Opinion: The Best Camera Is Your Eyes and Brain; Not the Device in Your Hands

This is a reminder to photographers to actually experience things, not just capture or create.

There is a great exercise for photographers that actually involves not having your camera with you (and also not using the camera on your phone either). Instead, you just immerse yourself in an experience and forego getting a photo that may otherwise be subpar and end up buried somewhere in a social media feed only to be forgotten for a few double taps. No camera can capture a personal experience. Cameras know nothing about love, about creativity, about anger; they know nothing of emotions. Humans do, and sometimes we try to hide behind cameras to shield ourselves from tough moments, or spend all of an experience staring at the back of a screen/through a viewfinder rather than actually paying attention to what’s happening in front of us.

The idea that we need to document everything is an awful one. There are tons of personal happenings that we should just pay attention to and take in. Here’s a list of what we commonly see on social media:

  • Food: you don’t need a million images of your lunch. One will suffice. Get that one image perfect. Or better yet, don’t document it at all if you’re not going to do justice to how much joy it will bring you.
  • Your pet: Sharing your pet brings others a whole lot of joy. But why not also just be 100% in the moment? Instead, perhaps passively set up the recording somewhere else by putting your camera on a tripod or something.
  • Your vacation: These are cool moments. And sharing your visit to the beautiful churches in Europe is bound to make folks not there look with awe. But don’t shoot an image unless you really know that it will encapsulate the experience.
  • What you did last night: Honestly, people know you’re cool. That’s why they hang with you. Take one photo and call it a night with your camera.

If you’re using a camera, try to challenge yourself to take only a single image, and not a ton. You’ll see just how this exercise makes you exist much more in the moment.