How putting down the camera made me a better photographer

Straight off the bat, this sounds counter-intuitive. After all its through practising and doing that progresses our skills as a photographer, this is true. In contrast, stepping away from the camera or putting it down, I have noticed something that wasn’t there before and that skill helped improve how I photographed.

Self-reflection is one thing, but taking the time to stop, look, see and feel is another. I used to take my camera with me everywhere I go, and I still do… kinda. Before I contemplate an idea of a photograph or get inspiration to take a photograph and reach for my camera, I now sometimes just stop and see the moment for what it is. I’m not talking about missing the moment or ‘The Decisive Moment’ which seems to be such a trendy thing to say in photography. I’m talking about being in the moment. I believe that you are either in the moment or capturing the moment. One is experiencing, the other is documenting. I have to thank mediation for opening me up to this mindset. Meditation is definitely something you don’t need to practice to understate that being and doing are different things.

As a result, I’ve started putting the camera down, noticing what’s going on around me, instead of jumping for the opportunity to capture it. I just look at whatever is happening and live in that moment. Some people call this slow photography, the act of taking your time, setting up a shot for a landscape and waiting. Sitting on a street corner and looking around and just noticing the people walking by. Being in the moment opens you up to your sensors and the environment around you. That is all we have, this moment, we can remember the past and contemplate about the future but all we really have is this moment right now. That is what is real, that is what matters.

Its only by putting the camera down that I have realised this. I was the photographer who always strived to capture the moment instead of being present in it. But now I have changed, maybe it’s with practice, maybe it’s with wisdom or age, maybe its because I’m an introvert.

“OK yes, yes you’re a Zen photographer, but how does this better my photography?” Photography is a tool, I use it to express what I have to say and share. The camera is not who I am. Opening myself to the now, the present, the moment, I have started to notice more finite things happening around me as a result. If I choose to take a photo, I can. I have improved my awareness, heightened my sensitivity to the things that are happening around me. I no longer go out with an intent or idea in my mind. The result is I no longer have a narrow view of what I need or want to capture, I see and experience my surroundings more. Opening up my creativity, possibilities and opportunities to approach and capture photographs that are outside the limitations of my conscious thought. Putting the camera down lets the subconscious and sensors come into the foreground of your mind.

Putting down the camera for periods of time or during events is a must. We can’t always be photographing throughout our lives. Because you’ll end up documenting it instead of living it. Putting down the camera made me a better photographer because I realised there is more to life than just photographing it, and that is living it.

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