I visit regularly to take new photographs, and likely, most other photographers do as well. At these places, it’s easy to keep focusing on our favorite parts of the scenery or to take photographs similar to those we’ve taken on prior visits. Your comfort zone, in this case, is the familiarity of the place.
Even in new places, you can develop a comfort zone of sorts. The first photographs most of us take when visiting somewhere that we’ve never been before? It’s usually the most obvious ones. Things like notable landmarks or wide shots of a large area. Sometimes, we become so involved in snapping up all of this “low hanging fruit” that we overlook the more challenging—and potentially more rewarding—images.
But you know what? It’s worthwhile to step outside of your photographic comfort zones, whatever they may be. In fact, I would say that it is good for us to take on new challenges as much as we can. Why? Because in so doing, we force ourselves to rise to these challenges—and in the end, that makes us better photographers.
The thing is if we always do everything the easy way? It impedes the learning process. It’s no different than being an athlete. If you want to be a fast runner, then you need to push yourself to run faster. Running slowly, though it may be easier, might help build your endurance. Ultimately, though, it’s the long way to become a faster runner. In photography, if we’re always taking the easy photographs, certainly, learning still does occur. But it doesn’t occur as quickly as when you jump in at the deep end and take photographs that you’re not sure you can successfully execute.
Push past your boundaries wherever, whenever and however you can. Focus on creating photographs that challenge you. Doing so comes with several advantages. It forces you to really think about what it is that you’re doing, and it also puts you in a frame of mind to really consider the image as you’re creating it. You’ll find that when you have put this level of effort into a photograph, the resulting image is very often better than something that might have been easier.
And that’s where the real benefits make themselves known. You’ll gain more knowledge, which will broaden you as an artist. Even more, the sense of accomplishment that comes from creating a difficult image successfully? After all the effort you put in, there are few better feelings than the satisfaction of having achieved such a feat.