Sometimes the best thing you can do to improve your photography is leave your camera at home.
Yes, practice is imperative if you want to improve. You do need to learn to work your camera instinctively and make a mastery of the technical aspects needed to create beautiful images.
But photography isn’t just about technical proficiency; photography is about experiencing the world around you and sharing that vision with viewers.
Imagine you are a tourist, for example. Put yourself in a new and exciting place, experiencing things you have never seen before and meeting people whose cultures and speech are different than your own. You are excited, awed, and in love with the experience of life.
As a photographer, you will feel compelled to shoot and shoot and shoot, to capture what you are seeing. You want to use your camera as a tool to share that feeling of awe and the thrill of the unknown with the rest of the world.
That you have the chance to do so is one of the great gifts of photography.
But, sadly, if you are too caught up in shooting image after image to experience the awe and excitement of this new place, your images will have nothing real to capture and it no longer matters if you have a technical mastery of your camera. Without cultivating the feelings and moods that you wish to convey in your images, you will not be able to capture them on film.
And so, I recommend a day of no cameras. Take it as a day to forget the technical aspects of your imagery work and make it in to a day to focus on honing your eye. Look for the things that make you smile or make you angry. Take notice of what is going on in front of your eyes and what moves you to look at something. Take a step closer and really really look!
As a photographer myself, I find that these “no camera” days let me recharge. I have more freedom to notice how places and people make me feel and more time to look around and notice even the smallest things that are going on. A day where I am not carrying my camera is a day when I can remind myself that good photos get their power from hearts and eyes that feel and see; good photos are photos that speak.
With all that I remind myself to do on a “no camera” day, I find myself seeing more clearly the next day when I do have my camera in hand.
And both my images and their viewers thank me for it. :)