When To Put The Camera Down



I am constantly reading books. Not because I think I’m smart. For the opposite reason actually. I’m aware there is so much I don’t know and need to learn. I came across this passage recently which got me thinking.

“we need to rethink our memories. What if the point-and-shoot cameras in our phones make us less capable of retaining discrete memories? One psychologist calls this camera-induced amnesia the “photo-taking impairment effect,” and it works like this: by outsourcing the memory of a moment to our camera, we flatten out the event into a 2-D snapshot and proceed to ignore its many other contours—such as context, meaning, smells, touch, and taste… If the cameras in our pockets mute our moments into 2-D memories, perhaps the richest memories in life are better “captured” by our full sensory awareness in the moment—then later written down in a journal. This simple practice has proven to be a rich means of preserving memories for people throughout the centuries. Photography is a blessing, but if we impulsively turn to our camera apps too quickly, our minds can fail to capture the true moments and the rich details of an experience in exchange for visually flattened memories. Point-and-shoot cameras may in fact be costing us our most vivid recollections. But until we are convinced of this, we will continue to impulsively reach for our phones in the event of the extraordinary (or less).” Tony Reinke – 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

When I was in middle and high school I had a camera with me all the time. The camera on me was always the best camera I owned. I would document everything. Hanging out with friends. Family get togethers. Nature scenes and wildlife on the way to and from church, school, or commissioned shoots. Everything. If I didn’t bring my camera with me it seemed like the event was a waste. During college my thinking started to shift. I started only bringing my professional camera with me to professional shoots for school or clients. As I grew older I became less and less obsessed with documenting every mundane detail of life. Instead I choose to live in the moment. This thinking didn’t change overnight. It wasn’t even something I really thought about until I came across the Reinke quote. It was something that gradually happened over time. In December 2013 I bought my first iPhone. The iPhone became the camera I would document ordinary life with instead of a professional camera. I even created a personal series of iPhone images from late 2013-2016. The series saw less and less additions as time went on. In 2017 almost no new images where added. In 2018 I fully removed the gallery from my website. Now in 2019 I rarely take photos with my iPhone. The exception would be images for other business related tasks instead of artistic endeavors. Photos of business cards, location scouting, or of my car so I can find out how to get back to where I parked. I’ve had to many awkward experiences with the former to not be overly cautious now. Get togethers with friends, networking events, and my other ordinary busy work see no photographic documentation from me.

A friend of mine who runs in the same entrepreneurial circles I do shares a similar outlook. He greatly enjoys travel, but doesn’t take photos of his trips. Why? Because he would rather enjoy the moment than worry about getting a good photo.

It is okay to put the camera down. Enjoy the moment. You don’t need to document every minute detail of your life.

“I now find peace in the realization that countless potential masterpieces happen each moment the world over and go unphotographed.” Dan Winters – The Road to Seeing

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Photographer/Retoucher at Ryan Watkins Photography
Ryan Watkins Photography specializes in portrait and wedding photography catering to Tampa, Florida. Ready to travel.

Graduate from the Hallmark Institute of Photography and Highest Academic Honor recipient. 

Published in several magazines including Shutterbug, Digital Photo, Outdoor Photographer, and PDNedu. 
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