Mindful photography, also known as contemplative or Zen photography, allows you to rediscover the art of seeing, become present in each moment and create new conscious rituals.

I’ve had a camera in my hand since I can remember, documenting my life through the lens. I love taking photos; they are my visual journal. Today, with those small, shiny devices in our pockets we call phones, we have never taken so many photographs or been so connected. At the same time, we are seeking more ways to switch off, digitally detox and to simply be.

Mindfulness is everywhere. It’s the buzzword of mainstream culture as we aspire to discover ways to simplify, slow down and reconnect with ourselves and others. We can bring mindfulness into everything and anything, moment to moment, day to day, including in photography. The camera becomes our lens to see, to be present and to pay attention to life.

The art of mindful photography

Your eyes are your anchor that connect you to this moment. Bring your awareness to your surroundings and immerse yourself in your chosen experience.

Pause and take three deep, slow belly breaths to centre and ground yourself. Tuning in, ask yourself “how do I feel?” Notice thesubtleties of the external world, such as the texture of the air or the ground beneath you.

Choose to be present by setting the intention. Make an active decision to be mindful in this moment. Acknowledge each thought that pops into your mind and simply let each one go, returning back to presence.

Engage all your senses. Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Take it all in, allowing the scene to unfold in front of you. If you’re moving, walk mindfully, slowly and safely. Stop and pause, taking in the scene around you. What can you see that you haven’t seen before? Notice any colours, shapes or textures around you. The photo will emerge from this place of awareness. Have trust in this process. Once something captures your attention, take a moment to pause and breathe. You may choose to close and reopen your eyes, enhancing your focus.

When you are ready and you have seen your moment to capture (without the camera), press the shutter and take your photo(s). It’s important to press the shutter when you are ready, fully present and feel the image.

Wander in silence. Enjoy the quiet. Be present. What do you notice in this experience?

Mindfulness (being present and aware) + photography (capturing moments in time) = the art of seeing, otherwise known as mindful photography. It’s a combination through which to be curious, to explore life, to be mindful and to change the relationship we have with our devices. There is beauty all around us to capture. By cultivating mindfulness, you awaken to a new way of seeing the world.

As author and Buddhist practitioner Jack Kornfield says, “The gift of presence is to step out of the reactivity of the mind and in any moment where we find ourselves in any situation to quiet the mind and steady the heart.”

Before we start engaging in the practice of mindful photography, I invite you to switch your phone to aeroplane mode in order to minimise distractions or simply use a camera *instead. Then, follow the steps below and enjoy creating space between each thought and action by bringing mindfulness into your photography.

There are no good or bad photos. Try not to judge your photographs, just be present to the experience. When you review your photos, revisit that moment in your mind and notice the clarity that being mindful provides. Through regular practise, you will begin to notice increased focus and enhanced observation, and life may start to feel slower. Mindfulness changes our thought patterns, brings calm and clarity, improves memory and helps us become present in our lives. Switch off, tune in, be mindful, go slow and, most importantly, have fun with your mindful photography.


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