Updated: Apr 27
Have you ever come to a standstill with your photography and wondered how to bring back the joy that you used to feel when out taking photographs?
During the last year I imagine that is something that has happened to a lot of people. I know I came to the stage where I felt that I was going around in circles learning about photography yet not making much progress in real terms.
In addition, I wasn’t able to travel to explore different locations in order to try out new techniques so most days my camera wasn’t even leaving the house.
Added to that was a general lack of enthusiasm created by constant restrictions, increasing Covid numbers and a sense that there was no end in sight to this pandemic.
How Does Mindful Photography Help?
I first took an interest in mindful photography two years ago and my interest has continued to grow. This earlier post describes my belief that photography has become a gateway to mindfulness for me.
Although at that time I was in the midst of learning the technical side of photography and tempted to only share my best photographs in a bid to receive more ‘likes’, I was also aware that I could get caught up in the rat race in photography, just as in anything else, always on the lookout for that perfect shot, always comparing myself to others and finding myself wanting.
I knew that my heart did not lie in this type of photography and so I began to explore the concept of mindful photography.
For me this was about being rather than learning or doing; it was about slowing down and allowing experiences to come to me. It was about seeing without taking pictures, about waiting, about being present in the moment.
For me, mindful photography has been the opposite of mainstream photography. It is not about competition or perfection; it’s not about the best equipment or the technically brilliant shot, and while I do still want to learn and become as technically proficient as possible, mindful photography has influenced my practice to a great extent and this has given me much more freedom to shoot as I want to shoot, to take my time, not feel under pressure and to enjoy more fully what I love doing.
Mindful photography has given me more freedom to shoot as I want to shoot, and make the images I want to make, without fear of judgement
‘Mainstream’ vs ‘Mindful’ Photography
While it might not be accurate to see these as opposite types of photography, there are some obvious differences and mindful photography is not for everyone. Professional photographers are intent on getting the best shots and their livelihoods depend on that, so they are concentrated on the technical and aesthetic aspects of their photography. Similarly, if you are learning a new technique and want to practice it, that is where your concentration will lie.
When you are concentrating on getting the perfect shot or achieving technical competence you are thinking, expecting a certain outcome, planning for success. When you choose to practice mindful photography, you don’t go out expecting any particular image, you let the image find you. You wander, remain open to your environment and what it offers and reveals to you, and the picture presents itself. You approach your photography with the wonder of a child. My 2-year-old granddaughter doesn’t come for a walk in the woods expecting any particular outcome. She brings an open mind; she responds to what presents itself to her. She is drawn to certain objects, colours, textures and she responds naturally by touching, exploring, discovering something about the object. Mindful photography borrows that child-like sense of curiosity, wonder and awe.
When you practise mindful photography, you don’t go out expecting any particular image, you let the image find you. I was unexpectedly in this place, and although the light was harsh at 11.30 am on a sunny day, I took as many images as I could
Mindful photography is a bit like seeing something for the first time. We begin to see even familiar scenes in a new way; we come to appreciate beauty in the ordinary. Mindful photography is about “letting go”; letting go of expectations and stress and rush. It is about slowing down, taking time, being in the moment. In mindful photography there are no judgements of ourselves as photographers or comparisons with others. There is no bad light or bad weather or poor subject. There is just this subject, in these conditions, that draws us and asks us to make an image.
When I stopped here, a fog has descended over the lake. In many ways the weather was not ideal for photography but I like the images and I still remember the sense of calm I felt in the location. A short time later the fog had burned off and the scene was completely different
I hope I have inspired you to at least give mindful photography some thought.
In my next blog I will outline 3 powerful reasons to embrace mindful photography, at least as part of your photography practice.
You might also like to read my previous blogs:
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