If photography adds to your stress and dread instead of dissolving it, then it is perhaps necessary to get some perspective. Take some time off from photography, and just do something different. Enjoy other things in life not for their photographic merit, but for their intrinsic worth. My wife keeps me anchored a bit, and reminds me of what is important when all I'm thinking of is whether something would look better in TriX or TMax400. I always enjoy shooting film, otherwise I stop doing it. The urge eventually returns if one waits long enough. It is pointless to produce endless rubbish for relaxation, but it is also pointless to stress yourself out over something that should be fun.
Originally Posted by batwister
My mindset is to photograph what I like, and to capture and show the beauty of the subject in the photograph. Others try to make good images (and some indeed manage to do so). But it doesn't work well for me. If my goal becomes the photograph itself, it falls flat for me, almost as if the whole process is contrived. Hence, I dislike competitions - they work against my photo logic. I cannot say what should work for you, but I can recommend that you figure out what you want to achieve, and what would make you happy with your photography in the long run, whether it is to exhibit, win competitions, make prints for sale, impress your friends or simply remind yourself where you've been and how far you've come. And try to figure out whether your interest lies in the subjects or concepts you photograph or in the photographs themselves. That will take you some way towards understanding how to remedy your perceived stagnation, whether you need to understand your subject or concept better, instead of getting stuck on trying to improve technique, equipment etc. Take a couch vacation first, and by the time you go on holiday, you'll know whether your camera should go or not.
I'm late to this thread, and have only skimmed the responses, but unless you are dealing with purely mechanical issues, (focus, shutter speed, etc. ) I'd like to make a different suggestion.
Cut two or three big pieces of mat and frame some random prints from your "unsatisfactory" rolls. Hang them each in a different area of your house and tape a piece of paper beside them. Over the course of a week or so, take the time to examine the photos. With the big mat, the images will be isolated from their surroundings and you can really concentrate on the composition and elements in the picture. Take notes on the good and the bad. You may find that some of the pictures grow on you. Or you may be able to identify specific things that detract from the photos. If you can, re-shoot a picture using your notes as a guide. It's not a silver bullet, but it can really help you find what works for you in a given image.
Don't give up. By all means, take time off, but don't walk away from something you love so much.
Tom, on Point Pelee, Canada
Ansel Adams had the Zone System... I'm working on the points
system. First I points it here, and then I points it there...
Thanks for all the comments. A lot of wisdom shared.