Today I want to share some insights with you, what mindful people photography means to me, how mindfulness helped me to achieve my photography approach and what you can do to improve your photography skills with mindfulness. But lets start with some definitions.
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Unfortunately, whenever you google Mindfulness you will end up on websites promoting meditation and yoga. And for sure meditation and yoga helps you to reconnect with yourself and the world around you, but for me it is only one side of a coin. To me mindfulness is presence within myself and others. It is a state where your mind is clear enough to see your own and everyone else´s truth. When you can appreciate everything what is within you and others and the world. I don´t need meditation or yoga to achieve this state. I am of the opinion that through a connection you build with someone that is based on genuine trust, you can achieve this state of presence. When you are fully open to yourself, to your feelings and emotions and to everything what lies between you and the other person.
Well this seems easy right? You might think that people photography is about taking photos of people. I would say people photography is about communication and connection. You don´t just take a photo of someone. People photography focuses on personality, wants to achieve deepness. It is a challenge to take a photo of someone that actually builds tension and tells a story. People photography is not taking selfies, or just random shots of people passing by. In people photography you have to focus on your subject and connect so that they are able to show you a glance of their personality.
Mindful People Photography
Bringing Mindfulness and People Photography together might compile to this definition: “Mindful People Photography is the ability to connect with the presence of yourself and your subject in order to take uncommitted photos without any distortion of the reality of the photographed person.”
You might ask: Is that possible? Probably not entirely. Because no matter how deep you can connect, understand and see somebody, you will never be able to feel the same way they feel or to think the same way they think. So Mindful People Photography is more an approach to get there knowing you´ll never reach 100%. So my personal definition of what I do with Mindful People Photography might be something like:
“Mindful People Photography is the approach to show as much reality and truth of the photographed subject as possible by connecting and communicating on a deep and emotional level and achieving presence between both, the photographer and the model.”
7 Tips How You Can Improve Your Photography With A Mindful Approach
I am not saying that mindfulness helps you getting better in every case. It is just a different approach, a different focus on how to get images you might want to get. So the next time you want to take photos that contain personality consider these tips:
- Forget about equipment – This is something I did totally wrong for years. I was concentrating on what equipment I would need to get a certain photo. But the equipment is just groundwork. Equipment is not the focus, because you are not taking photos of equipment. Focus on you subject. Free your mind and your setting from everything. Probably limit yourself on just your camera and one lens.
- Connect with your subject – Connection is often misunderstood. Just talking with someone can make them comfortable but is not a guarantee for letting them open up to you. Make yourself vulnerable before you ask them to be. Ask the real important things. Listen. Give attention. For example ask your subject about the three best things happened to them the last year. And then share your best three things. Connection established. Or ask them about their favorite music, and then ask why. Songs often have stories for people. Or ask what are they struggling with at the moment. It´s easier than you think. But you have to be aware of how you communicate.
- Develop your Mindset – Before you can really connect with someone on a mindful level, I belief you need to have a growth mindset. Because only having this mindset allows you to handle such vulnerable situation with the right mood and context. Opening up to someone need to involve a learning approach, a positive context, so that the subject really feels accepted with all their flaws, insecurities and imperfections. Read this blogpost about Mindsets –>
- Start with friends – Establishing a deep connection with strangers is a challenge. Start easier and take those kind of photos with friends. It is easier for you to connect on a deep level with someone you already have a base of trust. And a plus is they will immediately tell you if those photos are really them.
- Be playful and tickle the child – Sometimes it is so fun to see when people let their inner child come out. People only do that if they feel overly comfortable. I always carry a soap bubble pistol and a water pistol with me. See this post why a soap bubble pistol can be an ice breaker. It is just giving them something they can have fun with and you will see how much they open up and start laughing.
- Play a game of experiences – This might seem weird but if you don´t have much time this is the fast track to getting to know someone pretty intensively: Tell your subject one thing you have done or experienced and they have to drink a shot if they haven´t done this yet. Then your subject should tell you something, and so on and so on. You can do this a couple of rounds and don´t save too much on the too personal things 😉
- Take time – Everybody is different. Some open up faster, some don´t. Take enough time for the photos and don´t let anyone feel you need to rush through.
What is mindfulness and mindful people photography to you? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. Would love to discuss with you 🙂