Staying Centered as a Photographer

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"Float Away" by D. Travis North

Your growth as a photographer – as an artist – will benefit from balance.  Balance of time, balance of your skills and most importantly, balance of your spirit.  In order to grow effectively, you need to remain centered.  Centered means that you are staying in the moment; focusing on a small envelope of time immediately surrounding “the now”.  If you focus too deep into the past, you’ll feel resentment or regret for things that you cannot change.  Focus too far into the future and you’ll experience anxiety and apprehension about where you are headed.  Either feeling will stunt your growth as an artist, and your photography will suffer.

Staying centered is important.  I expect that most people realize that.  Where I think many people have trouble is figuring out how to stay centered.    In practice, you probably know how to center yourself fairly well on a typical day.  Life as a teenager will teach you that.  But there will be atypical days.  Some days, frustration will build up and free time will be a limited resource.  It will be difficult to get centered on such days.  It’s these days where you will perhaps need a little guidance.

  • The prominent three – The past is for memories, the future is for hope – but now is for now is all that directly impacts your current actions.  How do you know when now is?  (It’s a viable question).  Use the rule of prominent threes:  The prominent three includes today, yesterday and tomorrow.  Do not dwell on anything beyond the prominent three.
  • Eat and drink healthy – Food has more impact on your mental state than you’d think.  If you find that you’re having difficulty focusing on the now, consider your diet.  Are you getting enough water?  Are you getting all the nutrients your body needs?  Are you eating too much junk food?  Eat healthy, think and focus better.
  • Get sleep – I’ll admit that this is my weak point.  Sleep is so inconvenient.  But it’s essential for your brain to work properly.  So make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
  • Meditation – The benefits of meditation is misunderstood by many, and many do not realize its potential.  A few times a day, it might be good to meditate – to clear your mind and think of nothing of consequence.  You can read all about meditation techniques, but try this simple technique:  Sit in a comfortable chair or lay down on a bed or couch – your head must be supported.  Remove your glasses if you wear them.  Rub your hands together long enough to warm your hands and cover your eye sockets with your palms so that no light gets through.  Don’t close your eyes, just stare into the darkness.  Vacate your mind – or think about something unimportant like seconds ticking by or objects that are of a specific color.
  • Baby Steps – Goals are not unimportant, and you should have an overall goal for everything that you do.  But the finish line is not of immediate concern.  Instead, these goals should be broken up into smaller chunks so that you can focus only on the most immediate chuck.
  • Walk Away – Frustrating moments can quickly spiral out of control.  A bad meeting, a fight with a loved one or a major mistake will throw your day off kilter.  It’s times like this where you need to get away – take a break, take a walk, play a game…do whatever you can to get away from the moment.  This may sound counter-intuitive, especially if you’re on a deadline, but a five minute break will ensure the following chunk of time is more productive.
  • Visit Fond Memories – Memories are important, they help us to realize what we have accomplished.  From time to time, it won’t hurt to go back and look at your accomplishments with pride.  Remember how you felt when you sold your first photograph.  Remember the feeling of hanging your own work in your home.  But don’t dwell on these moments – you don’t want to build up resentment or regret.  We simply want to remind ourselves why we are doing what we’re doing.

Realize that you will not be able to stay center every day and every moment.  But don’t let that bother you.  This is where the rule of the prominent three is handy:  If yesterday was bad, today can be better and tomorrow, it’s no longer a factor.  In other words, today is your opportunity to recenter yourself.

So what does all this have to do with your photography?  Prepare for a common theme here at Shutter Photo:  Controlling the left brain.  Your left brain is constantly trying to mess everything up with logic – compartmentalizing your life and organizing it by quantitative factors such as time.  If you get too off centered, your right brain (the creative hemisphere) can’t cope and the left brain takes over.  Being centered gives you the most creative freedom as it permits your right brain to function effectively – free of influence.

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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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