I have a love/hate relationship with cameras. Life can be beautiful and amazing and we want to remember it. Taking a picture is one of those ways. But holding a phone in front of your face and looking through a viewfinder means seeing things differently, and often not in a good way.
The basic premise of photography means that there is always a distance between the photographer and the subject. Taking a picture of a child playing in the leaves is focusing on one thing: the image of a child at that moment. You aren’t focused on the sounds or the smells, the feeling of the cold wind on your hands or their laughter. You aren’t fully experiencing the moment. You’re documenting it.
There are some things a lens can’t capture: the sounds, smells, feelings, and a wider picture of what is happening at that moment. When life is viewed through a lens, it forces you to see things in a small rectangular space. Like a horse, you have blinders on. And it is sad.
Taking pictures or selfies can actually be dangerous. There have been several recent incidents where individuals have died when trying to get the best selfie. And for what? To post on a social media site that will be viewed for a bit and then left to the archives of Facebook or Instagram?
So before you pull out your camera to take what you imagine will be a cool video or amazing photo, consider these 6 things.
- Does this event need to be documented by camera or can it be put into your memory? Seeing your child off for the first day of school may be great to film, but how important is it? Would you prefer to spend that tiny bit of time enjoying the moment and waving to your child? Can you take a picture before they leave instead of the actual moment?
- Are you missing the experience? For example, how important is capturing the entire concert? If you’re looking through a lens, you’re not experiencing it, just documenting it.
- How often will you watch the video or look at the pictures? The birth of a baby is a moment in time that will never be recreated, a pivotal moment for all involved. It may very well be something important to film. But see #4
- Can you have someone else document it for you? If it’s the birth of your child or a wedding of a loved one, allow yourself to experience the event and give the camera to someone else.
- How much of the event needs to be filmed or taken a picture of? A sporting event could be filmed in its entirety, or there could be several still pictures. Is someone else filming and could you get a copy of it? Can you take a picture of the team together at the end of the game?
- Does the distance that a camera puts between the photographer and the subject affect anything? When your husband is performing in his band, how will he feel if he looks at you and sees your phone rather than your happy face?
Photos and videos are great at capturing events, but they can be invasive and unnecessary. Rather than pulling out a camera, try focusing on the moment, the feelings and emotions involved. Make a point to remember the cool breeze that rises off the river, the laughter shared, the wine tasted and the smell of the cut grass. Hear the dogs in the distance, the rain on the leaves, the squish of your shoes in the mud.
These things are important, crucial, to life. Have you ever looked at a landscape photo you took and wondered where in the world it was? Buy a postcard. They’re better anyway. Or take one picture of yourself or your loved ones and leave it at that. Be in the moment!
Photos and videos get misplaced. Technology fails, pictures get lost or ruined or misplaced. But if you are able to recreate the experience in your mind, you will have a gift that never goes away. You will be able to remind yourself of the entirety of the situation, which is so very much more than an image or even a video.