I’m probably the worst photographer in the world. If it were still possible to leave the lens cap on and forget to wind on the film, I would. Even with all the built-in aids of modern technology, every photo I take is blurry or wonky or chops off part of whatever I was trying to capture.
The cause or effect of this (not sure which) is I’ve never been a “photo person”. It never crosses my mind to take a photo in any situation – which means I’ve got virtually no record of all the amazing places I’ve been and things I’ve done.
Yet I love looking back at the few photos I do have. Seeing a photo immediately reminds me not just of that moment, but everything I was doing around that time.
So I decided it was worth making an attempt to overcome my non-photo-person-ness by making a habit of taking a photo every day.
The daily habit
I decided to borrow an idea I’d seen someone else online talking about: commit to taking one photo every day.
For me, there were three components to making this happen:
- A habit-tracking app so I can see a “tick” every day next to my “Take a photo” task, and I’m motivated not to break the chain.
- A reminder at a set time every day to take the photo (the app does this too, but a repeating calendar entry or phone alarm would achieve the same thing).
- Absolutely no pressure for the photo to be any good, or of anything in particular.
I’ve now been doing this for 208 days, and only missed a single day when I was ill.
This habit has one aim: to help me remember my life. It’s not about making me a better photographer, or taking photos I can show off to other people.
As a result, I’ve deliberately set the bar for quality extremely low. Looking back at the few photos I have taken in past years, my favourites are those that show extremely normal everyday scenes: the apartment I was living in, or the view from a coffee shop table where I was sitting. That type of photo seems to spark richer memories than photos of beautiful buildings or posed photos of people.
So I’m very comfortable taking an extremely mundane and poor quality photo, because I believe these un-staged, “real” shots are actually the most likely to achieve my sole aim of remembering.
As a result, I have lot of photos like this:
With the occasional boundary-pushing one like this:
It’s too early to say, but I believe my future self will thank me for doing this. Even now I can scroll through my photos and be reminded of things I did a few months ago that I’d totally forgotten.
I was expecting that as a side-benefit, the act of being reminded every day would trigger me to spontaneously think to take photos without being reminded. This hasn’t happened at all: I’m still totally reliant on pulling out my phone and seeing the prompt.
This surprised me, because normally about 60 days is enough to form a habit and for it to feel weird if you don’t do it. So I guess not being a photo person is a result of some deeper character trait that’s resistant to change – like being future-focused and not particularly reflective in nature (highly likely).
I won’t start really reaping the reward of the primary benefit for a year or more, so until then I’ll keep investing the 30 seconds per day needed to keep the habit going. And being grateful that I live in a time when I don’t have to embarrass myself by going to get all these dreadful, mundane photos developed.