Mindful Photography


There are three figs. They’re lined up on my white table. Not quite green and not quite red, they’re an in-between color, that point where red and green meet and mix. There are patches of green. Patches of red. Patches of brown. I stand still, and look closer. 

The brown isn’t really a brown. Light from the nearby window hits, and the brown throws out purple. I kneel down and study the light, seeing the shadows of figs on the table. There’s colour in the shadows. Greys, blacks, traces of white. 

I move the figs into a curve. I pick up my camera and look through the view finder. And there is only me, a white table, three mottled figs, and light bouncing, making sparkles and shadows. It’s simple. But there’s beauty in the simplicity, the intricate beauty of shape and light and stillness. Time slows. I press the shutter. 

How to lose time

Look busy. Stay late. Talk much. Arrive early. Be seen. Move faster. Do more. Make more. Be…more. Time is running out; don’t waste it. Never, ever, stop. Never, ever, slow down.

Do you hustle? The #hustlelife promises fulfilment. It tells us to go quickly, to gather up moments, to accumulate more of this, more of that. I hustle, and life is all noise – the scrape of hurried feet, the rhythmic click of keyboards, the ping of messages. 

We measure our life in likes and subscribers. We charge through our days. We hurry. We try to pin down time and extract from it all we can. I push myself, always working, never still. 

But in all my striving, my hustle life, I lose time. I lose myself. My mind never stills. How can I know myself when my thoughts are always far from me? How can I connect with the present and find ‘success’ in this moment when my mind pushes me forward, always restless, always discontent? 

How to gain time

I’ve learned how to make time. We cannot live in the past; we cannot live in the future. All we have is the present. We gain time by going slow. We fill up our lives by savoring each moment. When you’re grounded in the present, your mind stops. It stops its fixation with wants and wishes, the past and the future. You can explore today, this hour, this minute, this now.

I’ve learned to do this through photography. Photographs are frozen moments. When we click the camera’s shutter or that one big button on our smartphone, moments freeze. They fracture and reassemble, written on film or in pixels. Through photography, we can pause. We can slow our minds by studying not what we wish would be but what already is. 

Life in thirds

There is a rule in photography known as the rule of thirds. It’s a composition technique, which is a fancy way of saying, ‘This is how to create balanced and interesting photos.’ Imagine this screen has three equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines running across it. The lines break the screen up into nine equal parts. Your eye moves across the screen, from one part to another. Each part is a mini-photo, complete in itself.

You can think of your life as a photograph. Is it balanced? Is each part of your life receiving equal care? Is one crowding out the rest? A life unbalanced is rarely beautiful. Like a poorly composed photograph, it doesn’t uplift or inspire. 

Enjoy the negative space

Think of something that appeals to you – #instaworthy flowers, a cup of coffee, that drawing your kid is oh so proud of. See the image in your mind and imagine it’s a photograph. You want to place that amazing thing where our eyes will be drawn to it. You want to celebrate that one thing and make everything else fade. 

The rule of thirds encourages use of negative space. It’s that part of the photograph that is uncluttered. You create negative, unfilled space, so that you can truly see that one oh so important thing. 

We can use negative space in our life. Give yourself permission to focus on one thing. Be where you are. Allow your mind to focus on one part of your life at a time. Enjoy that part. Study that part. Investigate everything about this moment in your life. See the detail. Find the beauty in the mundane. This moment, like your life, isn’t something to hustle through. By committing yourself to this moment, you commit yourself to your life. 

Marie Kondo photography 

I don’t know if Marie Kondo takes photographs. The all-knowing Google won’t tell me. But, I think the Japanese lifestyle guru would take stunning photographs – she knows how to get rid of things that don’t belong.

Each photograph has a ‘hero object’, that one thing the photographer wants you to really see. Everything else in the picture supports this object. If anything competes with the hero object, it’s got to go. Photos speak to us when they draw out our emotions. Your hero object should be something that sparks joy (thanks Marie). Remove anything that detracts from that joy in your life, as much as you can. 

UShine in photos

In photography there is resistance. We resit the pull to have more, to do more, to be more. We see the abundance of what is. Take out your camera and document your life. Be intentional, and celebrate who you are, where you are and what you love. 

Share this with others. Join us at U!Shine Vienna. Use #ushineinphotos to make time by going slow, and to gain more by really seeing what we already have.


About the Author

Writer - Expat - Plant killer. Tired of Australia and it's many kangeroos, Erin moved to Austria in 2016. Her spouse and daughter also came along. When not killing plants, Erin explores Vienna, hunting for the best kids' playground and a totally #instaworthy photo spot.