I recently went on a photography shoot with some friends.
Afterwards we sat down for coffee and a chat about what we had just done.
We talked about the day’s photos and how much we had enjoyed our day out in a local woodland park, each of us engrossed in what we were trying to capture.
Our discussion came around to what we considered to be the best things about photography.
We had an interesting conversation as we teased out what we really enjoyed about doing photography and what we thought of as the best overall aspects of our favourite pastime.
I condensed our conversation to the five things we agreed as being why we love to pursue photography, although these are not in any order of priority as I don’t think we would have agreed on that.
1. There is always more to learn
There is a lot to learn in photography, particularly in the area of composition. In this image I tried to use natural framing to frame the house and to include some foreground interest.
We were all in agreement that one of the most exciting aspects of photography is that there is always more to learn.
In many ways, this aspect encompasses all the others in that by being encouraged to keep going out with our camera and improving our photographs, many of the other great features of our craft are also realised.
Whether you are a novice photographer, someone who has been practising photography for many years, or a professional in the field, there is always more to learn, improvements to be made and fresh approaches to be tried.
Learning in photography is an ongoing journey, not a destination.
One of the essential ingredients in learning is self-improvement. This desire for self-improvement is what keeps us learning, and in photography we learn by doing, by trial and error, which adds to the enjoyment.
We learn more from becoming aware of our own weaknesses and wanting to improve them than we do from any number of books or tutorials.
This is without doubt one of the main things that I love about photography – it keeps my mind active, fuels my imagination and encourages me to keep striving for progress and improvement.
2. It allows us to present our own unique view of the world
One of the most interesting aspects of our photography shoot that day was that none of us came back with an image that was exactly like anyone else’s.
We might have taken a shot in roughly the same spot as someone else, but we each had our own unique perspective to shoot from.
I may have picked a different aspect of a scene; I may have moved in closer or taken a wider view.
I may have added something to the scene or left something out.
I may have put emphasis on a part of the scene that had no relevance for someone else.
We are all different and so for each of us our photography is uniquely ours.
My photography has changed and developed over time.
I have grown into my images; they have become part of who I am, part of the way in which I see the world.
My photography is very connected to my senses and to my emotional response to what I see around me.
Since I started photography, and in particular while doing landscape photography, I have become more in tune with nature, more observant of the world around me, and it has given me a greater ability to see familiar things in a new way.
Now, when I go into a woodland, I don’t immediately start taking photographs. I look, I listen, I smell, I get a feel for the place. I try to connect with my surroundings.
Often, I notice things that others may not see, things that I would not have noticed before I started photography.
Sometimes I choose as my subject something that is not interesting, but, as part of a well composed shot its beauty can be revealed.
When I engage my senses and connect with the environment around me, I am more likely to find a composition that is worth turning into an image.
I recently watched this interesting video from Kim Grant who believes in the connection between creativity and being emotionally involved with what is around us.
3. It supports our physical and mental health
For myself and all of my friends who met that day, this is and has been an important
aspect of our photography journey.
We are all at different stages on our life journey and, as with all of us humans, life has not been without its ups and downs.
Photography has been a sustaining force through personal as well as global upheavals such as the recent pandemic.
It has encouraged us all to get out, get some fresh air and exercise, blow away the cobwebs from the mind and become re-energised.
I have written previously about how I see a strong connection between photography and both physical and mental health.
As I wrote in a previous blog post, two of my passions are walking and taking photographs, so when I combine them in a photo walk, I consider it to be a perfect balance of physical and mental health.
I also wrote a post called Why I Believe Photography Has Sustained Me Through Troubled Times in which I stated that it almost goes without saying that photography is a great support for our physical health.
Photography is principally an outdoor pursuit, and it usually involves walking, being in nature, breathing fresh air and being away from the world of traffic, crowds and fumes.
When I go out on photography shoots, I walk on beaches, hike up hills or mountain paths, meander along lakeshores and riverbanks or trod a well-worn path through my local park.
I have gone out in all but the very worst weather, often enjoying the exhilaration of being whipped by the wind on a mountain side or getting caught in a shower of rain.
Being outside in nature gives me the opportunity to breathe more deeply of the freshest air, and to move, which must be a help to physical health.
For me, the support which it gives to physical health is certainly a big plus for photography.
But that’s not the only way in which photography can support our health and I know I am not the only one among my friends who has been grateful to be able to get out regularly with a camera in recent months to escape the stresses of everyday life.
Being on our own or with a photography friend, focusing on our composition and on capturing a decent image, is a great way to concentrate the mind and allow the worries of life to float away.
When we get into flow, when we are totally absorbed by what we are doing, our minds are fully focused, and we are supporting our mental health and wellbeing.
Photography is my flow activity. When I am taking photographs, I forget all about my everyday cares and concentrate on the activity at hand.
Walking around with my camera to find a good location where I might make some images is calming and therapeutic and helps to ground me in the moment.
4. It can become a spiritual/mindful practice
This is an important aspect of photography for me, and it also rates highly with my photography colleagues.
While this was not our principal reason for getting into photography, we all acknowledge that photography has helped us to slow down, to become more appreciative of the world around us and to be alive to each moment.
Photography has even helped us to become more mindful in our everyday lives as it encourages a calmer, more intentional approach to life.
I have previously written some posts about the ways in which photography can help us become more mindful.
In the post 3 Powerful Reasons To Embrace Mindful Photography I outline what are, for me, the most compelling reasons to embrace a mindful approach to photography.
5. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and fun pursuit.
I can honestly say that I have never been out on a photography shoot and not enjoyed it.
There is something about being out and about with my camera that makes me feel alive and energised.
Even when I don't come back with any decent images, I have had fun in making the effort; I have discovered something new about myself, my camera or my location, I have experimented, and I have felt alive and totally engaged in what I am doing.
A photographer recently commented that every time we go out with our camera, even if we don't come back with great images we will always come back with a great experience, and I wholeheartedly agree with these words.
Photography offers us many things. It helps us become lifelong learners, it supports our physical, mental and even our spiritual health, if that’s a priority for us, and it helps us become more connected with the world around us as we present our own unique view of the world.
But we will not be motivated to do photography for any of these reasons if we don’t get a sense of enjoyment from what we are doing.
I suggested to my friends that perhaps enjoyment is the best thing about photography overall.
None of my friends disagreed.
What do you consider to be the best thing about photography?