I have a confession. My family and I went to Chicago recently, and I photographed nearly the entire trip with just my iPhone. And yes, I know that camera phones these days are good enough to make a photograph that ends up on a billboard in Times Square. But trust me - these photographs and video clips were snapshots, pure and simple. Not a single one is particularly “good” - but I love those photographs anyways, even though they weren’t what anyone expected.
Can we talk about pressure for a moment? And then can we talk about the pressure that comes when everyone around you realizes that you, a professional photographer, was about to take your family to a highly photographed and beautiful city?
Okay, first, I started that internal inventory of all the things I just “had” to do photographically while there. I immediately started thinking about light and when the best time to visit certain places would be. I made internal plans on how I’d share the images - the images I hadn’t even taken yet - when we got back. And I felt the mental load start to build up, the pressure rise, and my expectations start to get out of hand.
Do you want to know what the secret to happiness is? It’s managing your expectations.
So I made a conscious decision to stop. I decided that I wasn’t going to allow those expectations and pressure to ruin an incredible trip with my family. I decided that I was going to be present, without a camera in hand. I decided that I wanted my family’s memories of that place to be about the place, and not about mom’s face hiding behind a camera. And I wanted my memories to match theirs.
So I documented almost the entire trip with just my phone.
The result? I’m left with a collection of crooked, sometimes blurry, incredibly random, and life-filled photographs that have the ability to take us all, even me, right back into the moment. We LOVE those photographs. They are amongst my most cherished, and much of that is because I was in the moment that they represent, fully. I wasn’t worried about finding the perfect moments or the best angle or thinking about maximizing compositions. I was just there.
I wanted to share this today because the other day a good friend showed me her photographs from a recent trip, and immediately excused them by saying “I know they aren’t nearly as good as yours...” - which made my heart twinge a bit.
Okay, fine, maybe they aren’t as “good” as a professional could create, but they ARE just as meaningful. Because they brought her back into the moment just as mine did. And isn’t that what a photograph should do?
Hire a good photographer when you can. Make it a part of your budget, and make it a priority. BUT….don’t discredit the images you take yourself, either. They are just as important.