Today, as I stand outside in the public park shooting photos of trees, I’m increasingly aware of the bizarre connection between meditation and photography.
At the outset, it might seem that there is no relationship between meditation and photography. One involves sitting quietly with your eyes closed, focusing on breathing. The other involves finding subjects to point a camera at. What’s the link?
The link is that both meditation and photography train the mind to see the world accurately, and to perceive the beauty in the world.
When we meditate, we focus on perceiving the true nature of reality, and when we take photos, we capture the essence of reality on film.
Why Meditation Is Perfect For Photographers, And Vice Versa
Meditation and photography actually make a perfect combination. And in my opinion, photographers should meditate, and meditators should do photography. Here’s why.
Why photographers should meditate
If you are a photographer, meditation will help you to see the world more clearly. When you meditate, you focus on perceiving reality precisely as it is. For instance, there are some forms of meditation, such as Samatha and Bhakti, that involve focusing the mind 100% on the reality of an object. This is often done by meditating on a Buddha statue, but can also be done meditating on a landscape or on someone’s face (like a portrait).
Anything you can take a photo of you can also meditate on. And you should. Because if you meditate on your subject you will see its true nature, and this will improve your photography.
Meditation helps photographers to see the world in new ways. And once you see the world differently, you can then capture the world differently through your camera.
Why meditators should do photography
If you’re a meditator and you’re looking for a healthy hobby for your mind, I highly recommend photography. Why? Because photography trains us to be more mindful of the world around us.
Photographers are always scanning the environment, looking for beautiful subjects to take photos of. That means that they are always aware and generally mindful.
Plus, photography trains the mind to see the beauty in the world. When you are continually looking for beautiful subjects to take photos of, you will naturally learn to see the beautiful in your everyday environments.
After I started taking photos, I found that my mind was far more aware of the beauty of the world. And this leads to happiness. Indeed, appreciation of beauty is one of 24 keys to happiness according to Martin Seligman, the creator of Positive Psychology.
I personally found that after starting photography I appreciated nature much more. I was very aware of the beauty of the sky, the ocean, trees, and plants, and that awareness helps me to relax and to stay happy.
5 meditation / photography exercises to try
1: Mindful photography exercises
Mindful Photography exercises are exercises that combine the concepts of mindfulness with photography. Basically, these exercises involve being non-judgmental and aware while you take photos. Not only will this help you to be more mindful, but it will also make you better at photography.
2: Scan your environment for beauty
One of the keys to being a good photographer is being able to see beauty in the world. Photographers continually scan their environments looking for subjects to shoot. Not only does that make them more mindful, but it also makes them more aware of the beauty in the world.
Whenever you are outside, scan your environment mindfully, and look for any form of beauty that would look wonderful on film. You will find this very relaxing, and it will naturally boost your positivity.
3: Meditate on your self-portrait
Many people are painfully judgmental of themselves. Particularly, people judge the way they look. That’s never going to help your self esteem. But there is a way to stop being so self-critical: Meditate on your self portrait.
Take a portrait of yourself, ideally one you are not wearing make-up in and are just being yourself. Now either print the photo or just look at the image on your camera or phone. Meditate on the image. If you experience self-critical thoughts, be mindful of them. Remember that your criticisms aren’t real, they are just ideas in your mind. Now replace those judgmental thoughts with more compassionate ones.
Don’t forget to touch-up your photos
Just because you are combining meditation and photography doesn’t mean you can’t edit your photos after. If you’ve tried the exercises above, you might have a lot of new photos that you want to keep and possibly print. For instance, maybe there’s a portrait you took that you really like. You may still address a portrait retouching service for simple tweaks, but warn experts that you want to keep the essence of a shot.
There is a natural link between meditation and photography. Both practices make us more mindful, and both help us to perceive the beauty in the world. In many ways, meditation and photography are the perfect pair.