It was my partner, Mandy who put her foot down and made me promise to stop for a few days and get out. I dragged my heels kicking and screaming into our holiday on an island in the sun (Zakynthos, Greece, if you must know). I had slept four hours out of the 48 leading up to our trip, because I just wanted to deliver that last photo to a client, retouch one more headshot, chase up one more invoice, answer that last email… If you work for yourself, you quite possibly are familiar with being in this state. Contrary to how it sounds, it feels Amazing! Incoming business is validation that you are growing and nurturing a skill you love to the point where others are willing to pay you for it and demand your services. But this is where you need to be careful; If you are not, it can quite rapidly become the single most crippling blow to developing your creative voice.
By no means am I saying avoid business. As a creative, you will need to find ways to generate it to survive. You will need to constantly evolve, and better your understanding of how to drive your income. Mastering the business side to your creative work is an absolute essential. Additionally, you will also need to continue loving your work. But sometimes the very thing you love to do can make you lose sight of yourself, and without yourself, you cannot create. You begin to feel constantly busy, but never present.
It’s amazing what a few days away from your work can do for you. For me it took buggering off to an island in the sun: A quiet island at that. One evening, sitting on the edge of that island, several hundred meters above the waves, I finally forgot about emails, editing, social media, phone calls etc. I closed my eyes and felt the warmth of the sun on my face, and how the breeze coming off the Mediterranean cooled it. I heard the waves crashing below, and the seagulls above me. There were so many small details to be taken in. And when I opened my eyes, for the first time in a while, I felt one with the world around me. Connected. That is the feeling you want to channel for your photography. It is about feeling present, and connected with the moment. Not off somewhere else in your mind. It will help you appreciate the details that can make or break a project.
I am not saying you have to book tickets around the World to make it happen either. But if you want to be a better photographer (or any creative for that matter) you need to start learning how to feel connected and present: Channeling your surroundings, or focusing in on your emotions while tuning out everything else.
So here is something to try at least once a week. Go out and take a walk through your city, or find somewhere quiet to sit. Turn off your phone, and absorb as much as you can. Pay attention to all the individual details: the ground under your feet, the breaths you are inhaling and exhaling, focus on nothing but the sounds or smells around you. Let it take you away from the day-to-day noise that drowns out life and bring you into the present moment. You can take 1 minute to do this, or an hour. This probably will not instantly change or improve the way you take pictures, but what it will do is teach you what it feels like to be present, and it is that feeling that you need to be channeling when producing your work.
If you’ve given this a try, or have any other ways of tapping into a state that elevates your perception and helps you take better photos, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
More for fun, here is a short video of our trip that Mandy made (She’s pretty awesome at shooting and editing video):