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According to a March survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Glassdoor, half of employees believe that they would be equally or more productive working from home as opposed to their typical work location, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t facing unprecedented distractions. 

32% of participating employees say that the top distraction would be watching television, and 27% would be concerned about managing childcare while working from home; 22% say they’re concerned about going “stir crazy” while encouraged to work from home. 

We asked five photographers to share how they plan to stay focused and eliminate distractions during this unprecedented time. The coronavirus pandemic has plunged us into a period of uncertainty, but we can also take steps to regain control over our work lives. Read on for tips from the pros. 

© Anna Salvador

Set a routine. 

“Although it’s hard sometimes, I’ve been trying to divide the day into two parts,” the Auckland-based photographer Anna Salvador tells us. “In the morning I work on several projects, including a personal project that will last the duration of the quarantine, and in the evenings, and I’m working on my portfolio/website that I want to keep updating. 

“To stay focused and productive, I leave my phone in another room to remove distractions, and I also take breaks to make some tea or coffee while I conceptualize new ideas for upcoming personal projects.

“Besides working for hours on the laptop, let yourself enjoy some free time. Call someone, watch movies, read books, write your thoughts down, do some physical exercise to clarify your mind, or even just bake sourdough bread from scratch. You’ll see that if you find balance within your daily routine, you’ll be more productive during your working hours next day.”

© Christopher Mitchell

Stick to your regular workday. 

“I’ve tried to keep a regular working day from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and also have weekends where I attempt to switch off from work,” the London-based photographer Christopher Mitchell explains. “I’ve mainly been spending my time organizing a lot of old hard drives, and combining them onto the cloud and also slowly reorganizing my website. 

“One item on my list of things to do during my work days is a personal project of mine based around my girlfriend’s brooches she’s collected over the years. I’ve meant to shoot this for a while, but with commissions and recently moving house, it got put to the side. So now, with plenty of free time, I’ll hoping to see this finally get brought to reality. 

“Keeping your regular weekly schedule can help you stay focused and productive, but at the same time, I think it’s also important to realize that this is really nothing like most of us will ever have seen in our lifetimes. If you need this time to just relax and take stock of what’s going on, that’s completely fine. Look after yourself.”

© Tonje Thilesen

Take pictures even when you’re not inspired. 

If you’re feeling creatively blocked, a simple change can inspire new ways of thinking. “I want to start off by saying that it’s totally okay–and normal!–to not be at your most productive right now,” the photographer Tonje Thilesen, who is currently staying with a friend in the outskirts of Medellin, Colombia, tells us.

“At the same time, I will say that forcing myself to shoot during this time has been extremely helpful for my mental health, even though I didn’t feel inspired to begin with.  

“I try to look at the room I’m in from a different angle every day, and observe how the sunlight moves around throughout the day. I then think of how I can photograph everyday objects (or the people) around me in that exact spot. There isn’t really a plan to any of it, besides curiosity and awareness of space.” 

“If you’re in a small apartment, rearrange your furniture. Just the act of creating or thinking about creating helps give me a sense of purpose. I also started looking at my immediate surroundings and neighborhood differently–suddenly something mundane such as a barbed wire fence felt more interesting. Heck, I even started bird watching.” 

“This might be a very basic recommendation, but it has worked for me: if you’re not happy with what you create today, just try again tomorrow.”
Valerie – Body Data 2020, my last photograph before lockdown, featuring @valerie_ebuwa © Henry Gorse


Concentrate on one subject at a time.

“Although staying indoors can be seen as limiting, there is endless potential here for photographers,” the English photographer Henry Gorse explains. “If you are struggling for a project, focus on one subject and make one photograph a day. A good example would be Uta Barth documenting how the light falls throughout her home. The power of the image is all the images together. 

“One of my favorite photographers, John Blakemore, shot many of his books inside his home. Whether it was of his cat’s daily antics, a series of prisms in the window, or the life cycle of tulips on his table, he managed to make a whole body of work around it.

“Get started by shooting absolutely anything, and then figure out what resonates with you the most. Don’t be scared to embrace the iPhone, either. It’s a camera, and a good picture is a good picture!” 

© Christopher Schoonover

If you’re having trouble shooting, tackle the business-related tasks first. 

“Making new work during this time is really great, but it can be challenging,” the Brooklyn-based photographer Christopher Schoonover says. “Remember that it’s also important to be maximizing the potential of work you already have. If you’re not feeling particularly creative, I can suggest a few things. 

“First, selling prints is a great way to make some extra income with your photography. If you can’t make any new photos, post some from your archives and see what happens. I sell on Society6, but there are a ton of other great services. 

“This isn’t for everyone, but now is also a great time to consider selling some of your photos as stock photos. Stock photo sites always need the most random images, so have a ball. Make some new images or post some outtakes from your archives.

“Also, consider doing some research for projects you have planned. Look at the work of the masters, and find inspiration in magazines, books, Pinterest, etc. Make mood boards for multiple themed shoots you’d like to do when business resumes. Doing this can help you stay on track now and in the future.” 

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