Mindful photography - what is it and how do you do it?

Mindful photography (sometimes called contemplative photography, or slow photography) is the opposite of mainstream competitive photography. There's no aggression, no oneupmanship, no discussion about kit, no condescension, and most of all, no rush.


It is a practice of photography where the camera becomes an extension of your mind, you don't have to stop and think and worry and analyse - you let your subconscious take over for once, and let it do its thing. 

It's not for everyone. You might only get one photograph that you like. You might not get any. But you won't care - because you went out with your camera for the process and the journey, not for the end result.

Here are a few ways to start practising mindful photography:

1. Be present

Don't focus on the shot you just took, or the one you might take if only the sun would drop behind the tree. Be aware of the moment you are in and respectfully give it your full attention.

2. Use your phone

Leave the big camera at home for a day. If the analytical side of your brain is doing all the talking - "What aperture should I use?", "Did I remember to change my ISO?" - then the subconscious, creative side doesn't get a look-in. Use a simple camera with no options and enjoy the freedom you get to concentrate on just what you can see in the frame.

3. Shoot what you love

It's more fun when it's actually fun. Mindful photography shouldn't be a chore, something you have to force yourself to do. So go out and take photos of someone you love, or of a place you love, or in a style you love. 

4. See - don't just look

You can't rush this one. Take some time to stay in once place, with no distractions. No checking Instagram, no thinking about what time it is and where you need to be next. No planning a holiday or worrying about the laundry. Get comfortable and be in one place for as long as you can be. Take photographs only when you're ready. "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange. 

5. Don't judge

Spend a day not judging anyone or anything. No criticism, no gossip, no snide remarks, no negative comments about anyone else at all. If you can do a day, you can do 21 days. If you can do 21 days it will become a habit and your own creativity will flourish in the space your old negativity has left behind.

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I'm launching an online mindful photography course later this year. It will be a series of ideas and exercises to work through, to build your mindful photography practise in a practical way. To be first to hear when registration opens, join the waiting list here:

MindsetEmma Davies