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Documenting Your Life: The Creative Antidote to a Busy Schedule

Because photography is only a small part of my job, it’s a great challenge  to find time to shoot regularly enough to keep my technical skills sharp and my creative vision attuned to the nuances of light. It seems that the items piling up on the to-do list often take priority in the limited hours of the day. I suspect I’m not alone in this dilemma, so I thought I’d share with you a few ideas on how to better integrate photography into your daily life and capture an artistic record of the moments in your life.

Beginning with the passing of my mother and gradually becoming more acute with the birth of my son, I’ve been feeling a need to capture the simple, yet profound, moments that define one’s life. These aren’t necessarily the big events (birthday parties, vacations, etc.), rather the simple moments-the smile from a grandparent seeing their grandson, your spouse engrossed in a book on the weekend while the light streams through the windows or a candid laugh from your best friend at a cafe. These are the emotional memories that we often think of when we’re feeling nostalgic. Why not try and capture them with your camera?

Here are three tips I’ve found helpful when documenting my life.

1) Have a camera at the ready: It sounds obvious, but after years of taking mental pictures (no camera at the ready) I’m finally getting better at keeping a camera nearby, particularly around the house, to grab a quick shot when a photographic situation presents itself. Because of their small size, I’ve found the Olympus PEN cameras to be a fantastic companion. When I travel, I slip the PEN E-PM1 and the svelte 17mm f2.8 lens in my briefcase. Only slightly larger than a point and shoot, the superior image quality and full manual control allows me to shoot in any situation without ever feeling limited by my camera.

2) Keep it simple: It’s easy to geek out on equipment and spend too much time thinking about gear instead of light or photos. Challenge yourself to grab one body and one lens. Limiting your gear choices is a fantastic way to push yourself creatively and improve your ability to improvise by making a great shot with the gear you have. Lately I’ve been shooting around the house with the Olympus PEN E-PL3 with the 12mm f2.0 lens. It forces me to get close and think carefully about the relationships between my subject and the background. All the photos in this post are taken with this setup.

3) Shoot now, edit later: It’s easy to let that self-critiquing voice creep into your photography. You know, the one that tells you the light’s no good or the subject really isn’t that interesting. Fight back by shooting photos anyway. Push yourself to find an interesting photo in poor light or strive to find a compelling composition when the background is cluttered.

By shooting regularly, you’ll more often find your creative groove and get better at seeing the less obvious, yet remarkable moments that make up our lives. This process not only helps you appreciate the moments that makes up your life unique and special, but gives you the opportunity to capture them and share these moments with others.


4 comments for “Documenting Your Life: The Creative Antidote to a Busy Schedule”

  1. Excellent insight and thoughts (as always).

    Good tips that many people don’t always follow (including myself). Number one being having the camera ready.


    Posted by Rosh Sillars | December 11, 2011, 9:47 am
  2. Hi Jay,

    Definitely some good points. My daughter is 14 now and bridged the digital change, but luckily we had one of those little Stylus Epics early on and took tons of shots. I finally became more “serious” when she was around age 10 and I bought a dslr, which left me a couple more years of good shooting. At 14, I have to wait for that distracted moment and sneak them in here and there. But both my daughter and my wife love to look back at the years of family photographs I have on smugmug, and through the photobooks I’ve put together (need to do number four pretty soon). Families are one of the best excuses to be into photography, no doubt.

    Posted by John Krumm | January 5, 2012, 11:00 am
  3. John,

    Thanks for adding your perspective. I’m certain it is going to become more difficult as Remy gets older and doesn’t always want a camera in his face. Right now he really enjoys it, but I suspect that won’t be so when he’s a teenager!

    Posted by Jay Kinghorn | January 5, 2012, 11:11 am
  4. awesome points Jay. Thank you for sharing them. (: I will start having it nearby me, more often, especially in the house. I love taking spontaneous pics too. Some turn out pretty kewl and funny. Shows ’emotions’ like you said.

    Posted by Kathy L | March 13, 2012, 4:54 pm

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