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The Mindful Approach to Photography: Embracing Patience and Emotional Depth

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

In this age of rapid technological advancements, we find ourselves surrounded by increasingly sophisticated phone and camera technology. With the power to capture technically perfect photographs now in everyone's hands, the digital landscape is filled with millions of visually stunning images. However, most of these photographs, while technically perfect, are soulless and emotionally detached, resulting in a level of image blindness. Scroll through the endless images on Instagram and see what I mean. As photographers, we need to break free from this superficial cycle. The answer lies in taking a different approach to photography – one that emphasizes mindfulness, focusing on seeing and composing images instead of chasing pointless technical perfection. By doing so, we can create photographs that are not only technically excellent by default but also emotionally engaging and deeply satisfying to ourselves and the viewer. So, OK - What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the practice of being present, fully aware of the moment and our surroundings, acknowledging our thoughts and emotions without judgment. By applying mindfulness to our photographic practice, we can connect more deeply with our subjects and surroundings, resulting in images that evoke genuine emotion and tell meaningful stories. The downside to this approach is that the mindful approach to photography takes time and effort. Here are some of the reasons for this:

  1. Developing your vision: Learning to see the world through a mindful lens takes time. As you practice, you'll gradually start to perceive your surroundings in new and creative ways, uncovering hidden stories and beauty.

  2. Building intuition: Developing a strong intuition for composition, lighting, and timing requires consistent practice and experimentation. Over time, you'll start to instinctively understand how to create visually appealing and emotionally engaging images.

  3. Emotional growth: Embracing mindfulness in photography involves connecting with your emotions and those of your subjects. This emotional growth is a deeply personal and ongoing journey that can't be rushed.

  4. Developing patience: Mindful photography is about slowing down and being present in the moment. Cultivating this patience takes practice, as our fast-paced lives often condition us to seek instant gratification.

How can we incorporate mindfulness into our photography practice?

  1. Be present: Fully immerse yourself in the moment and your surroundings. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, and emotions you experience, and let them guide your photographic decisions.

  2. Embrace imperfection: Recognize that technical perfection isn't the sole determinant of a great photograph. Allow yourself to experiment with different techniques, even if they don't result in "perfect" images. This exploration will help you develop your unique style and vision.

  3. Connect with your subject: Whether you're photographing a person, a landscape, or an object, take the time to understand and empathize with your subject. This connection will bring depth and emotion to your images.

  4. Practice intentionality: Before pressing the shutter button, pause and consider the story you want to tell or the emotion you want to convey. This intentionality will help you create more meaningful and impactful images.

  5. Reflect and learn: After taking a photograph, take a moment to reflect on the experience. What worked? What didn't? What emotions were evoked? Use these insights to grow as a photographer and refine your creative vision.

The journey towards mindful photography is a continuous process of growth and self-discovery. It may not be a quick fix, but the resulting images – filled with emotion, depth, and meaning – will be well worth the effort. Embracing mindfulness in our photographic practice not only enriches our images but also helps us become more attuned to the world around us, fostering a deeper connection with our subjects and ourselves. To end with here are

10 practical suggestions to get you started:

  1. The Photo Walk: Go for a walk in your neighbourhood, a park, or any location that interests you. Leave your expectations at home and allow yourself to be fully present. Focus on your senses – sight, sound, touch, and smell – and let them guide you to potential photographic subjects. Take your time, and don't rush to capture images. Practice patience and intentionality with each shot.

  2. One Lens, One Subject: Choose a single lens and a single subject for an entire day or week. This constraint will force you to explore different angles, compositions, and perspectives, encouraging you to think more creatively and be more mindful of your subject.

  3. Ten-minute Observation: Find a location with a view that interests you. Sit down and observe the scene for ten minutes without taking any photographs. Pay attention to the details, the light, and any changes that occur during this time. After ten minutes, take a photograph that captures the essence of what you've observed.

  4. Gratitude Photography: Spend a day focusing on capturing images of things you are grateful for. This exercise encourages you to be more mindful of the positive aspects of your life and surroundings, promoting a greater sense of well-being and emotional depth in your photography.

  5. Slow Shutter Speed Experiment: Using a tripod, experiment with slow shutter speeds to capture the movement of objects or people in your frame. This exercise encourages you to slow down, observe the world in motion, and appreciate the passing of time.

  6. Mindful Macro: Explore the world of macro photography by capturing close-up images of small subjects, such as flowers, insects, or everyday objects. This exercise encourages you to pay closer attention to details, textures, and patterns that are often overlooked.

  7. The 100 Steps Challenge: Take a walk and stop every 100 steps to take a photograph. This exercise forces you to be mindful of your surroundings and find beauty or interest in the everyday, even if you're in a seemingly mundane environment.

  8. No Viewfinder: Turn off your camera's viewfinder or LCD screen and rely solely on your intuition and senses to compose and capture images. This exercise helps you become more in tune with your surroundings and develop your intuition for composition.

  9. Emotion-driven Photography: Choose an emotion (e.g., happiness, sadness, loneliness, excitement) and create a series of images that evoke that emotion. This exercise encourages you to connect more deeply with your subjects and explore the emotional impact of your photography.

  10. Silent Photography: Spend a day taking photographs without talking to anyone or using any electronic devices (except for your camera). This exercise promotes a deeper sense of presence and focus, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in your surroundings and your photography.

Remember, the key to mindful photography is to be patient, present, and non-judgmental. Allow yourself to explore and experiment, and enjoy the journey of self-discovery and growth that comes with practicing mindfulness in your photography.

If you would like to learn more about mindful photography, I'm running a Mindful Photography Workshop on the 16th September 2023

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