I'm on vacation now and I am the photographer for the trip. As I am sitting atop an elephant and waiting for the right moment to take the picture, I began to think about all the things I am missing just because I am trying to get a "good" shot. Then I flashed back to all the other times where I was trying so hard to capture something on camera but missing the experience itself entirely (e.g. performances, ceremonies, vacations, etc).
Why am I taking pictures? What is it all for?
Capturing memories that I can look back on?
Showing my family and friends all the interesting things I've seen and all the nice places I've been?
Making use of my digital camera?
These all sound like good reasons but the reality is with the invention of the digital camera, more than 90% of the pictures I take never see the light of day and I've yet to look back on the 10% of the pictures I have taken recently. What is a bit unsettling is thinking about all the experiences I missed taking these pictures. I have come to realize that,
To capture the moment, you have to remove yourself from the moment.
A photographer is always in the third person. Being in the third person is what allows you to take a snapshot of what is happening. As a photographer, you've also opted to sacrifice the present (experiencing the activity for yourself) for the future (capturing the experience of the activity). Photos are taken for future use and enjoyment, rarely for the present.
People take pictures to capture the moment and to reminisce but my question is:
If you didn't experience the moment because you were taking the picture, what memories would the picture bring to you when you see it in the future?
Photography is not a bad thing. I am just recognizing it for what it is. Now that I see the price of taking photos, I have made a conscious choice to change my habits in a few ways:
- For special or one-time occasions, I will hire a photographer so I can have the experience while someone else captures it for my future pleasure.
- I will be more aware of my purpose: Do I want to be in the experience or just to capture the experience?
- I will analyze the pictures I never look at and stop myself from taking pictures of this kind. This helps to save time in both taking the picture and then deleting it later.
As I was writing this post, I thought about my friends who were into photography and I wanted to tell them that they are missing out on life. Upon further thought, professional photographers and photography enthusiasts are actually in the moment when they are taking pictures. That is the experience they want so they are actually not missing out on anything at all.
Next time you pick up a camera, ask yourself:
Do I want to to be present for this?
If your answer is yes, put the camera back down.
Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.