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How to Find Your Purpose in Photography

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Dear friend; I want to write you a letter on finding your purpose in photography — and giving you a chance to reflect on why you make photos.

A purpose-driven life as a photographer

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First of all, we all need a reason to make photos.

Some of us make photos as a way of self-therapy. I know for myself, street photography was a way for me to escape the stress from work — just walking around for 10-15 minutes with my camera, was good for my soul.

I also know that photography was a tool for me to empower others. One of the most meaningful things I ever did was teaching photography at a continuation school called ‘Phoenix High’ in inner-city LA, and used photography as a tool to help encourage the students to find meaning and purpose in their life.

Do you make photos to make photos; or to make meaning in life?

If you have no idea what your purpose in photography is, here is some tips and advice for you:

1. What puts your soul on fire?

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What kind of photos makes your soul soar? What kind of photos bring you delight, joy, and excitement?

I know for me, I often get bored shooting sunsets. But I like to photograph people— because I am a humanist at heart. And I love my fellow human beings. Photographing strangers also helps me build my personal self-confidence, and helps me become a more courageous person.

I know for me, I used to care too much about what others thought of my photos. I never asked myself:

What do I think of my photos?

So to start off, think to yourself: “Why do I make photos?”

2. What excited you about photography when you started?

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Try to go back and remember when you first picked up a camera. How old were you? 5 years old, 10 years old, 20 years old, 30, 40, 50, 60, or even 70?

What was the first experience you had with photography? Joy? Excitement? Wonderment?

For me, it was amazement. I used to shoot with disposable 35mm film cameras on school trips. I had to wait a week before seeing the photos.

When I first got my digital point and shoot camera from my mom at age 18, I was amazed— I could see the images instantly on the LCD screen. To me, it was magic. Better than magic.

I have always had a terrible memory; so the camera was a way I could take meaningful experiences in my life, and make them immortal.

However as I got older— I became less appreciative of this magical technology. I got caught up in the hype of megapixels, having bigger lenses, and more expensive cameras. I forgot the initial joy I had in photography; that of curiosity and fun. I have since learned I can make great photos on a shitty camera.

Why did you first start making photos? And what feeling did you have?

3. What would you photograph today if you were going to die tonight?

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If today were your last day on earth; what would you photograph, and what would you not photograph?

If today were my last day on earth; I would make more meaningful photos of Cindy, and my love of her. I would also shoot some self-portraits of myself.

I wouldn’t really care to photograph my cappuccino, a sunset, or the food I ate for dinner.

Who would you photograph? What would you photograph?

Would you photograph your partner, your kids, your friends, parents, strangers, landscapes, or what? There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ what you decide to photograph.

Only photograph what you’re passionate about.

Conclusion: What is your purpose as a photographer?

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I think to find inspiration in photography is to find more purpose in your photography.

For me, I find purpose in my photography by photographing beautiful images of Cindy — hopefully to encourage others to show love for their loved ones.

I also feel purposeful in blogging, because I hope these words will help others.

What is your purpose as a photographer? Write it on a piece of paper, tweet it, Instagram it, Facebook it, whatever. Share your #personalphotography thoughts with your friends and followers.

For me:

I make photos to document my love with my loved ones, and to inspire others to do the same #personalphotography

To find more meaning in your photography, pick up a copy of Photo Journal: Personal Photography Reflections.


Personal Photography >

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For a primer to personal photography, read the book: “The Personal Photography Manual

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