Skills I learnt behind a camera that are useful in life…
Photography is the perfect hobby for an introvert; The small black box in front of your face is like an invisibility cloak letting you view the world through the typical reflective awe. And it taught me some key lessons…
I love photography. Like a million others.
I fell in love with it about 8 years ago. Around the same time I started travelling more. In a sense my love for travel was what gave me the love for photography. Now, it often feels the other way around. Visuals, colors and patterns please me. When I watch a movie I think ‘Oh, that shot is gorgeous’ and shelve it in my mind as a potential way to capture a scene.
I am an introvert. Like a million others.
My favorite hobbies are solo, reflective ones like reading, writing and dreaming. When in groups, I prefer small, intimate groups to large number of strange people. I prefer conversations to banter. I enjoy the company of others in silence a lot of times. Until, that one member in the group says “You don’t talk much”. With the right company, try and stop me.
So, when I met photography for the first time, sparks flew. Symphonic orchestra played in the background. Love at first sight.
Since then I have lived through a typical photography lover’s cycle. I have spent thousands of minutes reading about exposures and apertures. Perused a gazillion reviews of lens recommendations. Parted with cash for these lenses; some cheap and some not-so-cheap ones. Irritated my wife (and fellow traveler) a hundred times by experimenting with shots during our travel. And in general acting like a loon mostly but not caring.
Not caring. That’s the million dollar word. With a camera in hand, I often do things in public that would otherwise see my face blanch in terror. It made me immune to shame. I have lain in awkward positions in public places too many times to count. In too many places.
All just to capture that dirty side of a wall or that silly crack that looks like Godzilla. Often these shots don’t even end up looking so great. That random thoughtless click of a wonderfully azure sky with puffy sparkling white clouds looks a million bucks. It doesn’t matter. There is as much joy in the belief as in the result.
With a camera, I feel like the only person holding the pistol in a western duel. It is like an invisibility cloak that let’s me explore magical new passages.
It has also been a great teacher. Some of the things I’ve learnt by experimenting with photography (all photos are courtesy myself):
1. Attention to Detail
Too often in my early days, I would think I am capturing a great shot only to later realize that the point is lost in the shot. Why? Because of something in the background, to the side or even on the subject which I did not notice then but it captured for eternity in a Photograph.
One of the things that Photography taught me was to pay attention to every little detail in a scene. Now, when I think of a shot I look at all potential elements that come into it and then imagine how that would impact the scene.
This applies to other things in the life as well. There are aspects or elements in any work that may just be background or peripheral but can have a big impact on the final output. Paying attention to little details is a crucial life skill.
2. Different Perspectives
Perspective. That’s the essence of what Photography is all about. It’s about communicating your perspective of something and the best way to capture it. But perspectives are not unique or fixed. The first thing you learn in photography is to appreciate the perspectives of different people. The second thing you learn is to start looking at the same scene with different perspectives.
When I look back in my journey, the same type of scene (say an urban sprawl) has produced varying perspectives over the years depending on my growth and my outlook. For instance, I now capture more people as opposed to just architecture and patterns in city settings.
Ability to appreciate perspectives is critical across other things in life as well. It lets you be empathetic and come up with win-win solutions when something looks like a straight combat. It helps you bring up the right leverage while negotiating for what you want. And often it helps present your perspective better with the knowledge of a different perspective.
3. Telling a Story
Photography is story telling. We are either telling the story literally (a rare species of bird) or metaphorically (a morose urban decay shot). Without conveying a good story, photography is just light capture. Story telling elevates it into an art.
Often, I see stories emerging from my photographs after I have shot them. It’s not that I create them for the sake of creating. Usually, stories are latent. When I look back at me and my wife’s first Europe trip we have captured a lot more of the life there (cafes, squares, public performances, avenues with restaurants, etc) than in later trips abroad. This tells a story of what we were most impacted by and enjoyed in our first exposure.
Life is story telling. But more tangibly, story telling is the single most awesome weapon at our disposal to influence, motivate and achieve goals. Innovations are stories with a purpose. Great businesses are stories that make a difference. We live and breathe stories. We like to think of our lives as stories and package it in small parcels across the internet. Photography helps hone the skill of story telling and helps create great narratives. Combined with logic, it is an incredibly powerful tool.
Every photograph or collection of photographs tells you something about yourself. Stopping to look at the scenes you’ve captured and thinking back as to why you liked to capture it helps understand primary motivations. Are you fascinated by people and their nature? Or just nature? Do you like colors and shapes? Or just selfies of yourself?
Often, stopping to think about why we did certain things can help us refine our own logic. It helps us learn and change and maybe, become better at something.