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When you get really into photography, when you’ve mastered your camera and are focusing completely on the creative aspect, there’s a real beauty that comes to play. Being completely absorbed in your activity and thinking of nothing else. In a way, photography is a way of meditation. A way of zen. Your focus is completely on the image and nothing else seems to matter.
Meditation, the practice of self-realization and consciousness, can be related to photography in many ways and, in my opinion, help strengthen your skills as a photographer.
When one meditates they start by focusing on one specific thing, be it ones breathing or an image. This trains the person to clear their mind and have deep, concentrated focus. The same can be applied to photography and used to develop ones senses, particularly ones vision.
When most people look around the world they see things but don’t really “See”. Their mind quickly labels objects, categorizes things, and fails to see the beauty built into everything. ?
While I won’t recommend sitting in the lotus position, I do recommend spending five to ten minutes before every shoot meditating. Spend this time observing your location.
Simply observe. Notice the light and how it hits certain objects and is blocked, causing shadows in others. Notice the quality and color of the light. Notice the shapes and lines of the objects and the natural, built in composition of the area. ??Use your other senses as well. Notice the aroma in the air. Feel the wind and listen to the ambient sounds. Become completely absorbed into the location that you are at. Be there and actually be there, not somewhere else in your mind thinking about something very insignificant. ??When you begin a photo shoot this way you come to understand your location much better. People photographers understand the importance of knowing their subjects personalities before shooting. The same holds true for nature photographers, architecture photographers, etc.
Never simply point and shoot your camera. Many photographers think they have the right shot and simply shoot, spending at most a few seconds looking through the viewfinder. This is the most important step in photography and should take up much more time. Look through the viewfinder and really “See” everything within the frame. Often times you’ll come up with even better ideas simply by holding off that urge to press the shutter down.
While the deep, zen-like observing is great when on a photo shoot, it’s something that should be done on a daily basis. When walking through a park, passing by a dark alley, or going anywhere you’re going to pass beauty (it’s hard not to). Instead of thinking what you have to do, where you have to go, or who you have to talk to, just observe. I do have to warn you though, you may feel the sudden urge to have your camera with you at all times if you start doing this often.
When you truly open your eyes, everything becomes “photogenic”.
Al Sanchez is the creator of PhotoTechniques.info, a site with digital photography tips.