Be a Photography Shark: Keep Swimming or Die

London, 2014
London, 2014

In “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, I came across this interesting idea: that creativity is like a shark. If sharks stop swimming, even for a minute, they will sink to the bottom of the ocean and die.

A lot of things in life are about momentum– about creating positive habits, that allow us to achieve our dreams.

Going to the gym is a habit. If you have a schedule or routine for going to the gym, it is pretty easy to go. But when you’re trying to build momentum and a habit of going to the gym, it is really difficult.

I think photography is the same way. If you don’t shoot everyday, you are like the shark– you will die. You will die creatively, and it will be hard to build up the momentum to keep swimming (shooting).

I know a lot of us are frustrated creatively as photographers and artists. It is hard to stay “inspired” everyday. Even before writing this article, I wasn’t “inspired” to write this. But at the same time, I knew that it was something important to me– something I wanted to share. So I just sat down, started drinking a cup of tea, and started to put my hands to the keyboard. Now the words just come out of my fingertips.

I know shooting everyday is hard. We don’t always feel compelled to shoot everyday, let alone bring our camera with us everywhere we go.

An idea that my friend Joe Aguirre taught me: It is easier to bring your camera everywhere with you (slung over your neck or shoulder), than it is to shoot everyday.

For example, instead of trying to tell yourself that you need to shoot everyday, just make it a rule to yourself that you must bring your camera with you everywhere you go (and it cannot be in your bag, it must be over your shoulder, on your neck, or in your hand).

When your camera is your constant companion, it is much easier to make images.

For example, I struggle with shooting everyday as well. So now, when I leave my house (just walking to my car), I take my camera out of my backpack when leaving and then put it in the backseat of my car. Then when I arrive at my destination, the camera is already out of my bag, and ready to accompany me wherever I go.

I also find that when I have my camera around my neck, when I feel the weight of the camera on my neck, and think about the presence of my camera, I see more photography opportunities. Having the camera literally on me helps me to be more aware, and more mindful of my surroundings.

Another way to see more “photography opportunities” when it comes to living a “boring and daily routine”– don’t be distracted.

For example, when I ride the subway, I am always distracted by my smartphone (I swear doing something good, like reading books). But regardless, my e-books distract me from actually looking at and being aware of all the people around me. A better thing for me to do (if my goal is to shoot more), is to put away my smartphone and not be distracted.

We cannot savor life while being distracted.

Another example: I cannot taste my food when I am distracted (or once again, on my smartphone, reading, or listening to the radio). So I have made it a personal rule for myself is when I am eating my food, to only eat my food, and nothing else. This has helped me much better appreciate my food, taste the subtle flavors, and to be mindful.

So how can we apply this to our photography? When you’re going out to shoot, don’t be distracted by your smartphone. Turn off your smartphone, put it to mute, or put it into airplane mode. And when you’re shooting, don’t think about the stress and drama at work, the bills you need to pay, or the unanswered emails you need to send back. Only focus on shooting, empty your mind of other distractions.

I know this article has diverged from the original topic, but in conclusion, keep the momentum in your photography going. Keep swimming (or shooting), or else you will die. Build up a daily habit, no matter how small. Commit yourself to taking just 1 lousy photograph a day, to always carry your camera with you wherever you go, and to “not break the chain”.

Now go and shoot! :)

If you’re having a hard time finding inspiration to shoot, I also recommend my article: “Keep shooting or die

For further reading on making positive habits, I recommend reading the book: “The Power of Habit”.