When is a selfie not a selfie?
The camera on your phone can be used to make you a happier, more fulfilled person.
Rethink ‘selfies’ - forget photos of yourself, use the camera for yourself. Start thinking about how to get pleasure and real benefits from your phone camera.
Being creative with your camera gives you freedom to think outside the box. It exercises your brain, and perhaps your body.
There are so many functions and possibilities on a modern phone camera, and they are accessible to everybody. It’s time to use it to the full.
It is also an exercise in mindfulness - being aware of everything around you, and being in the moment when you take your picture.
A Note on Instagram
Often a battle of who is the coolest, who has the best body, who has visited the most amazing places. It can raise stress levels, and create a feeling of inadequacy.
You can delete Instagram, it won’t kill you.
Another idea is to start a new account with a focus - wildlife, sunsets, wine, tai-chi, whatever, but make it a passion. Only follow other similar accounts. Post any photos you want related to the topic.
Take the most creative photos you can think of. But if they are not amazing, who cares?
Remember you are doing this for you and for the sake of beauty - not for likes, not to sell things, and not to compare with others.
Just enjoy it, it’s a little record of your life and a journal of stuff you saw which you thought was interesting or pretty!
1. Get out into the wilderness
Taking some nice pics is the perfect motivation to get out into the fresh air of the woods or the mountains.
You could do this with your friends, or all by yourself.
Give yourself a goal, maybe to snap the sunset, maybe to Instagram an unusual insect, or how about to photograph as many types of trees as you can find?
Whatever it is, a goal will help you focus on what you are seeing, rather than just wandering.
That said, don’t let your goal distract you from the beauty all around you. Perhaps your best photo will be that deer which came out of nowhere and then disappeared. It came out blurry? It’s still a magical moment.
The idea of taking pictures is to get you out there. The photos are simply wonderful dots, which you can use to join up the memories when you tell the story.
2. Photograph people
Socializing can be the greatest de-stress of all.
It might be a case of trying to get a nice picture of your family as you gather for a birthday, or you could even organize a trip to a park with your friends to try to get some nice photos of your besties.
Photographs are amazing records of your friends and loved ones. They will change, they will age, they will die, but photos will take you back to special moments you spent with them. They will often make you laugh, or sometimes make you cry. The important thing is that you appreciate the moment.
It helps to do a little planning for photos, think about lighting and action. Perhaps set up a tripod so that you can do some nice delayed shots: this could be for a formal posed group, or to catch more natural movement.
People you don’t... Taking photos of complete strangers is an amazing social challenge. It will likely take you totally outside your comfort zone.
Be respectful and ask permission (or if it will spoil the photo, at least tell them you took the picture afterward, show them your snap, and ask if they mind).
You could also do portraits - ask them to stand still a second and frame a beautiful shot.
Taking pics of folk you don’t know will hopefully result in you meeting new people and having a lot of fun in the process.
You see amazing characters on the street, or you could find the beauty in people at work - they might be picking grapes, smelting iron, or selling used cars, there are wonderful possibilities to record these moments.
As well as an amazing experience for you, it might be a record which nobody else has and valuable for your town’s history - people don’t often take photographs of ordinary things.
3. Find beauty in ordinary things
Why do people take more photos when traveling?
You don’t need to go hiking the Matterhorn to see beauty. Learn to see the beauty in your environment.
You don’t even need to leave your house - a plant in a pot, the way the light comes through your living room window, your dog staring at you, waiting to go for a walk. All these things can make great pics, and are memories worth keeping.
You could try micro-photography. A lot of phone cameras are really good at extreme close-ups. Notice the way a raindrop sits on a leaf. Perhaps an ant on the sidewalk might make a pretty picture. The coffee stain on your notepad.
As you start to notice beauty in these small things you will hopefully be more aware and thankful of the moments we live in the day-to-day. We can find joy in every moment we live, don’t wait for your vacations to be happy!
4. Try long-exposure shots
Long exposure is another feature which many phones have, but perhaps we don’t often use. (If your phone doesn’t you can download an app for this.)
Photograph a burbling stream, a bustling street, or a starry night.
Not only will this get you out and about, but it will also strengthen patience and planning.
Long-exposure basically means that you take a photo that lasts a few seconds (or a few minutes). You can use it to capture movement or faint lights.
A tripod for your phone will really help, but otherwise make sure that your phone is really well secured (if it moves it will spoil the picture).
You will need to dedicate some time to this. Try observing patiently what you want to photograph, imagine how it will look, then set up and go for it.
At first, the photos might not come out well. That’s not a big deal. Enjoy the process. Have a good time.
This is a bit like the rod-fishing of photography styles. You need patience as you cast your rod and wait - and you might end up with nothing to show for it at the end of the day, but that’s part of the fun.
You might also try long exposure’s video cousin, time-lapse video. Again, lots of fun to be had with this.
5. Put the camera down
Somebody asked me the other day: “If you could go anywhere and not take your camera, so nobody would know, would you go?” Would you?
George Orwell expressed it in another way in Burmese Days:
“So often like this, in lonely places in the forest, he would come upon something - bird, flower, tree - beautiful beyond all words, if there had been a soul with whom to share it. Beauty is meaningless until it is shared.”
Is that true? “Not on Instagram - didn’t happen!”
We have to move beyond that, and start to enjoy the moment for ourselves.
We only live one time, and we don’t live to impress others. If you see something of great beauty, enjoy it. Enjoy it fully.
If you feel yourself reaching for your camera stop your hand and live it. Just soak in the scene, make it a photo in your head of the view (these photos also snap the feeling in your heart). You will remember this moment for the rest of your life.
A photo, at the end of the day, is an amazing aide-memoire, but it does not replace the moment. While you are fumbling with the phone settings, or trying to get a different angle, the instant might fleet away, and you weren’t there - not fully.
And of course some things are un-photoable. It might be a ravine by moonlight, or an amazing rainstorm. Don’t be frustrated that you will not have a photo to show off or to remember it. Just leave the camera in your pocket and take a snapshot in your memory, never to be erased.
There are many different ways to see the world, and your phone camera can help you to find new angles - literally and figuratively.
Taking photographs can exercise your creativity, your social skills, your mindfulness, and more.
Be snap happy, find snap happiness.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for upcoming posts.
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