the Proto Photographer

When to put the camera down

Amateur Photography

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[photo credit: Aaron Kaffen @]

When should an amateur photographer put down the camera?

It’s a sad reality that many of the most interesting and photographable moments in your life simply should not involve any thoughts of lenses, shutter speeds or convenient surfaces off of which to bounce flashes. That doesn’t mean these events are off-limits to picture-taking. But it does mean that there’s a point during the events where the lens cap needs to pop back on, and a photographer needs to change back into their civies.

On a recent evening, I found myself among a mass of bike-riding revelers on the way to a secret party on the banks of the Columbia River. There was undeniable electricity, and I had my camera gear ready to capture it. By the time the party was going, I was running around frantically looking for good angles and prosperous lighting opportunities.

A few long-exposure shots later that I realized the experience I was missing. Hours were flying by, and I was busy capturing fractions of seconds. I’d snagged a few trophies. But the time had come to pack everything in my bag, and go be human with all of the other humans around me.
I knew that the time with my camera was well-spent. But that I couldn’t let the camera keep me from the life happening around me. A sense of relief washed through me when I zipped the bag closed. *That* was the time to put down my camera.

Whether you’re at a wedding, a political rally, the birth of a child, or just a rager on the beach, these kinds of supremely compelling subjects need to be respected as part of life, and not just a photo op. Depending on the situation, there may be a couple (or more) great opportunities to snap some shots. But remember to live in the moment as well.