How To Balance Taking Photos With Living in the Moment

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I had just gotten home from a great night. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years. Then it hit me: my camera was in my bag the entire time and I’d never pulled it out.

“That’s okay,” I thought, trying to console myself. “I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it as much if I had been stopping to take photos.”

As a photographer, there are too many times I’ve opted to leave my camera at home and regretted it. But do you have to choose between having pictures of a good time and getting to live it yourself? I don’t think so. I think it’s possible to strike a balance between the two.

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My aunt and mom light candles for my grandpa’s 83rd birthday. I ate cake and laughed with everyone as we reminisced, but I made sure to snap some photos at memorable moments. (Image: Leah Schmalz)

The first step to striking that balance? Bring your camera. Even if your plans for the evening don’t seem too exciting, you never know what could happen. You won’t regret the extra weight of your camera, but you will regret not having a single photo of a great time. (And remember, you’ve always got the camera on your phone!)

Next, take pictures sparingly. Have your camera on hand for when you see a photo opportunity you can’t pass up, like when your family starts goofing around or the sun begins to set and cast soft light on your friends. Sometimes those moments are obvious — like blowing out candles or unwrapping presents — but keep an eye out for the unexpected and spontaneous too.

Also, resist the urge to turn into the paparazzi. Remember, your friends and family want to spent time with you, not your camera lens! Snap a few so you’ve got the shot, then set down your camera and join in the fun.

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My friend and I went for a walk to soak up the beautiful fall weather. She spontaneously picked up a handful of leaves and threw them into the air. It was a great way to capture the autumn day and my friend in the same shot. (Image: Leah Schmalz)

That ties into the next tip, which is to be present. The main focus should be on what you are doing and who you are with, not getting the best picture. If you’re an active part of the excitement, you’re not going to capture every moment. Don’t worry about it. You should primarily enjoy what you’re doing and allow your camera to be an accessory.

Finally, soak up the memories. Take mental pictures. No photograph can do justice to the reality of a moment. You’ll have pictures to help you remember, but the best images will stay in your mind.

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As I was walking on the beach during a family vacation, my aunt and uncle flew past me on their bikes. Then they unexpectedly threw up peace signs. I couldn’t let this goofy moment pass, so I snapped some photos as quickly as I could. (Image: Leah Schmalz)

What are your tips for taking photos without missing those awesome moments? Let us know in the comments below!

Leah is a freelance writer, photo junkie, and avid traveler. When she's not chipping away at a story, you can find her exploring the outdoors or planning her next adventure. Read about them on her blog, Relentless Adventure.

1 Comment

  • Reply September 13, 2013

    Maria P

    I’ll have to remember this the next time I’m with my friends and I feel the need to capture every single moment with my camera :) Sometimes it is nice to just leave the camera at home, but use my camera phone when there is a moment that compels me to take a picture.

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