If you knew me growing up, I have a picture of you. Probably dozens, if not hundreds of pictures of you.
I can’t remember how old I was when my parents first bought me a camera, but I couldn’t have been older than 6 or 7. It was an old film camera without a flash. Back then, every time you used a flash it burned out the bulb. My birthdays and Christmases were full of film and extra flashes – or the money to buy them. All of this was made more expensive by the difficulty of getting the film developed into pictures.
And yet, I still remember the joy of picking up my pictures from the developer. I would look through them and rejoice in the memories of the last few months of my life.
As I (and technology) grew, I discovered the joy of disposable cameras. For cheap, I could carry around a camera in my pocket and not worry if it got banged up a bit. I must have gone through a hundred or more disposable cameras while in High School.
In 2004, I purchased my first digital camera with the proceeds of my first job. It was the most expensive thing I had ever purchased. I used that thing until it could be used no more, used it’s photos to get my first photography gig, and later upgraded to a Digital SLR camera – my first professional camera.
This one was the one that took me to the next level. I learned how to crop photos, edit in Photoshop, and manipulate lighting. I started getting requests to take photos at events and eventually got paid for my time and my pictures.
But one day, I put my camera down and rarely picked it back up.
It’s not because I stopped liking pictures. Photography is still a joy of mine and every once in a while I take out the old camera and snap a few photos. However, I learned that life without the camera is much better than life with it.
There But Not
After years behind the camera I realized something: I wasn’t enjoying these events, I was chronicling them.
The difference between chronicling and experiencing are massive. When I go to a friend’s wedding with my camera, I come back with beautiful photos but very few memories. My memories are or me, behind the camera, finding good shots and talking briefly about my camera and relationship with my friend. But when I set down my camera and experience the event, the most wonderful memories are created! I have good conversations with friends, I see all the funny and extraordinary events that happen, I am forced to open myself to people I can ignore behind my camera.
Ultimately, I realized I had to choose between my love of photography and my ability to experience life. After a lot of thought, I chose to experience life.
Now I spend time with my wife and friends instead of taking pictures of them, I enjoy weddings and other events without the hindrance of a camera, and while I don’t have many photos of the last few years I do have memories – wonderful, beautiful memories.
Experience Your Life
Next time your friend is about to do a trick, the fireworks are about to go off, or you’ve found a beautiful spot you’d like to remember put down your phone, your slr camera, and all your recording devices and enjoy the moment.
Watch the trick.
Enjoy the fireworks.
Experience the place.
These memories are better, and more powerful than any photo you will ever take.
And every once in awhile, after fully experience the moment, take a picture or two. Be satisfied with the few. You won’t regret it.