I am nowhere close to being a mindful photographer. I get distracted. I get frustrated. I get insecure. I envy, I don’t appreciate.
My mind goes to crazy places, far away from the mindful state. Sometimes, it doesn’t come back for hours!
I am nowhere close to being a mindful photographer. However, as far as I can tell, I am on a way to becoming one. A part of the journey’s worded down here. The other part I am yet to write.
Before I ramble on about mindfulness and photography, let’s look at the topic by itself.
Mindfulness is the ability to observe everything around us, the details, sounds, textures, feelings, thoughts, emotions and other things. Without passing judgment.
It’s about the ability to enjoy and appreciate. About being in the here and now. Mindfulness involves acceptance, allowing yourself to notice your feelings and thoughts as they are.
To put it simply, mindfulness suggests your mind is fully aware of your surroundings, of what’s happening, of what you’re doing, space you’re in. Without passing judgment.
Our mind is a very fleeing thing. It can go from one thought to another without stopping. Oftentimes creating worries, obsessive thoughts and we lose touch with our body. Mindfulness is also the ability to observe the mind, stop it and come back to the original thought. Easier said than done. The best way to explain mindfulness is to try it. Check the link at the end for some tips (only after you finish reading this, OK?).
Being mindful while taking pictures
Now that we know a bit about mindfulness, we can discuss if any of its benefits can help us take better pictures. How can we improve our picture making process by using mindfulness?
Just before starting your shoot, take a deep breath through your nose, into your belly rather then chest, hold it for a moment, and then slowly breathe out through your mouth. Repeat until you start feeling more in the moment, less stressed, your mind gets clearer and you are ready, fully committed to the moment, ready to shoot. With better focus come better results.
Photography Sensory Awareness
Feel and experience your own photography. Feel the wind on your face. Think about how the temperature is making you feel. Is the sun shining? How does your camera feel in your hand? How does it feel raising up and looking through the viewfinder? What do you feel when setting in your exposure? How does your shutter sound make you feel?
Being aware of our own feelings will help us understand our strong and weak points. We’ll become aware of areas we need to improve. We’ll appreciate the things we already know and build on them.
During the shoot, remind yourself to take a break, check-in with yourself and see if you need to change anything. Do the breathing exercise again. Observe. Are those feelings you had at the beginning the same? Anything you need to change? Notice your surroundings again. Has anything changed?
While we are creators first and foremost, we are consumers too. We look for inspiration, we become part of communities, we go to galleries, we check Instagram. We consume. We spend time.
Time is the only fixed resource we have, we ought to spend it wisely. Being mindful while consuming art will have two effects:
1) effect on us, photographers — bringing us more knowledge, awareness, enjoyment, and appreciation for the art. We will become more sensitive to what others are experiencing with their photography, we will understand their message better and help ourselves be clearer about what we like and what we don’t! From there, we can navigate our own creative taste and produce the work we want to.
2) effect on other artists — once we become more aware and tuned into others’ people’s work, we can be much more supportive, understanding, compassionate and valuable while providing feedback. This way, we can grow and support each other on a higher level, as a community of artists, creators! Remember, art is subjective and so will be your mindful opinion of it.
Next time you look at any piece of art, try asking yourself some of these questions:
What am I looking at? How do I feel about it? Is it intentional? Spontaneous? Why is the composition the way it is? How does the photographer use light in his work? What is the emotion of the people in the picture?
And if you are doing this online, in the world of social media, leave a comment — the photographer will appreciate it so much. I know I would!
Mindfulness is observing without passing judgment. Do that the next time you look at someone’s work. Or better yet, do that when looking at your own!
Mindfulness develops appreciation
The key in doing so is to look at the things we’d miss if they were gone tomorrow. Appreciate your work! Appreciate your gear. Appreciate the opportunity to be a photographer! Appreciate your time spent taking pictures and consuming them! Appreciate the awesomeness the photography is!
“Most importantly, appreciate the light. Oh please, appreciate the light!”
Here are my top three things I appreciate when taking pictures:
1) Light. Any light, hard or soft, natural or artificial. I love the strong shadow in the late summer afternoon. I love the soft diffused light of a cloudy day. I love the speedlight — although its full understanding evades me still! … And I take fog with neon light any day (or night)!!!
2) Time. I’ve been pondering if this should be a number one on my list. Having a day job takes a lot of it. Commuting back and forth as well. Other responsibilities and hobbies take time too. They leave quite a small margin in my weekly calendar. Therefore, anytime I get to go out and shoot, it’s of tremendous value to me. I give it my all. Even if its just 60 minutes a week. Those 60 minutes, it’s just me, the camera and my frames. I don’t check my phone. I don’t stop for a cup of joe. I am in the zone. Shooting, moving, observing, composing. Shooting some more. Often failing, sometimes succeeding.
3) Gear. Say whatever you want, I love myself some great camera gear. I like to experiment with lenses, using different mediums (shooting more on film lately) or shooting with one focal length only. I appreciate the small things too. My camera strap. My Peak Design Capture. The wrist strap. The bag. I love the way they feel in my hands, the way the camera behaves when I shoot it, how it sounds.
What are yours? Thanks so much for reading!