Why This Photo?
Do you take photos?
Any photos - from your cell phone or a camera - of your kids, your lunch, your friends at an evening outing?
If so, pause with me before you click one more time. I have a question for you.
Why are you taking that photo?
I know, your kids are adorable, that lunch looks delicious, and you simply have to capture this moment where all of you are together and looking totally hot. But why THIS photo? Why now? Why in this particular moment?
Before you respond with, “I’m not a photographer - I don’t know!”, stick with me. I’m asking these questions for a reason, and they (of course) go beyond the photo you are taking. These questions help you pause for a moment, look at that thing you are getting ready to do, and ask, “why am I doing this?”.
And in that pause and reflection, you begin to create a daily life that feels richer, more authentic, and deeply fulfilling.
Let’s jump back for a moment:
Ok, so I AM a photographer. I photograph events and people and my own kids far more often than they want (but that they appreciate months and years later). I’ll admit, though, I used to use the “spray and pray” method of shooting: Where you take photo after photo after photo and pray that at least a few of those turn out.
Yes, it was about learning how to take better photos through the process of taking thousands, but it was also because I didn’t appreciate why I was taking THAT photo. And that one. I was just trying to get many “good” photos, which required lots and lots of shooting.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this: This type of shooting led to THOUSANDS of images stored in a digital black hole. When I was shooting for others, it meant countless hours of editing as I went through the many photos I’d taken (trying to then decide why I took that photo, if it was useable, etc). A lot of wasted time, actually.
In order to be more intentional with my photography (and to cut down on those unusable photos), I started practicing my shooting differently. I studied things like Miksang Photography, which examines how you are seeing versus the technical aspects of the photography. I started shooting on manual mode so that I had to slow down what I was doing.
And I listened and let the words resonate when I attended a conference, and something the speaker (Brooke Shaden) said punched me in the gut. She said, “Is THIS what you need to photograph to put your message into the world?”
I continue to shape what my messages are, but I know this: the more I let those messages seep through my daily activities, the more fulfilled I feel when I go to bed each night. With my photography? I’ve learned that I love to be a modern-day philosopher on mundane life and a story-telling photographer capturing perspectives of presence.
A story-telling photographer capturing perspectives of presence. I need to be present for the moment, and then I live with the camera, creating images of perspectives on what we are co-creating in that moment. I could go on about that, but don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole. For now…
Is this what you need to photograph to put your message into the world.
It doesn’t matter if you are not a “photographer”. It doesn’t matter if you don’t run a business or have a speaking platform.
Through your everyday actions, through your existence, you are constantly creating a message (many messages). You are co-creating the life you - we - are living, one message at a time.
You tell your kids to clean their rooms because you believe a clean home leads to a clean mind. You smile at the barista, speak firmly, kindly, and directly with co-workers in meetings, and put your plastics into recycling.
One spoken (or unspoken) word at a time, one bit of action at a time, you co-create the world. You create messages that the rest of us hear and feel.
What are those messages? What are the conscious ones and the unconscious ones you are putting into the world?
And … back to the photography … how is that photo creating (or detracting from) your message?
That post on Instagram…what is the photo saying to us?
I’m not saying that you suddenly need to become a philosopher behind every photo you take and post. I’m inviting you (as I always do) to be more intentional with your daily actions, to creatively engage with those mundane moments.
I’m inviting both of us to see the world (outer and inner) first, and then to bring the camera up and use it as another practice for shaping and sharing the astonishment we feel in that moment.
(Mary Oliver: “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.)
You’ll take many photos and live many moments that, upon reflection, you’ll wonder “why in the world did I do that?”. That’s ok. That’s called learning. That’s living thousands of moments and praying a few turn out. But please, keep learning. Keep practicing. Don’t “spray and pray” with your life.
Take a full breath, and move with intention into this next moment.
Ah, look - there you are. * click *