Aimless Photography

In a former chapter of my life I trained as a life coach, and the core model we used was very goal centred.

This worked very well for some projects, those where you are looking for a specific, measurable outcome, within a set time frame.

But goals just don’t fit in many parts of life.

Including, for me, photography.

I prefer my photography to be aimless.

This doesn’t mean I shoot recklessly without any consideration or continuity.

Every shot I make I hope will be one that I like, am proud of, and feel is worth sharing.

Of course my keeper rate is drastically less than 100%, but the intention is there with each composition before I release the shutter.

The main purpose of photography for me, isn’t so much about photography at all.

It’s about wandering the countryside and enjoying the benefits that brings to my physical health and state of mind.

Having a camera with me is almost an excuse.

If I return home without a single shot, then I’ve still had the experience of the walk, and the hunt for things I find interesting and beautiful.

This is why short photowalks don’t work for me either, for example in a lunch break at work.

They’re too time oriented, too expectation heavy.

A certain amount has to be done within a very tight period, so it removes the ability to relax, amble, and really immerse myself in the experience, without the boundary of time.

So for the foreseeable future I can’t see goals forming a part of my photography. I’ll just continue along aimlessly!

How about you? Do you have specific goals for your photography – either within each session, or longer term? Or do you take a more aimless approach like me?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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14 thoughts on “Aimless Photography”

  1. Definitely with you on this one Dan (although I was on high management-speak alert after the first two sentences!) I tend to have the gear with me specifically to take some photos, but not with specific photos in mind.

    1. Ha yes I slipped into a bit of coach lingo briefly there! It all works very well and I love it, it’s just not applicable to all parts of life, and sometimes gentle meandering is far more useful and enjoyable than laser targeted progress.

  2. My photography has two distinct modes. My iPhone is almost always with me and I use it regularly as a visual notepad. These photos are unplanned, or aimless as you put it. In contrast (pun intended) the photos I take with my proper cameras almost always begin with a plan. For example, I like to photograph deciduous trees in the winter when I can see their true form, so I have lately been going out with the camera loaded with fine grain film and on a tripod to make the sharpest possible photos of the trees’ fine details.

    1. I’m certainly towards the notepad/sketchpad end of things, especially with digital compacts. I can’t recall many (or any?) times when I’ve found a certain place/scene/composition and thought I’d return at a future date with more suitable equipment. But I know some people actively scout out a place by eye, and perhaps a phone cam, with the full intention of returning with more capable gear, like your example with fine grain film and a tripod.

  3. It’s about wandering the countryside and enjoying the benefits that brings to my physical health and state of mind.

    Yes, yes, yes! This! For me it’s wondering the woods and forests “…enjoying the benefits that brings to my physical health and state of mind.”

    1. Can’t beat, with or without camera. But with a camera, and especially after repeated excursions, we tend to start to notice and appreciate the nature around us even more, at least that’s been my experience.

  4. A bit of both for me. I always have a camera with me, as I can’t make a photograph with a camera that is at home. I like landscape photography, so some of it, when I can make the time, is quite intentional, such as getting to a promising location before dawn to capture that wonderful early morning light. Or, because we can occasionally see it here, going out late at night to capture the Aurora Australis. But much, probably most of my photography is simply trying to be aware when I am out and about for either a drive or a walk, and capturing whatever appeals to me.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences Steve. I’m far more towards the spontaneous end of the scale, but I do also have regular haunts I visit where I know what kind of subjects and photographs are most likely.

  5. I’m generally not goal oriented. I thus often have to find something to enjoy in the process if this is a “mandatory” goal (for work for ex).
    For photography, I just decide to take the camera with me or not, and if yes I observe the surrounding more than usual, which is a nice side effect. So I just have the loose goal to maybe bring some photographic material home (yesterday I came back with only 3 images, which I think we’re a bit influenced by you!)

    1. Yes, whilst I like making photos I’m proud of, an enjoyable photowalk that yields no keepers is preferable to an otherwise dissatisfying walk, even if it yields a few decent images.

  6. Life coach? Well that explains some things 🙂
    As for being aimless… yes I prefer that too, but I also like to take every opportunity I can get. Even if I know I’ll be short on time. Otherwise I won’t get too many pictures… life is busy.

    1. Ha, what does it explain? I think I need a bare minimum amount of time per photowalk, otherwise the frustration of rushing about outweighs any pleasure. Probably around 45-60 mins.

      1. I think your life coach training explains how you can be so methodical and rational in your approach to a lot of things including your gear and the time you spend using it…
        I will agree with you that the first 15 minutes or so, my pictures usually lack proper inspiration. It’s after I have been shooting for a little bit that I usually get in “the zone” and finding subjects and framing them just becomes something I don’t even have to think about, my mind just runs on auto-pilot it seems….

      2. Yeh, I think my logic helps me stay pretty organised and structured in most areas of life. On the flip side, I definitely over-analyse too many things!

        I’m actually more like what you describe with writing. I just have to write something to get started, even if those initial lines then get cut from the final post completely!

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