There are a lot of obvious ways that photography can change your life. It can take you to exotic locales. It can connect with you people. It can be a way to help others. It can make you money.
And then there’s this one subtle way, and I’d argue it is more impactful than all the others combined.
It’s not flashy. It won’t win you fame and fortune. But it can completely change your life – every single minute of it.
This is a concept that’s been swirling around in my brain for some time now. I’m nervous about sharing it with you. Not because I don’t think it’s an important idea. But because I feel like I only have scratched the surface. It’s a profoundly simple concept with unbelievably far reaching potential. I wanted to have a better handle on it, and I thought I needed to be an expert before I could share it.
But I’ve realized that the most important part of this idea is simply to be aware of it. Where it takes you (and me) from there is up to us. The essential thing is that we start to think about it.
So here we go.
The way photography can completely transform your every waking moment is that it can help you to become more aware of each of those moments.
It’s About Presence
This is the concept of presence – paying full attention to your present experience. You aren’t worried about tomorrow. You aren’t dwelling on yesterday. You are here, now, 100%.
It’s the easiest thing, and the hardest thing. Try it right now. Take 5 minutes to just be present. Go!
How long did it take for your mind to wander? Your attention to be pulled elsewhere? If you’re like me, it’s approximately 10 seconds. Maybe 30 seconds on a good day.
But put a camera in my hand, and once I start shooting, I’m in it. I’m focused. I can go for ages without ever thinking about email, my to-do list, or even food (and that’s a big deal for me!).
Photography brings me fully into the present, because that’s what it’s all about. It’s about capturing that moment in front of you, and figuring out the best way to do it.
Here’s How It Changes Everything
So how does that change your life?
Here’s what I think. I think that one of the easiest (and hardest) ways to enjoy your life more is to simply be more present in it.
How do you do that? Try this out.
Can you see the sunlight where you are? Can you marvel at it’s beauty and life-giving power? Or maybe it’s raining. How does it sound? Are there puddles creating amazing reflections? Rain drops splashing?
Maybe you’re in an office. Can you see all the lines around you? Can you spot a great composition that they create?
If there are people around you, can you take 2 quiet minutes to observe them? Can you comprehend the amazing complexity of your fellow human beings?
Is there music playing? Don’t just tune it out. Can you stop and appreciate not just the beauty of music, but all the work that went into getting that music recorded and into your room?
How about your clothes? Consider their colours. Really feel the textures that you normally ignore. Then take a second to think about the journey that they took to get to you, from growing the cotton, picking it, transporting, designing, sewing, distributing, marketing, selling…
If you took a few minutes to try out any of these exercises, I hope you were filled with some mind-blowing wonder. There is so much to be aware of in our present moment that we usually ignore. We live in our minds, instead of in the physical world around us.
Photography can change that.
When you pick up your camera, you’re getting a top-notch exercise in being present. When you put your eye to the viewfinder, you stop thinking about anything but what enters your frame. You study the light. You notice the lines. You hunt for colours. You see all of the people, their expressions, their postures, their interactions.
It’s incredible. Try it. Bring your camera up to your eye (or use your hands as a makeshift frame if your camera isn’t in reach). See how your attention changes when you’re shooting. Everything becomes an object of potential – the potential to add beauty or meaning to your photo.
Take It Outside of Your Photography
But you don’t need to wait until your camera is in your hands to be present. You can take what you do when you’re shooting, and learn to apply it to every moment.
Photography gives you an amazing way to practice. One of the best ways, I think. When you’re shooting, really work on your attention. Be sure that you’re completely focused on what you’re capturing.
Then take that skill out of the photography world, and into the every day. Start to pay attention to where you are, what you’re doing, and who is around you.
Hey, at the very least it will help make you a better photographer. The more you can recognize remarkable light, lines, colour, shapes, scenes, moments, or action without your camera, the faster you’ll be able to notice and capture them when you are shooting.
But, the big life changing thing is that if you’re spending your day noticing, experiencing, and appreciating these things, well, I think you’re going to find you enjoy your day a whole lot more. Each and every day.
The days that go just as planned, and the days that go off course – they’re all filled with beauty and wonder. They all take place in this truly remarkable world.
We just have to learn to notice.