How to Find Tranquility in Your Photography

San Diego, 2014
San Diego, 2014

For a long time I’ve seeked “happiness” in my photography and life. While I still don’t know what “happiness” is, I know what makes me unhappy.

What makes you unhappy?

London, 2012
London, 2012

What makes me unhappy in my photography and life?

In life I hate commuting, answering online trolls, feeling tired, feeling a heavy obligation to answer emails, doing work for the sake of doing work, making my loved ones angry or disappointed in me, worrying about paying rent, overpaying for food, not having freedom to say “no”, being a slave to a schedule, not having the energy to do creative work (and I’m sure many other things I cannot think off the top of my head).

In photography I hate worrying whether a photo I upload will get as many “likes” as my old photos, I hate lusting after a new camera or lens, I hate the feeling that where I live is uninteresting, I hate feeling “uninspired”, I hate debating on the internet about photography, and I hate making photos for others (and not for myself).

Often we don’t know what makes us happy, but we know what makes us unhappy. Therefore by Nassim Taleb’s “via negativa” concept in his book “Antifragile”, happiness must mean simply avoiding thing which make you unhappy.

I also hate feeling stressed in life and photography. And what is the opposite of stress and anxiety? Tranquility.

Peace of mind

NYC, 2014
NYC, 2014

What is tranquility in photography?

Tranquility is not wanting any other camera or lens. Tranquility is being happy with the equipment you already have. Tranquility is knowing that there are tons of photography opportunities where you live. Tranquility is not feeling forced to take photos when you don’t want to. Tranquility is knowing that you don’t need to take a photograph everyday.

Tranquility is finding personal satisfaction in your own photos, and not worrying about what others think about your work. Tranquility is to live a low-key lifestyle, and avoiding hype and social media stardom.

For so long I’ve wanted to live an exciting and interesting life, full of action and energy– but as time goes on, I far prefer tranquility, peace, and gratitude.

Some personal remedies

Beverly Hills, 2012
Beverly Hills, 2012

I still haven’t found pure tranquility in my photography and life, and I probably will never be at 100% zen mode. However I am certainly a lot less stressed and miserable than I was in the past. Some things which have helped me:

  • Stick with a backpack instead of messenger bag (easier to travel and carry laptop for entire day)
  • Use a compact camera (easier to fit in front pocket, travel with, and take photos)
  • Use “P” (program mode) to worry less about aperture and technical settings, and to focus on making photos you enjoy
  • Realizing that even taking 1 “good” photo a month is a good keeper rate. Seeking to just get 1 “great” photo a year.
  • Rather than traveling to foreign and exotic places to photograph, seeking to adapt to your own environment and take the best photos you can depending on where you live
  • Spending less time on social media (or best of all, no time at all)

So friend, try to aim to find more peace, Zen, and tranquility in your photography. Know that a simple life as a photographer is the most pleasurable.

What I’ve discovered in my own experiences is the more famous you become as a photographer, the more haters, critics, and stress you will have. The more social media followers you have, the more you are bound to your audience. The more money you make, the more headaches. The more equipment and cameras you own, the more stress in terms of deciding which camera to shoot with.

I’m still trying to figure all this stuff out, so I’ll keep you updated with what I discover for myself. I wish you also lots of love, peace, and personal meaning in your photography.

Always shoot for yourself, and seek personal satisfaction. You can have a million social media followers, fame, fortune, whatever– but if you are always stressed, anxious, and worried– what is the point?

Tranquility is our goal.