How-to: Busting the Mental Blockage

What do you struggle with in your photography? Is it difficult to pick up your camera and dedicate time to explore and push your capabilities forward? Or are you in the other camp, photographing constantly but hitting the doldrums in your art?

Like anything else we do, investing time is required to become proficient and with this, boredom can set in. If you are proficient in using your camera and it’s not in your hands as often as it once was, it is time to reassess your photographic vision. Likewise, if you aren’t proficient with your camera yet it is time to tackle the barriers.


You have a DSLR or mirror-less camera sitting somewhere collecting dust. It’s not being used, most likely due to several reasons.

No Time.

I hear this one often yet it’s easiest to address. Make a date with your camera. It may sound ridiculous, but it does work. Look at your calendar and create an event, even if it’s for just 30 minutes. You don’t have to go anywhere, just pick up your camera and use it. Take pictures of your family, your pets, your home. At the end of the session, schedule another date but keep the dates close, not longer than a week apart. You will find that you are photographing portraits, architecture, and still life without even realizing it. Keep your camera out, in view. Seeing it will remind you of your date. It will help you contemplate what to photograph next. Keep in mind, there is always something to photograph.

Stuck in Auto.

Your camera has 5 standard modes, yet the dial has never moved out of Auto. This is analogous to owning a high-end stand mixer and using it to only prepare boxed cake mixes. You own a photographic powerhouse. Pull out the manual and read the chapter regarding the modes. Familiarize yourself with what shutter priority does (S on Nikon, Tv on Canon), how aperture priority (A on Nikon, Av on Canon) affects an image, and what the scary manual mode (M) does. Turn the dial on the camera to an unfamiliar mode and see how an image is altered. Understand the relationships of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Turn the dials, take a shot and see what happens. Download your camera manual to your phone so you can quickly access it anywhere you go. The beauty of digital photography is instant gratification. You immediately have the results at hand. Your camera won’t break. I promise.


You have hit the wall. You know how to use your camera, but you feel like you’ve outgrown it. Nothing new to do with it. This is a great doldrum to be in. No, I am not being sarcastic. The beauty of photography is that it has no limits. I mean this literally. Mastering techniques like macro, nature, focus stacking, portraiture, lighting, black and white, landscape, infrared, night, architecture, photojournalism, astrolandscapes, deep space astrophotography to just list a few, gives you an idea of the breadth of variety that photography encompasses. If you are bored, it is time to use that camera on something else. Set your sights on a technique you aren’t familiar with or comfortable with. That well-acquainted camera will suddenly feel foreign. Your boredom is now delightfully shattered.

Blast from the Past

One of the things that shook up my photography last year was pulling out my old film camera (a Nikon N6006). I haven’t used the camera for years, since I bought my D70s. I was surprised to find a roll of film still loaded, halfway through the exposures. It was a joy to hold that camera again and it reminded me of how much fun I had with it. I always loved film. Shooting a roll of film makes you really think about why you are pressing the shutter, something that has been lost along the way with the onset of digital cameras.

So, after +/- 20 years I finally finished shooting this roll of film. I took my time selecting frames to use up the remaining shots with. I have no idea what’s on this roll. It could be moments with my parents or my daughter as a tot, it could be anything really. This roll of film is a time capsule. A mystery. Pondering the possibilities that exist on this roll brought a rollercoaster of emotions on.

Going back to film, where there is a set limit to the number of shots on a roll, forced me to downshift from 5th gear to 1st. Shooting film is a radical adjustment to your digital IG experience. You don’t have unlimited tries to get the shot. You can’t review the image you just took so you need to carefully assess what is in your viewfinder well before the shutter is tripped. Using my film camera again made me reevaluate my digital photography. It was a smack to my psyche. I have new rolls of film in the wings. I’m excited to spend more quality time with my old friend N6006.

Fun fact, the lithium battery still had power. I recently finished shooting the roll and rewound the exposed film with the battery from so long ago. Back then, these batteries weren’t rechargeable. At first discovering the battery was still in the camera my heart sank. I expected a corroded mess in the battery compartment. It wasn’t the case, however. It was clean and I did not expect the camera to fire up at all with such an old battery. But it sure did.

Keep in mind photography is something you can never completely master. Your skills are aggregated but will never plateau. It’s more than knowing how to use the camera, it’s a journey of visualization and timing.

It is a life-long endeavor.

How have you pushed yourself forward in your art? What are your goals this year? What are or have been your hurdles? Let’s hear them in the comments.

Below, an image from a negative I scanned with my Nikon D850. This was from 1991 at Disney World photographed with my N6006.

© Silvana Della Camera

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2 replies
  1. Paul Smith
    Paul Smith says:

    I wasn’t so lucky when I decided to sell my Nikon F5 that had been sitting in drawer for 15 years. The AA batteries had corroded and I need a new battery tray. Of course Nikon stopped making them a long time ago. I found one on eBay someone was selling for $150! No way I was going to pay that much for a battery tray. I called KEH to see if they had an old battery tray lying around, no luck. They did have a working Nikon F5 and I asked if they could check to see if my Nikon F5 was still in good working order using the battery tray they had from their F5 and they were kind enough to test it for me. The good news is, the camera is still in good working order. If only I could find a tray. 😭

    • Silvana Della Camera
      Silvana Della Camera says:

      Oh No!! That’s awful! Do you think a tray could be made using a 3D printer? Just a thought. Did you try contacting Nikon directly? They may have some parts kicking around.


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