Present Moment Photography

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I have a horrible habit of wasting so much of my present moment time constantly thinking about everything and everyone!  If you are like me, it can be so difficult to focus on what I’m doing right now at this exact moment (just caught myself thinking about something I need to do as I write this article).  I’m constantly distracted by thoughts and most of the time these distractions running through my head are about what has already happened or what may happen in the future.

So, what does this have to do with photography?

Everything!

Clear those distracting thoughts

present-moment-photography.jpgTry to lose yourself in the present moment by focusing and concentrating  on what you  are doing at that moment as you engage your subject.  Being completely present will allow you to be fully engaged and to see your subject with a new and exciting perspective.  How do you do this?  It takes constant practice, but it can be done!  You must first be aware of all those distractions in your head.  Importantly, try not to stop those thoughts from flowing, just be aware of them and notice them and as you watch them, they will simply fade.  With practice, it does work!  The key is to be aware that you are distracted and that you are not focused.

Don’t over think or try not to think at all

present-moment-photography-1.jpgI admit this was difficult for me to understand at first.  We have a greater intelligence than all those thoughts racing through our head.  For example, have you ever encountered a situation where you just reacted in the moment, you knew what to do without obsessively thinking about your next move?  Well, imagine yourself in front of a subject (I know this requires thinking : ), your head is clear, no distracting thoughts, you are fully engaged and you know it’s the right opportunity to capture or you instinctively adapt to what you know will be a better opportunity.  We are more than our thoughts and those distracting ones get in our way and fog our ability to see clearly.

It’s not necessarily about the product

present-moment-photography-2.jpgI think it’s important to clarify my philosophy on photography.  For me, it is a life experience and it’s not necessarily about the final outcome although I certainly enjoy sharing and viewing the work of so many wonderful artists.  Our goal as artists should be to get lost in the process of creating, not worrying about making money or whether our art will fit a certain mold or get a certain number of comments.  These thoughts are distractions and keep us from our full potential.   I have not mastered what is written in this article, but I practice as much as possible and I do think it has made a difference in my personal style and I hope you will find this article of value.

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Jason Lowry resides in Eastern North Carolina and is an everyday life photographer and writes on the topics of Present Moment Photography and the Intelligent Eye. You can see more of his work here.

  • Nicely written post Jason – I too suffer from the, “Wait, I gotta do this… err and that!” while I’m doing a million different other things mentality. However, with a little motivation, and practice I’m sure I can get things under control.

    I think part of the problem, for me anyway, is just that there’s not enough time in the day – Well, at least not for everything, I’m sure I’m sure if I cut out some of the less important things like watching TV and playing video games I could be less distracted, but then it’s nice to have some fun every once in a while.

    I too am not really in this for the money, I just like sharing my shots on, my little photo blog, connecting with people on various networks and looking at all their amazing photographs. There truly are some inspiring shots out there!

    Thanks for the post!

  • jim

    Nice post Jason. The wife would say I have ADD, I just say what? Anyway when it comes to photography I pretty much have a goal in mind, a shot preconceived in my mind. Planning helps with that. Sometimes drawing it out on paper or at least a mental image of the end result. So clearing everything does work. I like your shots man, real nice work.

    Here’s a shot from the other week. The only thing I couldnt get to cooperate are the clouds.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22176685@N07/6780467376/in/photostream

  • And here lies the downfall with shooting weddings and portraits for others. So much of the artistry gets taken away by client demands and expectations. It seems like you end up shooting only from a list of what they want (I get e-mailed lists from Pinterest of poses my clients want me to “copy” – it’s ridiculous).

  • This is excellent advice. It is way too easy to get caught up in over-thinking things. I love shooting with my kids. I put a camera in their hands and let them at it. They don’t think, they just shoot. Not all of the images are good, but there are usually a few that are pretty fantastic.

    One of my favorite shots is from a few years ago when I was just getting started. We were on a family camping trip and my two oldest were doing some coloring one night before bed. Now, I’ll readily admit that I had no idea what I was doing when I took these shots. That I got decent results at the time was pure luck. If I were to replicate this now, there would be a lot more thought that went into it. Who knows, maybe the results would be better, maybe not.

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2012/02/coloring-in-dark.html

  • Scottc

    An interesting viewpoint on today’s “multi-tasking”, we are constantly distracted and often never realize it.

    Sometimes a moment “appears”, you’d think we all would learn from those rare moments…..

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5897844344/

  • ccting

    Great advice…!

  • raghavendra

    I call this as a good advice rather than calling it an article.
    Sometimes i have few thoughts rendering my mind.

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/2011/05/u-gotta-watch-this-clouds-trees-birds.html

  • I guess compared to the advice I suffer from the opposite, I hardly think, apart from whether the composition looks alright and shoot! Maybe this is because I just click for myself.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/02/a-painted-stork-at-bharatpur.html

  • Aaron

    Love this article. Love how your notion applies to all aspects of our lives too, not just photography.
    Sometimes we just need to stop for a moment and take a breath in the present moment.

  • Russel Fernandez

    just reading this takes me to a peaceful place in my head

  • I definately find that if you become immersed with your subject (or scene) your imagination widens and somehow the photo comes out better.
    I was so immersed in this scene that I sat for an hour just looking at it before taking the photo

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-from-Italy-and-the-Alps/G0000ID.UepOSY4U/I0000T2OZwE2BgBg

  • oppimaniac

    Your second picture shown on this page reminds of one I took some days ago.
    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-TC-qZMqG9gY/T0u89Q3a_hI/AAAAAAAABlI/nT-z3WeycLo/s1024/DSC_4476-001.JPG
    I definitely like this photography style.

  • Great! I was in need of something like this. Lately I was loosing interest in photography. I never thought that it was related with my problem that I think too much…about random useless things.

    Thanks!

    http://thisisbjaysblog.blogspot.com/ My photoblog

  • Thank you for the kind words and great comments! I’m enjoying the art as well, thank you for sharing!

  • OnyxE

    Ha ha like someone else commented my first thought reading this was ‘do you maybe have ADHD!’ I’m usually very distracted but when I’m out with my camera taking photos I usually feel like I’m in a different world where all those distractions don’t exist. My favorite subject is our city’s geese and ducks and between watching them and taking photos of them the ‘cares of the world’ disappear. However I am far from a professional photographer so maybe that helps a lot too! I don’t worry about making a photo for anyone but just capturing an expression or moment.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marionlynne777/6797819042/in/photostream/lightbox/

  • An interesting article, that coincides with my thoughts while out with my camera today. I became aware that as I immersed myself in the shots, my thoughts receded, and simplified and I became more meditative. After a couple of hours of this, I was in quite a different place than when I started, and felt more energized, more creative, and more peaceful. And this despite trying to learn more about the science (as opposed to the art) of taking pictures with a camera.
    There are many ways to meditate … being out with a camera is a pretty good way for my western mind!

  • Teresa Allen-Martin

    Jason, I thought this was great advice, aside from the photography. As I sat reading it, I found myself focusing on your words rather than thinking, “Okay, how could I incorporate this into my photography, next picture, etc.” I think it’s a great reminder for when I’m not behind the camera…

  • CAFN8TED

    Actually, photography (and gardening) is something that helps me slow down and actually be in the moment. During the workweek I’m always in that hectic-million-mile-an-hour mindset but picking up a camera always slows me down and helps me relax 🙂

  • Robert

    Great philosophy for all of us to really get out of our head – photography does that for me. If any of your readers are interested in further insight into this philosophy Eckhart Tolle has provided us with his written gift to the world “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth”.

  • Great article! Personally I find following book quite useful in dealing with my own obsessive thinking – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Now

    I like to practice the immersion in the present moment in the nature, in the mountains or on the beach – http://tomassobekphotography.co.nz/gallery3/index.php/Landscapes/Okuru-Haast-beach/120102_Driftwood_on_sandy_beach_near_Haast

  • Thank you Jason 🙂 Good read! Here is a little something that I hope you will like, coincidence, i was just reading your article and this within last 24h 🙂 It is by John Suler:
    http://users.rider.edu/~suler/photopsy/mindfulness.htm

  • Wow, thanks Jason.

    “Our goal as artists should be to get lost in the process of creating, not worrying about making money or whether our art will fit a certain mold or get a certain number of comments.”

    Thank you for this. It is exactly what I needed to hear today – and every day.

    And Erin – I completely agree. People who send me Pinterest photos and ask me to make them look like that – well – it puts a huge damper on the whole shoot. It just becomes a job.

  • James Basiley

    I captured this image of the cabin that is located at the site of the Nancy Hanks Memorial – the mother of Abraham Lincoln – that can be reached by driving a long winding narrow road for several miles off U.S. 50 in Mineral County, West Virginia.

    The site of the memorial provides expansive view of the surrounding mountains. I was there for over an hour and didn’t see another human being or hear a sound. It’s a deeply contemplative site that looks and feels detached from the modern world.

    I captured this present moment image of the cabin just as I arrived at the memorial. It had just begun to rain. Being there gave me an opportunity to reflect on the incredible story of Abraham Lincoln, a story his mother didn’t live to see. Nancy Hanks died when Lincoln was a boy.

    More information about and directions to the Nancy Hanks Memorial can be read @ http://www.takemytrip.com/08vapawv/08n_13a.htm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jameswbailey/6838786837/in/set-72157629223953729/

  • Wow, great responses, advice and links! Thanks for all of the great info and opinions!

  • Delphina

    This is an interesting post and an interesting view on photography whici can be linked to meditation.

  • Joy Rensch

    Mindfulness! A great technique to learn to use not just for photography but for every situation. It does, as you say take lots of practice but photography for me is the one area I find the easiest to stay in the present moment. Great article. Thank you for the reminder.

  • I am so excited by the comments and feedback about this article/advice and I hope you will visit my new blog – http://www.presentmomentphotography.org. I know there are a lot of great site such as this one, but I wanted to create something simple where we could discuss more about Present Moment Photography, I hope you will check in from time to time and please share your experiences and advice, please! Cheers, jason.

  • Well written, so true and real. Thank you so much Jason, this thoughts (ehm sorry) are absolutely helpful in life and in photography too 🙂

Some Older Comments

  • Jason Lowry March 5, 2012 11:06 pm

    I am so excited by the comments and feedback about this article/advice and I hope you will visit my new blog - www.presentmomentphotography.org. I know there are a lot of great site such as this one, but I wanted to create something simple where we could discuss more about Present Moment Photography, I hope you will check in from time to time and please share your experiences and advice, please! Cheers, jason.

  • Joy Rensch March 3, 2012 09:58 am

    Mindfulness! A great technique to learn to use not just for photography but for every situation. It does, as you say take lots of practice but photography for me is the one area I find the easiest to stay in the present moment. Great article. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Delphina March 3, 2012 04:36 am

    This is an interesting post and an interesting view on photography whici can be linked to meditation.

  • Jason Lowry March 3, 2012 03:30 am

    Wow, great responses, advice and links! Thanks for all of the great info and opinions!

  • James Basiley March 3, 2012 02:13 am

    I captured this image of the cabin that is located at the site of the Nancy Hanks Memorial - the mother of Abraham Lincoln - that can be reached by driving a long winding narrow road for several miles off U.S. 50 in Mineral County, West Virginia.

    The site of the memorial provides expansive view of the surrounding mountains. I was there for over an hour and didn't see another human being or hear a sound. It's a deeply contemplative site that looks and feels detached from the modern world.

    I captured this present moment image of the cabin just as I arrived at the memorial. It had just begun to rain. Being there gave me an opportunity to reflect on the incredible story of Abraham Lincoln, a story his mother didn't live to see. Nancy Hanks died when Lincoln was a boy.

    More information about and directions to the Nancy Hanks Memorial can be read @ http://www.takemytrip.com/08vapawv/08n_13a.htm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jameswbailey/6838786837/in/set-72157629223953729/

  • Julie Cortens March 2, 2012 01:49 pm

    Wow, thanks Jason.

    "Our goal as artists should be to get lost in the process of creating, not worrying about making money or whether our art will fit a certain mold or get a certain number of comments."

    Thank you for this. It is exactly what I needed to hear today - and every day.

    And Erin - I completely agree. People who send me Pinterest photos and ask me to make them look like that - well - it puts a huge damper on the whole shoot. It just becomes a job.

  • Gordana March 2, 2012 08:55 am

    Thank you Jason :) Good read! Here is a little something that I hope you will like, coincidence, i was just reading your article and this within last 24h :) It is by John Suler:
    http://users.rider.edu/~suler/photopsy/mindfulness.htm

  • Tomas Sobek March 2, 2012 07:03 am

    Great article! Personally I find following book quite useful in dealing with my own obsessive thinking - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Now

    I like to practice the immersion in the present moment in the nature, in the mountains or on the beach - http://tomassobekphotography.co.nz/gallery3/index.php/Landscapes/Okuru-Haast-beach/120102_Driftwood_on_sandy_beach_near_Haast

  • Robert March 2, 2012 06:11 am

    Great philosophy for all of us to really get out of our head - photography does that for me. If any of your readers are interested in further insight into this philosophy Eckhart Tolle has provided us with his written gift to the world "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth".

  • CAFN8TED March 2, 2012 04:13 am

    Actually, photography (and gardening) is something that helps me slow down and actually be in the moment. During the workweek I'm always in that hectic-million-mile-an-hour mindset but picking up a camera always slows me down and helps me relax :)

  • Teresa Allen-Martin March 2, 2012 03:49 am

    Jason, I thought this was great advice, aside from the photography. As I sat reading it, I found myself focusing on your words rather than thinking, "Okay, how could I incorporate this into my photography, next picture, etc." I think it's a great reminder for when I'm not behind the camera...

  • Triciah March 2, 2012 03:45 am

    An interesting article, that coincides with my thoughts while out with my camera today. I became aware that as I immersed myself in the shots, my thoughts receded, and simplified and I became more meditative. After a couple of hours of this, I was in quite a different place than when I started, and felt more energized, more creative, and more peaceful. And this despite trying to learn more about the science (as opposed to the art) of taking pictures with a camera.
    There are many ways to meditate ... being out with a camera is a pretty good way for my western mind!

  • OnyxE March 2, 2012 02:37 am

    Ha ha like someone else commented my first thought reading this was 'do you maybe have ADHD!' I'm usually very distracted but when I'm out with my camera taking photos I usually feel like I'm in a different world where all those distractions don't exist. My favorite subject is our city's geese and ducks and between watching them and taking photos of them the 'cares of the world' disappear. However I am far from a professional photographer so maybe that helps a lot too! I don't worry about making a photo for anyone but just capturing an expression or moment.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marionlynne777/6797819042/in/photostream/lightbox/

  • Jason Lowry March 2, 2012 12:30 am

    Thank you for the kind words and great comments! I'm enjoying the art as well, thank you for sharing!

  • Bharat Justa March 1, 2012 11:30 pm

    Great! I was in need of something like this. Lately I was loosing interest in photography. I never thought that it was related with my problem that I think too much...about random useless things.

    Thanks!

    http://thisisbjaysblog.blogspot.com/ My photoblog

  • oppimaniac March 1, 2012 07:13 pm

    Your second picture shown on this page reminds of one I took some days ago.
    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-TC-qZMqG9gY/T0u89Q3a_hI/AAAAAAAABlI/nT-z3WeycLo/s1024/DSC_4476-001.JPG
    I definitely like this photography style.

  • steve slater March 1, 2012 05:32 pm

    I definately find that if you become immersed with your subject (or scene) your imagination widens and somehow the photo comes out better.
    I was so immersed in this scene that I sat for an hour just looking at it before taking the photo

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-from-Italy-and-the-Alps/G0000ID.UepOSY4U/I0000T2OZwE2BgBg

  • Russel Fernandez March 1, 2012 05:13 pm

    just reading this takes me to a peaceful place in my head

  • Aaron March 1, 2012 04:11 pm

    Love this article. Love how your notion applies to all aspects of our lives too, not just photography.
    Sometimes we just need to stop for a moment and take a breath in the present moment.

  • Mridula March 1, 2012 03:55 pm

    I guess compared to the advice I suffer from the opposite, I hardly think, apart from whether the composition looks alright and shoot! Maybe this is because I just click for myself.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/02/a-painted-stork-at-bharatpur.html

  • raghavendra March 1, 2012 02:29 pm

    I call this as a good advice rather than calling it an article.
    Sometimes i have few thoughts rendering my mind.

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/2011/05/u-gotta-watch-this-clouds-trees-birds.html

  • ccting March 1, 2012 11:12 am

    Great advice...!

  • Scottc March 1, 2012 10:09 am

    An interesting viewpoint on today's "multi-tasking", we are constantly distracted and often never realize it.

    Sometimes a moment "appears", you'd think we all would learn from those rare moments.....

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5897844344/

  • Jeff E Jensen March 1, 2012 10:02 am

    This is excellent advice. It is way too easy to get caught up in over-thinking things. I love shooting with my kids. I put a camera in their hands and let them at it. They don't think, they just shoot. Not all of the images are good, but there are usually a few that are pretty fantastic.

    One of my favorite shots is from a few years ago when I was just getting started. We were on a family camping trip and my two oldest were doing some coloring one night before bed. Now, I'll readily admit that I had no idea what I was doing when I took these shots. That I got decent results at the time was pure luck. If I were to replicate this now, there would be a lot more thought that went into it. Who knows, maybe the results would be better, maybe not.

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2012/02/coloring-in-dark.html

  • Erin @ Pixel Tips March 1, 2012 08:12 am

    And here lies the downfall with shooting weddings and portraits for others. So much of the artistry gets taken away by client demands and expectations. It seems like you end up shooting only from a list of what they want (I get e-mailed lists from Pinterest of poses my clients want me to "copy" - it's ridiculous).

  • jim March 1, 2012 07:22 am

    Nice post Jason. The wife would say I have ADD, I just say what? Anyway when it comes to photography I pretty much have a goal in mind, a shot preconceived in my mind. Planning helps with that. Sometimes drawing it out on paper or at least a mental image of the end result. So clearing everything does work. I like your shots man, real nice work.

    Here's a shot from the other week. The only thing I couldnt get to cooperate are the clouds.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22176685@N07/6780467376/in/photostream

  • John March 1, 2012 07:05 am

    Nicely written post Jason - I too suffer from the, "Wait, I gotta do this... err and that!" while I'm doing a million different other things mentality. However, with a little motivation, and practice I'm sure I can get things under control.

    I think part of the problem, for me anyway, is just that there's not enough time in the day - Well, at least not for everything, I'm sure I'm sure if I cut out some of the less important things like watching TV and playing video games I could be less distracted, but then it's nice to have some fun every once in a while.

    I too am not really in this for the money, I just like sharing my shots on, my little photo blog, connecting with people on various networks and looking at all their amazing photographs. There truly are some inspiring shots out there!

    Thanks for the post!

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