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10 Tips on How to use Photography as a Tool for Personal Transformation

Have you ever found yourself in a relationship that’s not really working, or a job that has you feeling trapped? Or maybe your day in, day out lifestyle has you feeling glib.

Whatever the case may be, we’ve all been there. We use different things to cope. Some people drink, while others go to therapy or journal. Well, there is a way that photography can play a part in raising you up out of that negative mindset.

From the Nap Series, Nov.09th, 2012 @Catherine Just

When I was a new mom, my son Max was not really napping. It was driving me absolutely crazy. So I decided to take my iPhone to nap time and when he fell asleep I’d take a photograph. When I saw the photo, I realized that I was so caught up in what I wanted to do that I was missing this very sacred moment between the two of us. It became a three year photo project, and changed my own perception of what was important. I teach a course called In Plain Sight that was inspired by this experience. Below I share some tips from that course, and my own life, so that you can partake in the transformation as well.

You can use whatever camera you wish, and you don’t need to be a pro photographer to make this work for you. I used my iPhone for the Nap series and it worked perfectly.

Here are 10 tips on how to use the camera as a tool for transformation:

#1 Identify the issue

Identify what the issue is that you want to focus on. Let’s say you’re in the middle of a bad breakup, or you’re moving across country.  That’s going to be the topic of your photography project.


#2 Photograph the thing that frustrates you most

Instead of taking photos of that person, or of the things about this situation that drive you mad, instead, focus on how to create a gorgeous photograph of the thing that is frustrating you the most. Sounds pretty hard doesn’t it? But if you detach a bit from the story line, and start to look at things through your viewfinder as a photographer, you’ll find light wrapping itself around the subject in a way that means more than it did before.


#3 Take one photo every day for 30 days

Make this an investigative process. What could you learn every day about your life and how light, composition, shadows, objects, and the space around these objects all intersect with the story line that’s running in your head?


#4 Get closer

Remove the details that don’t serve the photograph. See what can be said with less.

#5 Pay attention to the light

Notice when things are illuminated and how that plays a roll in creating a more dramatic or emotional image.


#6 Go slow

No need to just snap a billion photos. Take one a day. Be thoughtful and on purpose.

#7 Move around the subject

Move around your subject to find the best way to express the emotion. Don’t just hold up the camera and take the photo. Be more in charge of what you create and remember that you can change your vantage point.

Nap series_CJUST_06

#8 Organize your photos

Keep all of your images in a folder on your computer and label them with the date and time you took the photo. Over time you will start to see something emerge that you didn’t expect. Something shifting about how you view this situation. A deeper awareness of who you are, and what this situation wants to tell you.

#9 Share your photos

Post your photos daily on your Instagram feed, and make up a hashtag for the project. People will want to join in and it’s actually an amazing thing to get feedback and support as you move through this process.CatherineJust_Naptime_1

#10 Keep going

You don’t have to stop at 30 days. My Nap Series turned into a three year project. The frustrating situation may stay the same, but you will have a new relationship with it. It’s about progress rather than perfection. If you miss some days, it’s no big deal. You’re not getting graded. This is for you. My Nap series is not a perfect daily project. I missed days for sure, but the transformation happened regardless.

So just keep going and pay attention to what the photographs are telling you. The shift will happen and you’ll be amazed before you are half way through. You’ll be more present for the moments that matter and be a little more curious within the areas of life that are triggering you. You’ll see them in a new light.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Catherine Just
Catherine Just

is an award-winning photographer with work published on the cover of National Geographic Magazine, Oprah.com, Photo District News, and on the websites of many inspiring life leaders. She shows her fine art photography in galleries worldwide and offers eCourses, a mentoring program and photography retreats for photographers seeking deeper connection with the world and themselves. You can find her posting daily on Instagram. Catherine offers a FREE ebook Both Sides of the Camera.

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