How to Approach your Photography Amid a PandemicMar 24, 2020
It's tough right now. Uncertainties and unknowns are flooding my mind, and I feel, at times, as if they are choking away all things positive. While I've been isolated in the bubble of my home, there's a selfish part of me that wants to and has complained. I've grumbled about my office space being taken over by my husband, who must work from home. I've griped about my now lack of computer access. I've missed the previous quiet of my days when I could focus solely on my goals but instead are now occupied by my children's needs. It's easy to let all the things that are happening and all the unknowns overwhelm. I know, however, that this type of thought pattern is not healthy for me on a physical or mental level. Years of living with anxiety have taught me that when I'm triggered by events beyond my control that I need to choose to accept the things I cannot change. I've learnt that I need to look for positivity. Looking for positivity doesn't negate the fact that worrisome things are happening right now, but it does provide me with some peace and solace, which improves my physical and mental health. When I'm in a positive mind frame, I can become grateful for that fact that as hard as things are right now that my husband still has a job, many people do not. I can be thankful that I have the opportunity to spend more time with my beautiful children and take my puppy for an extra walk or two a day. I can be grateful that we are all well and haven't fallen ill to the viral pandemic. I can rejoice in the fact that we have food in our pantry. There is much to be thankful for, and when I reframe my thinking, I can quiet some of the anxiety and breathe a little deeper in calm.
Stress and anxiety are all very debilitating and are unfortunately all things I've experienced on a personal level in years past. They can be dizzying and confusing. I've come to learn that the ever-present effects of these experiences can be overwhelming, and I've learnt, and I am still learning ways of coping. Photography is one of the ways I deal with stress. The practice of photography is therapeutic and cathartic for me. I'm incredibly thankful for this art. I want to share some heartfelt thoughts with you today about how you can get through the stress and anxiety of this pandemic by embracing the therapeutic effects of photography too.
1. Pick up your camera
I have been feeling uninspired. Incredibly uninspired. Stress and anxiety do that to me. They're exhausting sidekicks that are very hard to shake. Today, I picked up my camera. The simple act of holding that heavy piece of equipment forced me to live in the moment. I needed to focus on not dropping my beloved gear, my settings and my vision for my image. I could feel my breath slow, and the anxiety in my chest ease up a touch. This simple act of picking up my camera instilled a few moments of calm. I'm grateful photography can do that for me.
ISO 200, 160mm, f4, 1/1600SS
2. Simple is best
When you're overwhelmed, anxious and stressed, your creativity is often stifled. At least, that's how it is for me. Don't put pressure on yourself to create portfolio worthy images, instead simply create. The act of creating will likely force your mind into thinking more creatively, but if it doesn't, don't worry. Be gentle with yourself right now and don't overwhelm your thoughts further. Simplicity is a powerful state of being.
ISO 400, 35mm, f2.8, 1/250SS
3. Do not critique your photographs
I'm a big believer in self-critique, as I think it can propel a photographer forward in her development in leaps and bounds. However, during stressful times it's crucial to be kind to ourselves. I know that sometimes when I have stressors amidst me, I have to purposefully make an effort to think positively and reframe those pesky negative thoughts. There's no need to invite critique when you're already sensitive. Instead, only notice what you love about your images. Let that fill you up with joy. You can work on self-reflection later when you're not feeling so raw.
3. Try something outside of your normal
Allowing yourself to try something new automatically permits mistakes. Removing the expectations and pressures we put on ourselves to create exceptional images is therapeutic. Now is the time to try out a new technique like freelensing or double exposure. Perhaps you've wanted to experiment with a copper tube or prism. Go ahead and do that. Try shooting through glass or a crystal. Try a different genre of photography altogether. How about macro or landscape photography? There are endless ways in which you can photograph outside of your normal.
4. Force yourself into a creative state
If you're feeling up to it, force yourself into a creative state. I do this by looking back through old images. I, as I know you do too, have favourite photos from years past that fill my soul with joy. Try recreating those images. As an alternative, perhaps you've been inspired by another photographer. Try channelling what you love about that photographer's work into your photos in an inspirational way. Maybe you have a little extra time on your hands now that you are not running off to extracurricular activities or packing up suitcases for spring break. How about watching that compositing video tutorial you purchased months ago and infuse those techniques into an image you've meant to try. I just bet that if you focus on being creative that the results will amaze you.
ISO 800, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/500SS
5. Photograph only what you love
Now is the time more than ever to capture images for you. Fill up your memory cards with pictures that warm your heart and make you smile. Perhaps it's a piece of artwork created during a homeschooling moment, maybe it's the cookies from a baking marathon, or perhaps it's the laughter from a pillow fight. Whatever you do, don't let your beautiful everyday moments pass you by. Use photography to soothe away any stress you're experiencing, even if it's just for a few clicks of your shutter, and photograph what brings you joy.
ISO 400, 35mm, f3.2, 1/320SS
Right now, I think most of us need to focus on taking care of ourselves and those we love so that we can better take care of others who might need our help. Tell those anxious thoughts that you've heard their little voices but that you're going to choose to fill up your days with kindness, joy and love. Find what it is that you need right now and embrace it. Me, well, I'll be embracing my photography because I know that the therapy I find within this art every time I pick up my camera is invaluable during challenging times.