The Slow Down

The faster life seems to become, the more I’ve craved slowing down.

Slowing down the making of photographs, taking more time to compose each shot, letting myself completely sink into and lose myself in the moment. This brings me stronger memories and more palpable emotions when I look back at the images afterwards – reconnecting with something of the same sense of whoosh and wonder, the deeper immersion, time loss and forgetting I experienced at the time.

Slowing down the editing of photographs by letting the images mull and marinate more before deciding which to keep. Those that don’t come close to making the cut are still quickly culled, yes. But now also, rather than edit each batch in just one or two sweeps, I’m taking maybe five or six or more, each time returning to my Google Photos holding bay and removing an image here, and another there, any that I don’t feel are strong enough to warrant keeping. The more time I leave between these editing fly-bys, the more objective I think my editing becomes. Meaning the very few I’m left with, I’m more pleased with.

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Slowing down the sharing of photos, waiting until I’m really sure I want to make an image public, and only if and when I feel it’s good enough to represent me and my work. A useful measure for me is to imagine each photograph I share being the first and only photograph of mine a new viewer has encountered. Is it memorable enough to fulfil this purpose, to make them want to see more? This means, I hope, again building a stronger collection of photographs, and that the people who do find and enjoy them are more likely to stick around to see what I make next.

Slowing down the viewing of other people’s photos to let each one slowly seep into my senses like a lithe body lowering into a bath of warm dark chocolate. By switching to viewing photographs in books instead of online – and at the rate of perhaps one photograph per 120 seconds instead of swiping through 120 in one minute – has been pivotal in this progression, and inevitably helped me in the slow down of making, editing and sharing my own images.

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A few years of researching, buying and using cameras, uploading the images made with them, and consuming other photographs online – all at such a frenetic pace my feet never touched the ground – left me in giddy, desperate need of some kind of healing tonic, a soothing balm to restore the reason why I photograph at all, and how I can do it more purposefully, more intelligently, and more deeply.

And so, I feel that embarking on this ever gentler and wider reaching slow down has been the only way forward for me.

How about you? How could you get on board with the slow down in your photographic life? Have you already?

Please let us know your thoughts in the conversation below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.

17 thoughts on “The Slow Down”

  1. Shooting film helps me to slow down 😉

    But no, seriously, I’m trying to shoot less digital AND film just because I feel overwhelmed when I have too many images to sift through.

    Recently I had 5 rolls of film developed and scanned, and I struggled to go through them. Compared to some, it’s really not that many, but there was a real reluctance to have to deal with them.

    I realised I need to slow down EVEN MORE. So, I’m trying to stick to using certain cameras, and then only take 1 out with me at a time, in the hope that I will shoot less film (if you’re only loading 1 camera rather than 3 and taking less spare film out with you, you’re bound to shoot less, right?!), and I’m also trying to be really strict with what I shoot digitally as well. I frame up the shot and decide if it’s worth taking the photo or not, whether I’m shooting film or digital.

    1. Mel, thanks for your input. Film certainly helped me slow down too, and I think I’ve then been able to take this into shooting digital and be slower and more discerning.

      I completely relate about the processed film. When I last shot film in any significant volumes (must be nearly two years ago now, yikes where did that go!) I remember the last bunch of five or six rolls I shot sat around for ages (or rather rolled around in the little compartment in my car where I used to keep them). Then when I did get it processed and downloaded the scanned images from the CD, they sat unsorted on my MacBook for a further period of weeks. I just couldn’t face sorting through so many images. In fact, I think a couple of the rolls I still haven’t properly sorted through 18 months later.

      With digital, and using Google Photos as a holding bay, it seems easier to sift through and delete as and when I feel like it, rather than tackling a huge batch at once. Plus overall I probably shoot less with digital compared with my film peak of 12-15 rolls a month.

  2. I like this quote from
    Ansel Adams “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good “.

    In the past I have used various formats such as large and medium formats, wet plate collodion and collected all the cameras and equipment that goes with it.
    It got to be to much and I found myself consumed with the process instead of the image.
    I am at that stage in life where we have downsized and that goes for my photography to. I am attempting to slow down using one digital and one film camera attempting to make quality images instead of quantity.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Tim, yes I love that Ansel Adams quote. Recently I would struggle to narrow down to 12 best shots a month, let alone a year! Hence why this need to further slow down.

      For some of us, the process is the most important part, whether it’s the process of going out and capturing the photographs (highly important to me), the process of collecting and trying different cameras (used to do this but very little now), or the process of developing and making the final print – whether in a darkroom or via software (again, something I just want a quick and simple process for).

      It comes down to what you enjoy most.

      But for any and all of these activities, I would suggest that slowing down helps us experience and enjoy them more, yes increasing the quality rather than quantity.

  3. Another workflow for me right now, as I am experimenting with posting regular series. I do slow down, mainly by ignoring platforms like Instagram and Tumblr. No need to invest time and energy in constantly sharing (and looking at) “perfect” single images.

    Most days, I just care about MAKING photos. Currently mobile only, including editing and postprocessing. At night, I label the photos that seem “the best” as *favorite*, and I do some quick postprocessing (applying my Snapseed recipes). The next day I delete all other photos (if I do not find new favorites), and make a first choice from the postprocessed photos. So during the week (at least for now, the rhythm is flexible), I get a series of “favorite favorites”, which eventually also have to fit together in a blog post. Only then I start thinking about the sharing part. And from the posted series – we have talked about that earlier, probably every three months or so – only a few photos will be chosen for the “portfolio-like” pages.

    It’s all “work in progress”, but at least this is my plan for the coming period.

    1. Sounds a great plan Robert, I’m doing a similar thing myself.

      Do you end up with some you keep because they mean something to you, but you don’t have any inclination to share them?

      Oh and I like the phrase “Snapseed recipes”…

      1. Dan, I never share private photos – girlfriend, family, etc.

        Given my own privacy concerns, I also post less and less street photos of clearly recognizable strangers. It is still a balancing act, because I do like a human element in some photos. But I increasingly take the decision not to share images in which people are prominently in the frame, even though I might like them “artistically”.

        1. Yes I very rarely share any family photos outside of the family. That’s what they’re for.

          There was an interesting thread on Wouter Brandsma’s blog recently about how the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impacts street photography. There’s a strong argument that a picture of someone’s face is personal data that shouldn’t be shared without their permission.

          1. Yes, there might be a legal issue. But for me it is also (or perhaps even more) about decency, respect, empathy. However, that seems to be a controversial view for a (street) photographer. On a photography news site there was a report about a mother who had objected when a stranger made pictures of her young kid in Starbucks, without permission. The comments on that story were pretty disturbing (“We as photographers can shoot who we want”, “She’s crazy”, “That woman has to go to jail”). I certainly do not want to be part of that “streettog mob”.

          2. I’ve dabbled with street photography but there are just too many concerns and issues to make it an enjoyable and relaxing pursuit for me. I’ll stick to wandering the English countryside!

  4. I think it’s interesting than in so many areas of life people are seeking to slow down and simplify. I can’t remember ever seeing a self help book about speeding up and complicating. 😋

    My path to slowing down began with my return to film in 2010. My recent change from 24-exposure rolls of film to self loaded 12-exposure rolls seems to be helping too. And this week I am really slowing down, working with the 65/3.5 Elmar and Visoflex on a tripod mounted Leica IIIf. It’s Wednesday already and I only have four exposed frames on the roll. (I’ll eventually do a blog post about all the steps needed to take a single picture with the Visoflex.)

      1. Yes it does, in two ways. First, the time spent setting things up gives the idea of the picture a while to percolate. Without even looking through the viewfinder I will often move a bit to adjust the relative positions of the objects in the frame or move forward or backward to exclude or include more. And second, having already invested so much time in the picture I am careful with the technical things like exposure, framing, focus, level horizon, etc.

        1. Then it becomes so much more about making a photograph, rather than just taking a snapshot. Even though the moment of capture might be the same 1/250s or whatever, the lead in and lead out time, and the decisions made, seem much longer and deeper with the kind of photography you’re describing.

        2. By the way I remember reading a book called Downshifting around the mid 2000s, perhaps 2006, so it’s not very recent. But certainly more people are realising the benefits of the slow movement in all aspects of life, as you say.

  5. I have only so much energy to expend in one day, and as I look around me I think that amount is less than most people. So all day, every day I’m thinking about how to conserve that energy.

    I get a lot done in a day. But I need to do it in a way that is single-tasked and low in distractions.

    When I can’t do that, my strong impulse is to slow down.

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