Mindfulness is about slowing down, being fully present in the moment, and receiving that moment. The exact same words apply to the process of making photographs.
For me, to photograph is to be fully present in the moment. Because when I photograph nothing else enters my mind. I’m in a state of flow where worries, the past, and the future have disappeared.
Many creative endeavours will get you in a state of mindful flow. What’s so unique about photography is that it connects you to the outside world.
Photography and reality are inextricably connected. If you want to take a picture of a tree you’ll have to go outside to do that.
As a result, mindful photography gets you in an active state, takes you out of your head, and encourages you to connect to the world.
I’ve experienced the power of mindful photography over and over in my life. That’s why I’d love to share these 5 creative ways photography can help you to invite more mindfulness in your life.
But, before I do that, I want to give you some general tips to make the most out of your experience with mindful photography.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that mindful photography is more about the process than the result, a.k.a., your photos. Harshly judging the results is counterproductive in mindful photography.
Instead, let go of attachment to outcome and reflect on your photos with appreciation and gratitude.
Mindful photography is not about taking photos with a fancy camera. You can, of course, but your smartphone camera will work just as well.
In mindful photography, you cannot unintentionally snap away. Instead, step away from your busy life for a moment and slow down. Create space to truly observe what you’re about to photograph so it becomes an intentional act. Allow yourself to be so present in the moment you become one with it.
When you keep these three things in mind, your mindful photography practice will be full of joy. So, let’s get started!
When you step into your day with a goal for what you want to photograph you’ll align your eyes with your mind. This is a perfect way of sharpening your observation skills, and you become more mindful in the process.
The funny thing is that, when you decide you’re going to photograph colours, all of a sudden you’ll notice colour all around you. More importantly, you’ll start to notice that apart from the colour itself colour can have many different qualities. For instance, you’ll start to notice a colour can be abundantly vibrant or whisperingly subdued.
When you’re photographing colour focus only on the colour because it’s not about the things you photograph. Let go of thoughts that the shot should ‘be’ something more than colour. In other words, when you photograph a red bicycle it’s not about the bicycle it’s about red.
Hone in on the colour and let it fill your frame.
There are many ways to go on a photo walk, but a mindful photo walk is aimed at getting you in a contemplative and meditative state. It is a way of observing your surroundings with appreciation that is free of judgment.
It is about awakening your senses. Apart from seeing, listen to the sounds around you and notice the smell in the air. Then connect to and engage with the world around you.
When you go on a mindful photo walk, it’s important to go alone and to let go of any preconceived ideas of where you want to go and what you’ll encounter. This is an exercise in going with the flow.
And please, don’t get caught up in the technical aspects. Select Auto Mode if you’re shooting with a DSLR or just take your phone camera with you.
This exercise is about appreciation and connection.
It might feel counterintuitive but limiting yourself expands your creativity. Because it forces you to come up with a different approach. By removing all the options your mind focuses on what is possible within your self-imposed boundary.
If you’re allowing yourself to take only five pictures for the day, you better make each of them count. When you’re drawn to taking a photo, first pause, take a clear look at what you want to photograph, and ask yourself if it is worth one-fifth of your daily quota.
You’ll discover that a lot of what you want to photograph is mostly just because you can. With digital cameras, the number of pictures you can take is almost endless, often resulting in a mindless snapping away at the world. This is the opposite of mindful photography.
This exercise will help you to become focused and intentional.
Decide on a single subject and examine this subject from every imaginable angle. Then take as many photos as you can from different points of view. Discovering new angles will completely occupy your mind making this a simple yet very effective mindful photography exercise.
Don’t stop after the first few shots. The fun starts when you think you’ve covered every imaginable angle.
Get in a playful state and convince yourself there’s another new angle to be discovered, and then another, and another. Until you’re starting to repeat yourself. Only then can you stop.
This exercise will expand your creative thinking, and you can do it from the comfort of home.
It’s no secret that actively practicing gratitude makes you a more mindful and happy person. Collecting and photographing the things, people, and moments you’re grateful for is a wonderful way to become aware of the beauty that surrounds you. It entices you to actively pursue the boundless reasons for gratitude in your life.
Creating a gratitude journal is about being grateful for the little things in your life. The things that are easily overlooked.
The purpose is to become aware of the little things that bring you joy and documenting them. This is a mindful photography project you can create over a longer period.
If you want to take your mindful photography practice to the next level, print your photos, buy a notebook, and glue in your photos accompanied by a few words. It makes your journey in mindful photography tangible, and it is a wonderful way to look back and reflect.
What I want most for you is to have fun, to be intentional, and to think process not result!
Have you tried mindful photography? Is this a hobby that you might enjoy? If you decide to do these exercises, please tell us about the experience!