True Happiness in Photography

I believe it is self evident and obvious that all of us as photographers seek “happiness” in our photography. But what does that even mean? How can one achieve happiness in photography? Is happiness everlasting in photography? What role does money, fame, and external measures of success play into photography? Let’s examine. #photolosophy

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First of all, let me share what I DON’T think happiness is in photography.

  1. Happiness isn’t having a lot of followers, likes, comments, or fans.
  2. Happiness isn’t having fancy exhibitions, shows, books of yours published, etc.
  3. Happiness isn’t having others sing your praises, clap for you, or clap with their tongues (flattery).
  4. Happiness isn’t owning all the expensive cameras, lenses, and gear you desire.
  5. Happiness isn’t making a bunch of money from your photography, and happiness in photography isn’t even about making a living from your passion in photography.

How do I know this to be true? Well, I can speak for experience — because I’ve achieved all of these external markers of “success” in photography, and it didn’t make me truly happy, fulfilled, or joyous. The pleasures and the joys I got from these things listed above gave me momentary feelings of elation — only to become depressed over time.

So then— what is truly happiness or success in photography?

Based on my philosophical inquiries into myself, this is what has given me true happiness in photography:

  1. Sharing what I know about photography with others — especially those who are eager to learn!
  2. The joy of being “in the zone” of shooting photos; especially this “zen zone” I get while I’m shooting street photography! In this state of mind I am calm, relaxed, energized, elated, confident, brazen, I don’t hesitate, and I’m constantly smiling! To me, it’s the drunken Dionysian ecstasy of shooting photos!
  3. Happiness is making photos that put a smile on your face. To me, if you look at your own photo, and it sparks joy in your soul, then it is a good photo! And yes, you can make many good photos! And just because you share a photo and it doesn’t get a lot of likes doesn’t mean that it is a bad photo. If you share a photo and it doesn’t get a lot of likes, you might have just uploaded it at an “unoptimized” time, or it is a photo that won’t please the masses (like McDonald hamburgers, or sweet Starbucks drinks). However, you should be your own final judge and arbiter of your own photos; never outsource this to anybody else!
  4. The joy of connecting with other photographers and people: I get the most joy from photography when teaching workshops, bringing other passionate photographers together, and also encouraging others. I also get a lot of joy when I learn from others, and share with others! Also I’m happiest when shooting on the streets, and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone — which allows me to interact and engage with strangers, and for me to open up my soul to them!
  5. Happiness is the joy of putting together your photographic work into essays, projects, or mini sets. To me, the art of arranging and curating your own work is underutilized. To me, the joy of making a book (whether digital or print) of my photos is almost as much as the joy of making the photos themselves! So to extract the maximum happiness and joy from your photographic process, make it full stack! Enjoy the process of walking on the streets and talking with strangers, enjoy the process of shooting on the streets, enjoy the process of challenging yourself of making more ambitious compositions, enjoy the process of going home and looking through your photos and selecting and processing your favorites, and enjoy the process of sharing your photos and uploading them to your own website or blog!

Do things to be happy!

Selfie Singapore

Above all, I believe happiness to be an exercise — an activity in photography. We cannot sit around and be happy in photography. We must act! We must shoot!

Don’t put any pressure on yourself to make “good” photos others will like. It is enough to make photos that please you, then share these photos with others!

Singapore selfie

Be bold, be brave, be you, and shoot whatever you want, green or blue, yellow or purple — paint the world with your own photographic canvas and lens, and share your own unique perspective, again and again!



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