You head out to take some photos and yet again don’t get the shots you want.
It’s annoying. Your stress levels rise. You love photography a little less.
You groan and consider throwing your camera out of the window.
All this hard work, and what do I have to show for it?
You aren’t alone. We photographers are a hard bunch to please. Failing to get the right shot stresses us out. We rue the wasted opportunities and wasted time.
But if you eliminate confusion, anxiety and uncertainty form your photography you will reap the rewards by taking more images you’re happy with. You will also enjoy your photography more, get extra satisfaction from it and be motivated to learn and improve.
Most people already have stress in their lives. You may be stressed at work or stressed at home. Or both. Many things, including things not acting as we expect, distractions, not having enough time and too much choice all cause stress.
Photography should be something you do because you enjoy it. It should reduce your stress levels. Taking part in photography related activities should be a positive experience, one that fills you with satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of enjoyment.
But all to often, taking photos can become a stressful experience. Either because you don’t know how to get the shot you want, or the images you take don’t meet you expectations.
To minimise stress when taking photos you need to eliminate errors while shooting. Errors occur either because you lacked the knowledge to get the shot you wanted, or you made the wrong choices when taking the shot.
With a little care and attention you can reduce stress while shooting and make less errors. Here is how to do it.
1. Consider your skill level
Our skill level affects how stressful we find a given task.
Doing something that you can do well requires little effort and you barely have to think about it. The effort of completing such tasks is zero and so is the stress level.
On the other hand, undertaking tasks beyond our level of competence is highly stressful. Lots of mental effort is required to complete something you don’t know how to do. Consciously thinking and working things out is hard work and causes stress. Plus, if you don’t have the experience to get a shot you make mistakes and can’t figure out why things are not happening as they should.
Being highly competent at something means you can do it with minimal effort because you barely have to think about it, and you have a broad range of skills so can change tack if things go wrong.
When you lack competence in something it requires lots of mental effort to get it done, and you don’t have the range of skills to get the shot if things are not turning out as they should.
If you want a stress free photography experience, don’t try to take shots you know are beyond you. Focus on what you can do. And in the long term, gaining more photography skills will let you have better, stress free photography experiences in the future.
2. Limit your choices
Choice is obviously a good thing.
As photographers we have seemingly limitless options of equipment to use, subjects to photograph, edits to make and techniques to apply.
Endless choice is not always better though. Having more options to choose from requires more effort to decide what to do. Too many choices can mean we get overloaded with information, which makes decisions harder and mistakes more likely. Loads of options can make us feel less in control, and that causes stress.
One of the easiest ways to limit your choices is to minimise the equipment you take with you. Just take one camera and one lens.
Another way to reduce the options you have is to only photograph one subject or theme. A project can be a great way to do this.
Having fewer decisions to make lets you focus more one getting great shots and less on worrying about the kit you use or what you should be shooting.
3. Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong
Trying to get better at photography means you will make mistakes. Sometimes the best way to learn is by trial and error. If you’re too afraid of making mistakes you will never progress and you will lack confidence.
Very few mistakes in photography can’t be undone. OK, loosing you memory card or dropping you camera is fairly catastrophic, but most things are not.
If you make a mistake consider it to be a learning experience and take positives from it. Trying new things and letting errors happen is a fantastic way to gain experience, so don’t let it stress you out.
4. Be clear on why you’re taking the photo
If you are unsure why you’re taking a photo it can make you anxious and hesitant. Without a clear purpose you find yourself asking ‘Why am I doing this?’, ‘What settings should I use?’ and “How do I know if I’ve got this right?’.
Lack of certainty causes stress.
There are usually sound reasons for taking your photos. You may want to capture a memory, show someone’s personality or make something look dramatic. If you don’t have a reason for taking a photo, what’s the point of taking it?
Before you take a photo, make a mental note of the reason for taking it and then hold that thought while you create the shot. It will clarify your thinking and give you something to aim for.
5. Block out distractions
Our environment can be full of distractions. Busy streets, buzzing phones, time pressures or people you are with can all compete for your attention. All of this can lead to information overload and stress.
In these situations it’s incredibly hard to get yourself in the right zone to get great shots.
Create time and space for your photography. Turn off your phone, go out alone and give yourself enough time to get the images you want to get. Without these distractions you’ll make space in your mind to focus on taking photos.
You’ll find it much easier to get the settings right, find the best composition and you’ll be able to wait for the right moment rather than switching your attention to the next distraction.
If you want to dedicate some time to your photography, join one of our photography experiences.