It happens all the time, you purchase a camera and instantly you fall in love, like most love affairs you start to invest a rather large amount of money into the "new found relationship"... So, what do you do? Well, you start to take it more seriously, and after a while, you start to lose that flame. Sound familiar? Thought so. It becomes a job, you find yourself only taking your camera out when you're getting paid, you get annoyed when friends and family members invite you somewhere and pitch your photo taking ability, they tell you it's an opportunity, and often this causes you to leave your camera at home.
Now this hasn't affected me YET, at least not long term, but I think it's because I keep myself motivated. This week I didn't have any gigs so instead of staying at home, I continued to work on a few of my own personal projects... Which gets me to my first point.
As a professional getting paid gigs are obviously important, but having projects on your own is equally beneficial, not only does it polish your skills, but it also gives you new ideas, and opportunities to build clientele, who may see you shooting or sharing these images. Perhaps set a few side projects for yourself, a 365 project is always a good one to start with, or if that's too much, perhaps, a monthly photo challenge. Always keep yourself busy and active, and just consider it advertisement.
Now take these projects and use them to your advantage, in a professional setting things are a lot more stressful. You're usually on a schedule and held back by multiple time restraints, removing you from being creative and your ending result is capturing that "safe" photo. No more playing it safe, take your personal time and be as creative as possible, try something new, if it fails then fine, but sometimes you may just get that hidden gem... You know what this creates? Confidence.
Another huge aspect of photography is location, in major cities like Detroit a lot of the preferred settings have been done over and over again, now sometimes that isn't a big deal if you're getting paid, but as a hobbyist shooting those same locations can get old... fast. Try a new place, often you can find beauty in some of the roughest areas, remember this is photography, it's about the picture being beautiful, you can always manipulate your surroundings.
If all else fails, then my last tip is to purchase new gear, doesn't have to be anything insanely expensive, but it doesn't hurt to treat yourself once in awhile. I've been on a tight budget as of late, but my new found love is vintage lenses, I can pick up one or two per month without breaking the bank, and the results are pretty amazing. Check out some of the older M42 mounts, the quality of the lens, both optically and physically are superb. Also don't forget to pick up the proper mount for your camera, currently, I shoot Fujifilm so I've been using the adapter from Fotodiox, you can find it here.