How to take a photograph

Our Polaroid book will be more pictures than words while my Unravelling book will be more words than pictures, but either way, I have a lot of Polaroids to shoot and scan this year. It’s not a great hardship, as I take my camera with me wherever I go, but here’s a secret: sometimes this compulsion to take photographs, to capture what I see as I walk around the world, drives me insane; I know it drives my friends and family insane when I ask them, for the millionth time to stop the car/wait for me while I take a photo. Again. And again. And again. I feel anxious if i’ve seen an image and want to catch it, like a crazed lepidopterist chasing rare butterflies. This is why, given the choice, I prefer to visit a new place on my own*.

I thought a city like Marrakesh, with all its detail and colour and bohemian splendour, would make my head explode but, interestingly, I took it all in my stride, knowing it’s impossible to miss a shot when everything you see is a shot. I had a mental checklist of the Polaroids I wanted to get – spices, doorways, faded walls and the ubiquitous tea sets – and I scored all of them and so much more.

Shooting for the books is no different from shooting for myself – i’m not letting myself be too precious about it, as I know that’s the fastest way to manifest a creative block. But I know I’m shooting with half an eye on the final usage, so I’m looking forward to playing with my iPhone in August and just snapping for the pleasure of it.

The August break has no rules, so you can shoot whatever, whenever and however you like, but I thought I’d share my best photography tip in case you wanted to use the month for some creative muscle flexing. My best tip is this: As you look through the viewfinder, or compose in the LCD screen, look for colours, shapes and diagonals. Actually, if you only look for one compositional element, look for the diagonals as they will immediately give your shot a sense of movement and interest.

Okay, here’s a bonus tip: don’t worry about composition too much in August! Be free with your camera and use it to dive deeper into the moment you’re in. If you want to give your month some discipline, how about shooting your daily shot around the same time each day? See what a month of mornings looks like…

* I also prefer to shop on my own and go to the cinema on my own. Both heavenly.

9 responses
  1. bella

    Hey babe ~ everyone I know KNOWS that I will make them stop and reverse when I’ve got my camera. Frustrating much? (maybe!)

    So happy to be part of August break. Have a great weekend. xo

  2. Nicola

    I hear ya. I get really uncomfortable when I’m with friends and family and they either get frustrated with me for stopping so much or they are excessively involved and want to suggest photo ops all the time. I also love going to the movies alone and try to do it once every couple of weeks. x

  3. Melissa Buchanan

    Being precious and creative blocks. An “a-ha” moment right there!
    Thanks for the info about the workshop – I was just wondering about that this morning. :)

  4. Nicola

    Ah, yes, that compulsion. Not understood by many non-camera toting people. I prefer to photograph alone. I find it much harder when I’m with someone else unless they’re a photographer. Plus, part of the pleasure for me is completely zoning out and going into my own little camera world.

  5. Jude

    I do sort of love getting into that “zone,” even if it drives everyone else mad (I think there’s a French word for it, monomanie, that I wish existed in the English language!)

  6. Charlane Killough Griffith

    going to the movies was such a treat when i first found myself alone. there was a dollar place so i went often….it’s how i discovered muriel’s wedding among other movies. perfection.

  7. Jill Kane

    You rock sister! Thanks for the tips and looking forward to blogging/writing beautifully – pinky swear ;)

  8. Micheline

    A month of nothing but photos sounds like heaven right now. Thank you for organizing it. Please count me in.

    I love these little tidbits you keep leaving about the books. It’s so much fun to hear the highlights of your progress. I’m looking forward to seeing them when they’re done.

  9. Kimberly

    Everytime I visit somewhere new I crave a day alone, on foot, camera in hand…but being a single mom of a 3 year old doesn’t exactly support that drive. My game plan is to turn him into a mini photographer so he’ll come shoot along with me.

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