How to Be Less Distracted in Your Photography

Hayward, 2015 #cindyproject
Hayward, 2015 #cindyproject

Dear friend,

What are your bottlenecks in your photography — meaning, what prevents you from becoming the best photographer you can?

I cannot pay attention

Melrose, 2016 #cindyproject
Melrose, 2016 #cindyproject

For me, the biggest bottleneck is attention.

We are living in an “attention economy” — dollars are being made at expense of your attention.

For example, every time you are interrupted with a text message, email, social media update, advertisement, or whatever— you get distracted. And every time you are distracted, apparently it takes you 20-30 minutes to get back on track.

When it comes to our photography, we are always being distracted. I know for myself personally, my biggest distraction is thinking that my camera and gear isn’t good enough. That somehow I could become a better photographer if I had a “better” camera.

Hanoi, 2016 (shot by Cindy)
Hanoi, 2016 (shot by Cindy)

But the truth is that I just need to take more photos. I need to be less distracted when I’m walking around. I need to spend less time looking at my phone, and more time and attention looking and paying attention in the streets.

When I’m at dinner with friends, I need to think less about what photo I’m going to upload to social media next. I need to think more about paying attention to the conversation I’m having with my loved ones— and appreciating their company.

When it comes to making photos, I need to pay better attention. To get into the “zone”, and live in the “eternal now” in photography.

When am I the most creative?

Hanoi, 2016 #cindyproject
Hanoi, 2016 #cindyproject

I am always the most creative in my photography when I have the last amount of distractions. I’m most focused in my photography when I’m not worrying about money, family drama, or the future.

Tips to be less distracted in your photography

Garden Grove, 2016 #cindyproject
Garden Grove, 2016 #cindyproject

Here are some tips to be less distracted in your photography:

  1. Turn off your phone when you’re shooting, or set it to mute, or airplane mode.
  2. Don’t listen to music or podcasts when you’re shooting.
  3. Don’t check email first thing in the morning— rather, try to spend some time in the morning taking photos (in your apartment, on public transit to work, or even photos from your car while commuting to work — carefully of course).
  4. Block all camera-review or gear websites from your browser (the “StayFocusd” plugin on Google Chrome is great).
  5. When you’re looking through your photos on your computer, editing, sequencing, or post-processing your photos, turn off your wifi.
  6. When you’re shooting on the streets, walk 25% slower than you normally do. Enjoy every step of the way, and treat your photography as “walking meditation.”
  7. Be grateful for what you have. Don’t worry about people who have more likes and followers than you on social media. Be grateful for the few followers you have, and remember how fewer followers and likes you had (from a year ago).

Finding satisfaction in your photography, finding focus, and being less distracted in life are some of the most challenging things.

Berkeley, 2016 #cindyproject
Berkeley, 2016 #cindyproject

Everyday, it is a struggle for me. Not only that, but the world is always calling out for your attention.

Each day, seek to be less distracted— and more creative.

I have great faith in you.


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