Opinion: Sometimes you should put the camera down
June 26, 2022
Amy Davies wonders if the pressure to get a perfect shot is spoiling your experience, should you put the camera down?
Recently, I’ve been thinking about whether I’m taking too many photos. It may seem strange for a photography writer to advocate putting your camera away, but bear with me.
My most recent holiday included a day trip to Niagara Falls, which involved a boat ride into the famous mist, all of us bedecked in attractive plastic ponchos. As I glanced around, people were scrambling to get to the edges of the boat, armed with their cameras (or phones).
Keen to see my camera live another day, I kept mine safely tucked away, aside from a couple of grab shots. Initially I felt a twinge of disappointment that, faced with the chance to get up close and personal with one of the world’s most famous landmarks, I probably wasn’t going to be able to capture any photo, let alone an extraordinary one.
But then, I began to reason, now wasn’t the time to take photos, it was time to enjoy the moment. The feel of the cool water on my skin was welcome relief during a freak Canadian heatwave (not helped by, in effect, wearing a bin bag), while I knew that no photo – or video – could ever truly do it justice.
Hobby vs Obsession
I began to think about other times I’ve felt the pressure to take a great shot, and wondered whether ultimately it was worth it. There’s a fine line between a hobby and an obsession which cancels out enjoyment. These days, we also have the pressure of social media, chasing likes and comments regarding just how much of an amazing time we’re supposedly having.
But was it really that amazing if all your non-photographer husband/wife/family/friend (delete as appropriate) could remember about your trip was your 700 attempts to get the perfect shot, swapping lenses, trying ‘just one more’ angle while they were getting increasingly impatient? Was it really amazing if you felt yourself getting irrationally angry at passers-by for daring to walk into the frame?
I recently read a study that suggested you’re less likely to remember something if you take a photo of it. It’s as if your brain decides there’s no need to store the information. But I want my memories to stay in my head, not sit on a hard drive, which I may never look at.
While I’m never going to stop taking photos on my holidays, I’ve made a new resolution to be less worried about the perfect shot in these situations. And, especially in locations that have been photographed to death, if something isn’t working within a few minutes (or ideally seconds) to move on to the next thing.
Hopefully both the enjoyment of my travels and of photography will increase by a quality-over-quantity approach.
Amy Davies is Amateur Photographer’s Features Editor, and previously has spent many years writing for various photography titles.
Lead image: Adam Vradenburg / EyeEm, Getty Images
The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Amateur Photographer magazine or Kelsey Media Limited. If you have an opinion you’d like to share on this topic, or any other photography related subject, email: email@example.com