As much as I enjoy bringing plastic figures to life through toy photography, I often have to contend with the devil on my shoulder who tempts me to just throw in the towel and call it a day. The red little guy makes a compelling case for quitting, as there are numerous forces in my life working in tandem to prevent me from getting behind my camera. Doing some soul searching, I’ve managed to cobble together the top five things that make me want to quit toy photography, along with three that make me want to continue.
What makes me want to quit
1. Seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder, appropriately abbreviated as “SAD” is something I’ve dealt with my whole life, but not something I ever known was a thing until recently. I’m a blue sky and bright sunshine kind of guy which, living in New Jersey, means I’m my best me from June through August. Sometimes I get lucky and the warm weather lasts until October, but once it goes away, it takes with it the bulk of my enthusiasm for doing pretty much anything.
Like a bear hibernating in a cave, I find myself wanting to just sleep off the colder months until spring. I try to use Halloween as an anchor to get me through fall, and the holidays through to the end of the year, but it’s a struggle. Dealing with sleep issues, feeling grouchy all the time, and having difficulty focusing all combine to keep me leaving my toys in the dark.
2. Lack of time
There are brief moments when I am able to shake my SAD feelings and find inspiration to shoot a photo. That is when a lack of time steps in to slap me right in the face, While my seasonal disorder comes and goes, finding time for toy photography has become increasingly harder and harder these days.
It isn’t just time for toy photography that I’m wrestling with, it’s finding any amount of minuscule “me” time during the week. I work full time, have two kids with increasing extracurricular schedules, and that doesn’t leave me with much of a day for shooting photos.
I look at my Instagram feed and I see so many artists cranking out amazing work on a daily basis. I wish I could keep up with that pace, but I’m lucky if I have one image to share a week. Most times it’s two weeks between shots. Sometimes three. This iregularity takes another swipe at my enthusiasm, and tees my mental state up for a perfect storm with #3…
3. Lack of energy
Energy. I just don’t have enough of it right now. The seasonal thing combined with feeling like I’m stuck in an endless lack-of-time-loop is mentally draining. At the end of the day, I barely have the strength left to do anything besides brush my teeth and go to bed.
I may doom scroll on my phone for a bit, or play five minutes of a video game while fighting to keep my eyes open, but grabbing my camera and setting up a shot is completely out of the question. It’s depressing, as ideas for photos pop up during the day, but the energy isn’t there to actually bring the ideas to life.
4. Lack of money
In addition to my mental and time shortcomings, my limited finances also have me contemplating quitting this hobby. Despite my best efforts, I am not independently wealthy. This proves to be a challenge as there are so many amazing toys out there that I’d love to get my hands on to shoot. It doesn’t help that I have collector-type tendencies, so if there is a line of figures, I feel a strong urge to “catch them all,” regardless if I am going to shoot them all.
Making matters worse, I don’t have a good storage system for my toys, so oftentimes they are just in disorganized piles surrounding my workspace. While others have an ability to thrive in a mess, for me, it is a creativity drain.
There have been moments where I feel the only way to deal with the mess and the constant allure of the next new toy is to cut my losses and sell off my entire collection.
5 Lack of… Instagram
Last on my quit list is the most embarrassing to say out loud, but if I’m being super honest, it’s Instagram. My Instagram reach has been on life support for the past year. I’m fully aware that likes and followers are meaningless, but a drop of around 80% in engagement on my photos weighs heavy on an already damaged psyche.
Sure, it may just be Instagram constantly moving the goal post on me, but it still makes me second guess the quality of my photos. Is my lack of energy apparent in my shots? Have I lost my creativity? Do my photos just completely suck? It’s hard not to wonder as I watch my Instagram account stagnate. It’s to a point where watching my photos just vanish into a void week after week has me contemplating deleting my Instagram account and walking away.
Instagram’s move to prioritize videos only exaserbates my issues, as I don’t have the time or energy to put together Reels in addition to my photos.
What keeps me going
My five reasons for quitting might not sound like much from the outside, but for me, they are quite a negative force conspiring against my toy photography. Thankfully, putting all of them down on “paper” has been therapeutic. After all, you can’t beat your demons if you don’t know who they are… or something like that.
While thinking of the things that make me want to quit, I’m reminded of the things that make me want to continue.
I’ve made a ton of friends thanks to toy photography, and I absolutely thrive on the encouragement and camaraderie that is synonymous with our community. There is also a near infinite amount of inspiration and motivation which keep me wanting to learn and improve—all while having fun in a genre of photography where it is impossible to take yourself seriously.
2. Pride in my work
When I take a moment to reflect upon my photos, I am really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. In my own humble opinion, my skills have come a long way from where I started, and there’s still endless room to grow and improve. This extends beyond photography, as I’m currently interested in exploring building my own dioramas and props.
3. The challenge
Despite the urge to quit, I still love the challenge of toy photography and the opportunity to create whatever crazy concept comes into my head. It’s a thrill bringing tiny little worlds to life, and there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing an idea materialize through your lens.
Have you ever felt the need to leave?
As loud and as frequent as the devil on my shoulder is getting, I’m not planning on listening to him anytime soon. I may slow down and take breaks from toy photography, but I truly enjoy this hobby, and hope to keep playing with toys for the foreseeable future. Though please, someone wake me up when spring gets here.