Little habits add up to big steps in productivity and inspiration. Get your day started right with tips from sixteen Shutterstock contributors.
Every morning, Steve Jobs would to look at himself in the mirror and ask a single question: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” He did this each day for more than three decades. Our morning routines don’t only set the tone for the rest of our days—they set the tone for our lives.
Whether it’s waking up early to squeeze in a morning run or making a breakfast treat to motivate you as you go about your daily chores, the little things add up. We asked sixteen photographers from around the world to give us a peek into their morning rituals. Here are the inspiring routines they’ve established to boost their creativity and productivity.
1. On watching the sunrise:
Image by Darcy Rogers
Sunrise is my favorite time of day. I usually wake up chug down a big glass of cold water, eat a piece of fruit, and then prepare a cup of coffee. I’ll usually sit for a few minutes by the window and stare at the sky while sipping my coffee.
This ritual helps me get creatively centered. I usually give myself about half an hour and then start to edit photos from recent shoots. I do editing first thing because that is when I feel most fresh.
Image by Ian Mitchinson
I dreamed about living by the sea, and one day I just moved there. I wake up early and go run by the waves. If the waves and light are good, I usually go grab my camera, wetsuit, and fins and then go swim out to the waves and try to get pictures of them. Sometimes, I’ll be waiting before the sun comes up in anticipation of catching the waves with the morning light on them.
Image by Mariia Kamenska
I live near the Baltic sea, and it’s a ten-minute walk to the beach. Days that start with watching the sunrise are always successful. Plus, it gives me plenty of additional time for photography and my hobbies.
Image by Charlie Blacker
I like to get up early and watch the ocean every morning. There’s something so serene about a crisp new day. I try not to put pressure on myself to produce content either. In other words, I wait for inspiration to come to me before I grab my camera. I don’t like walking around with a camera just looking for a picture. I like it to be inspired and candid!
2. On research and inspiration:
Image by astarot
Dragan Radojevic (aka astarot):
My morning routine is: breakfast, coffee, shower, more coffee, surfing the web, and work. Surfing the internet is one of the most important things you can do as a stock photographer. You need to check out new trends and determine what’s “in” and what’s “out.”
Image by Katya Havok
Of course, I have a cup of coffee first. Then, at breakfast, I like to look through the materials that inspire me. It can be a variety of things, from music videos to articles about art. I work from home, with help from my faithful cat and a friend named Marceline. Together, we prepare everything for our shoots: backgrounds, props, objects, etc. And then the work begins!
3. On self-care:
Image by Ashley Kamara
I always remember self-care first. I have five young children, and if I haven’t taken care of things before they’re up, I’m more than likely not going to get to them as quickly as I’d like. Simple life necessities such as brushing my teeth, showering in peace, brewing two shots of espresso, and getting in a mental mindset for what lies ahead are things I truly need to have done before they wake up. Otherwise, my productivity is impaired for the rest of that day.
Image by Rudo film
Kazakova Anastasia (Rudo film):
It’s important for me to wake up without a ringing alarm clock and have a slow, calm breakfast. I use this time to plan my day. I also try not to hurry or rush myself, since this hour is for recharging and gearing up for the rest of the day.
4. On exercise:
Image by Katie Rain
I like to sit on the couch on quiet mornings and enjoy that first before doing anything else. After that, I have to exercise before I can start work. I usually take a CrossFit class at my gym at 9:00 AM, and then I am ready to work!
Image by Alison Etcheverry
After breakfast, I have to exercise—a brisk walk with the dogs or some bicycling. Then I take a shower and procrastinate for half an hour or so before finally getting to work. I always have a pot of tea on my desk or a thermos if I’m out on the field!
Image by Liz Cooper
This is likely an aspiration for me, as this doesn’t happen all the time, but being active in some way at the beginning of the day is the best way to set the stage for a productive day. Walking your dog, gardening, something like that. It doesn’t have to be a “workout”—just something to get your blood flowing.
Image by Max Belchenko
Every day, I get up at 7:30 and go running. There’s a forest nearby, so it’s very nice. Then I sit down and work at the computer. Two to three days a week, I organize a shoot in the evening. I think you need to be involved in something else besides photography. I personally love sports and spend a lot of time playing them.
Image by Marcin Jucha
For me, there is no better kick-off than walking my dog! It’s the best cure for everything. It reduces my blood pressure, increases my energy, and improves my sense of well-being. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s thirty minutes or two hours. It always helps.
5. On gardening:
Image by Rachel Weill
My office is at home, so once the kids leave for school, I find there are two things that almost always guarantee a productive day: a short hike in the open space near my home or a few minutes in my wild backyard garden. Often on my garden check, I will find a plant or detail that will inspire a quick unexpected photo shoot for my stock library. As much as possible, I try to shoot when I get the motivation and not wait until “there’s more time.” There is never time, but shooting consistently is important.
6. On to-do lists:
Image by Laura Froese
I have three little ones, all under three years old, so my mornings are hectic. Thus, I spend a little bit of time each night creating a goal list for the next day. This list has everything you can imagine on it. From simple things like “shower” or “put a pot roast in the slow cooker” to daily cleaning goals to work goals such as “edit fifty photos” or “create a blog post.”
I often break some of the tasks down into line items that can be completed in a few minutes, so I can cross something off anytime I find a moment. Anything that needs to get done in a day in the midst of parenting three tiny humans while running a home business goes on this list. I pick away at it as time allows, and it keeps me focused and productive. It also allows me to keep my headspace free for the task at hand rather than feeling overwhelmed or wondering what I need to do next.
Image by Jessica Ebelhar
For me, a productive morning starts in the evening. At the end of the day, before bed, I typically review my to-do list. Because of developments throughout a typical workday (new client inquiries, current client requests, project updates, etc.), priorities can change drastically by evening. Taking stock of developments at the day’s end, I re-prioritize my list based on the urgency of the tasks and set an agenda for the following morning.
Essentially, I give myself a roadmap for the day. It seems small, but it really enables me to dive into work headfirst and make the most of those optimal morning hours, without spending any mental energy deciding where to focus. A strong start definitely sets the tone for a productive day. That and cold brew!
Top Image by Marcin Jucha.
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