Focus-on-Foto-Fun “Photographing Your Own Essence”

Theme Number Eight is “Photographing Your Own Essence”

This topic has come up for me two times in the past few weeks, and seems to be the new buzz among professional photographers. It was the topic at our last Sedona Camera Club meeting and we had a great presentation of what this means by Arizona Highways Magazine photographer, Colleen MiniukSperry. I posted a link to her website on the Focus-on-Foto-Fun timeline if you’re interested in seeing her photography. Another photographer who evidently has been using a technique that connects her to her essence when taking photographs is Karen Hutton. I’m going to give you a link to her Facebook page because that is where she did three live videos on the topic under the heading of “Creating Emotion in Your Photography” – They were recorded, and you can still view them there. I not only respect both of these excellent photographers and the work they have produced, and continue to produce, but I also find the ideas they shared to be of value to me, and to my photography. That’s why I’ve decided to share it with you for our Focus-on-Foto-Fun Theme Number Eight.

No Selfies, please!
So, WHAT does it mean to “Photograph Your Own Essence”? First, it means that you are unique in this world, and that you have a way of thinking, doing, and feeling things that is unique. Unless you are working as a commercial photographer fulfilling your boss’ assignments, or simply documenting scenes as a journalist, each photograph you take is – or ought to be – of your essence, and therefore, your photography will be unique, different, and not just another cookie-cutter photograph of the subject you are photographing. In other words, “Photographing Your Own Essence” is making it your own! Next, the question arises, HOW do you “Photograph Your Own Essence?” The answer to this question comes from within, and you cannot do this without knowing yourself first, and becoming aware of what you are feeling…yes, let me repeat that: Become aware of what you are feeling!

Once you know how you are feeling, or how a particular scene makes you feel, you will then be able to see, and photograph, your essence when capturing that scene. Knowing how you feel can also lead you to an incredible scene and/or subject to photograph that you might not have been aware of if you were not able to feel your own emotional energy. So, here are some recommended techniques to help:

  1. Get grounded – Feel your body, know where your feet are, get out of your head, stop the whirling dervish in your mind, stop to breathe, and feel your breath as it goes in…and out…in…and out. Some people listen to music, others spend a little time doing a meditation, or maybe repeating a mantra. Find a way that works for you instead of just running out to get that shot.
  2. Feel your emotion(s) – Take the time to feel the situation out, look around, walk around. Feel your legs and feet; they are connected to the ground, afterall. See the thing that you feel in your body. Is it sensual, peaceful, excited, wistful, melancholy, filled with a child-like fantasy? Name it, and then see it.
  3. Take your photograph – Try different angles, perspectives, depth of fields…make is soft and fuzzy, detailed with strong lines or blocks of color, change the background, find the color that represents the emotion, etc. Do whatever it takes to photograph what you feel in your body, and don’t settle for anything less.

What if you’ve tried everything, and it’s just not working for you? Move on! You’ll find it by changing locations, or using an orange instead of an apple, maybe by adding a model to the shot on a different occasion. Get grounded, get out of your head – no judgement needed here. Just move on to the next shot. Follow the steps above again to see what you come up with that expresses your inner most feelings – your essence.

Instead of posting a photograph here on my blog, I’m going to provide a couple of exercises on the Focus-on-Foto-Fun FB page, and post my photographs there, along with the other members. If you’d like to join in the FUN, see and ask to join the group. Remember to tag your posts with #focusonfotofun and #photographingyourownessence, and when posting to IG, please tag me @georgiamichalicek, too. I love seeing your creations!

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