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Mindful Photography (Introduction)

Trevor September 18, 2023

What is Mindfuless?

“ Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally “

Jon Kabat Zinn

First penned by a man called Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970’s. Jon is an American professor of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. 

We spend so much of our life overthinking the experiences we are having. Living with regrets of the past, worries and fears of the future, imagining problems and creating obstacles which do not really exist in the moment. The things you will learn during this course will show you why this is happening, how it is can have a negative effects on your health & well-being and how you can use photography as your self improvement tool of choice.

What is Mindful Photography?

While you may think Mindful Photography is a new concept, it’s definitely not. It can also be known as Meditative or Contemplative Photography and is around in different forms since the mid 1800’s. 

Mindful Photography is a tool you can use to achieve a state of mindfulness while also helping you to develop a happier frame of mind and more positive thought patterns in the process. We created our own version of mindful photography in this mindful photography program.

As we are all our own teachers in life. You will learn tools here and these tool will help you to become more self aware through your own introspection, refections and journaling.

Traditional Photography vs Mindful Photography

In traditional or ”conceptual” photography, our aim is usually to capture the best image we possibly can, every single time. An image we hope will live up to our standards, and bring us and others fulfilment. Due to this reason, while taking the picture, photographers are filling their minds with things like composition, framing, subject matter, lighting, camera settings and more. They are also judging every single picture they take during the shoot and comparing their pictures to other peoples work afterwards.

Photographers ”And I’m also guilty of this” can sometimes become so involved with all these technicalities and expectations that we can miss out on what is actually going on around us. By simply paying attention to your surroundings, you’ll see new opportunities and possibilities to create pictures that have a real meaning to them. Being present and experiencing these moments in your practice can far outweigh what simply taking a nice photograph could be.

Tip: From a photographer with over 18 years experience

” I have spoken with so many photographers at different skill levels over the years. People who are at varying stages of their photography careers. Like any type of art, people who do traditional photography, can also be their own biggest critics and extremely judgmental towards what they produce and their current level of abilities. This may be down to the traditional approach to photography. Judging every single shot that you take. Overthinking and complicating pictures in an attempt to make them better, and then comparing yourself and your pictures to other photographers who are on a different level of skill to you. Possibly ending up frustrated with your efforts and unenthusiastic towards going out with your camera again. This mindset does not fill you with positive emotions, so it would not really be considered a mindful approach to your photography ‘‘

Mindful Photography practice helps you not to get caught up in this style of thinking, or adopt this mindset. It’s for this reason, along with many others that we focus mainly on something which is called perceptual or ”mindful” photography. We focus on interpreting, broadening how we perceive and becoming more aware through our senses. Seeing what has always been around us with something called “clear seeing”

Clear seeing is the alignment of your thoughts, feelings and actions through your perception of the experience you are having.

Or to put it simply!

Clear seeing is the ability to see your experiences for what they really are and not for what you believe they should or could be. Removing our need for control or interference in that moment.

A simple sounding practice that can often be easier said than done. There are no technical directions for you to follow with your camera and no preconceptions to be used. This is about exploring the focus on happiness method with your mind and your camera.

This type of photography can ultimately open you up to a whole new world and really expand on your current level of creativity. We’ve all heard the saying that…

 ‘’Rules are made to be broken’’

”While both practices are perfectly acceptable at different times, and I would say that I definitely practice a combination of both during my photography work. I personally really like the blend, but for any photography practice that we do here, we will only be concentrating on Perceptual Photography. This will also help you with creativity in your Traditional Photography Practice”

Check out part of The Creative Process speech by a man called Ira Glass. Credit to Plamen Panchev Studios for sharing the video.


Anchoring is used as a focus for your attention and as something to bring your mind back to when it has wandered away.

You can use your camera, an object, your senses, an image in your mind or your breath as an anchor for your attention. Focus all of your attention on your chosen anchor, whenever you notice that your mind has wandered. Acknowledge this without judgement and bring your attention back to your anchor.

Connect With Your Breathe

In your journey through the art of mindful photography, the challenge lies not only in capturing the picture, but in the process of grounding yourself and being present. Your breathe can be a powerful tool to help you do just that. It can calm us, move us out of our sympathetic nervous system and into peace.

Our breathing is always present, yet we do it often unconsciously. Its a constant rhythm that can serve as an effective anchor to bring our wandering minds back to the present moment.

  • Anchoring to the Now: Every breath you take is a live event, happening right now, this second and in real-time. When your mind drifts into thoughts of the past or anticipations of the future, your breath can remind you of the present.
  • Calming the Senses: The natural rhythm of your breathing can have a calming effect, creating a peaceful space amidst the chaos of external factors.
  • Regulating Emotions: As you become more in tune with feelings and emotions, you begin to notice the subtle breath changes that accompany different emotional states.

Connect With Your Senses

Your five senses are sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. These senses work together to gather information from your environment and experiences, which are then interpreted by your brain. It takes the information you have received and coverts it to language. Language is how we all view and understand the world around us. You ask yourself a question, give yourself an answer and this is how you develop meaning for everything you experience in your life.

The meaning you develop is often influenced by previous experiences, past knowledge and fears of what may or may not happen afterwards. It can also be influenced by external factors, which are often outside of your control.

We react almost instantly to the information we get. This quick response is something that we have evolved to do and it has been crucial for survival in our environment throughout the ages. Unfortunately this has also made us extremely reactive at times when there may not be a need to react. It takes learning and practice to pause and reflect before we respond.

Each of our 5 senses uses its own system to receive the different information.

  1. Sight :- Light and colours are detected in the retina of our eyes.
  2. Sound :- Hairs in our ear move in response to sound.
  3. Smell :- Our nose detects different chemicals in the air and also different flavours in our food as air passes through our nasal cavity.
  4. Taste :- Taste buds on the tongue react to the taste of our food. (There are five different tastes we can perceive. Sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami)
  5. Touch :- Receptors on our skin detect things such as pressure, pain, temperature and vibrations.

Your senses connect you to your environment every single moment. It’s rare that your brain will make a decision based on the information from a single sense. Your five senses work together to create your perception of reality.

Your senses are on alert and feeling sensations constantly. At any time you can choose to bring awareness to them like a spot light. By paying attention to your senses, you will be able to experience something new in your environment each and every time. Become a friend of your senses, it will allow you to keep conscious control over your mind which we will chat about more in a later sections.

Important Note :-

Looking is a function our your eye through your sense of sight. Seeing is something completely different. Seeing is a function of your mind and is completely dependent on how you perceive what is going on around you. Seeing is you perceiving what is happening or ”seeing is believing”

Photography is a Language

Photography has become The number 1 language in the world. A language used by every nationality and one that is understood in all cultures and societies. You know the old saying ”A picture is worth a thousand words”. Well this must be true, because around 50% of the world population now own a device that can takes pictures.

Where are you in the world now? I can guess you regularly meet or see people capturing what is going on around them with a camera or smartphone and then sharing their pictures on social media for the world to see. Taking and sharing pictures has become the new normal for most people. The pictures being shared are reflections of the experiences we are all living daily. Photography is not just reserved for hobbyists, artists and professionals. Photography is now for everybody. It is how we all understand and connect with each-other these days and it is also the way that so many people choose to express themselves.

You can use photography and mindful photography to understand and develop the language you use in your mind to Enhance and Improve Your Life & The Experiences You Have Every Single Day.

Mindful Photography

The Simplified Practice For Exploring

This practice is about the experience and the process, rather than focusing on the finished product and all the amazing pictures you will take without worrying about taking them. ”Trust me, you will take great pictures”. It’s about letting go of any expectations and being more aware through your senses. Exploring you and your surroundings, being curious about what you might see, rather than being closed minded and judgemental towards what you are seeing. Accepting your experiences for what they are and not what you believe they should or could be. Respect this process and allow it bring you to a flow state as you explore. We’ll touch more on all of this later.

”This process will help you to be present and aware in the present moment which is a huge part of being happy”

There are amazing benefits to this practice. We would like you to get started straight away. You may not fully understand the process just yet. That will all come with time and learning as you go through this program. You will learn exactly how, why and what you are doing during your practice and afterwards. The real benefits come from getting out there in nature and doing the practice, so start developing that habit now. 

Below is the process you follow with your camera and your mind.

  1. Remove unnecessary distractions – ”Be fully absorbed into what you are doing”
  2. Use your camera in in a setting that is well within your capabilities – ”We would not like you to be thinking too much about camera settings, so use your camera in a setting that is well within your capabilities and doesn’t challenge you much at all”
  3. No looking back through pictures until after practice – ”No judging or critiquing pictures until after the practice. Trust yourself”
  4. Use your senses – ‘’See, hear, smell, taste and feel what is around you as you walk’’
  5. Follow your intuition – ‘’If something feels right to you, we would like you to go with these moments’’
  6. Consider the shot – ‘’Pause and take a few breathes here. Try to really ”SEE” and capture your full experience in a picture’’
  7. Photograph your experience – ‘’Practice becoming comfortable in your experiences by pressing the shutter button, but only the once’’
  8. Repeat this process and find your flow ”Repeat the process over and over as you explore with your camera.

Exploring to take pictures is by far the most exciting way to practice photography. Its fun and creative. Its completely absorbs us and we are almost fulfilling a primitive need. We are looking, hunting and foraging to collect things that will improve and enhance our lives. Pictures, memories, thoughts and feelings. Enjoy and embrace the process!!!

‘’ Nature is the ideal place to practice for many reasons, but this process can be practiced anywhere and at any time ’’