[How to Take a Photograph] Putting the Camera Aside

This is a picture I did not take...” unphotographable.com

As photographers, we sometimes worry about putting our cameras aside for fear that we’ll miss something. On the other hand, we find ourselves concerned that we won’t truly be able to immerse ourselves in the moment if we have our camera with us, after all the photographer is rarely in the photographs themselves. We take photographs to remember, but if we’re not committed to the moment ourselves then what exactly is it that we are remembering?

Of course I miss good photographs all the time, perhaps because the moment has gone by the time I’ve pulled off my lens cap, the light has moved or Mikey is no longer doing something funny or cute. Sometimes I miss good photographs because I don’t even begin to pull my camera out of my bag, because instead I’m falling over onto the grass laughing while we play or just being present in the moment.

Mikey thinks he’s quite the celebrity sometimes being chased by photographers, and I’m reminded that taking a photograph is not necessarily the appropriate thing to do… especially when your child says “Mummy, no pictures! Mummy, play chalk with Mikey!” after just a few photographs.

I think we have to be satisfied with perhaps not having photographs of everything, to be able to trust our memory. To be able to take our cameras with us, but to be able to know whether we should use them or not. I still carry my camera everywhere, but I don’t always use it. There are some things that we’ll remember without needing to photograph them and other things that we wouldn’t be able to photograph anyway, even if we had wanted to. Mikey spelled out and read his first word last week, while we were walking along beautiful sidewalks in our neighbourhood on our way to buy groceries. He pointed and said “Mummy, mummy! Look! Letters! S-T-O-P!” I looked up to where he was pointing, to see a stop sign. I said “Mikey, do you know what S-T-O-P spells? It spells stop.” He said “Mummy! Mummy! S-T-O-P letters means stop!” and he stopped in the middle of the sidewalk.

But contrary to that, there are times when the desire to take a photograph or an idea for a photograph leads us to doing something different and having fun. Something I might not have thought of or we might not have done if I hadn’t wanted to photograph it.

This is the last in the How to Take a Photograph series, you can go back and read the other posts here if you missed any. It seems strange to write a blog post without any photographs, especially considering that this is supposed to be a photography inspiration series. But instead I will direct you to this website – Unphotographable, a text account of pictures missed.

How do you manage to strike a balance between the desire to photograph and the need to be present in the moment?


  1. I sometimes just leave it at home or make a point not to pull out my camera. You’re right – when we have it, it can sometimes prevent us from living the moment…in fact, it can almost feel like we’ve staged the moment. Great stuff. I’ve loved this series.

  2. What a great post to end on. I struggle with this and try not to feel frustrated when I see a great photographic opportunity float past me. But I realize, like you, that we miss these moments all the time. And when you deliberately put the camera down, it’s must easier to be in the moment.

  3. Well written. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like dragging the camera out. My kids are older and really don’t want their pictures taken…my daughter will do “portraits” but if it’s a school function she would rather die than have her mom out there with the big camera and white lens! So, I commit things to memory so I can also enjoy the present.

  4. Great post. I can completely relate to those times that you don’t bother pulling out the camera. Sometimes I feel like it gets in the way … which is strange considering how much I love using it ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Elle

    Such a beautiful post – it’s important to be a part of memories too ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. This is totally something that is on my mind often. I’m to the point now when I just feel whether I should have my camera with me or not. OF COURSE, most of the time that I don’t have it, there are photo ops that I WISH I could have captured, but rather than feel bummed about it, I just try to observe more intently, so that I can remember the moment!

  7. i loved this series. this post specifically made me think a bit… this is so often crosses my mind. it is such a hard balance…but im learning and working on it. thx for a great insightful series.

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