Lately, I’ve found myself at the yoga studio a lot. I’m either there practicing or I’m there photographing. I count myself lucky that this studio offers an Energy Exchange program which basically means that they give me yoga and I give them pictures. It’s a lot more professional than that – we have a contract and a schedule and everything – but you get the drift. It’s been an amazing fit for me because photography and yoga both bring me so much joy. The more I do both, the more I keep finding ways that yoga and photography are similar and they both complement each other so nicely.
How does yoga help me with photography?
- It reminds me that I have to slow down and make space for breath. All too often I find myself so worried about missing the moment that I overshoot. If I slow down and take inventory of the space, I can capture a more balanced and heartfelt image without maxing out my hard drive. Leaving open space in the frame can also help my image make a stronger statement.
- It allows me to remain focused. I try to remember to set my intention before I shoot (or practice) instead of getting distracted by the worry of missing the moment. And you guys already know that I’ve got a problem with distraction, so this is important for me.
- It increases my strength and flexibility. DANG! those lenses can get heavy after a full day of shooting and racing to get the shot. I probably shoot in the yogi squat position at least half the time so I can get that low perspective I’m so fond of.
- It reminds me that I need to make room for play in my photography. It shouldn’t be all about getting the next client or perfecting my exposure. In one of the classes I went to recently the instructor talked about how fun is strategic. You should actually plan it into your day to break up the work. It also helped me realize that I shouldn’t feel guilty about doing this thing that I love. Just because I’m having fun, it doesn’t mean that I’m not working hard or taking my job seriously.
- It helps me steady my breathing and therefore my body. In low light situations, it can be hard to get images that are crisp due to the longer exposure times and camera shake. The bottom of your exhale is supposed to be the point when your body is the most relaxed, so that’s when you’re supposed to press the shutter to avoid as much movement as possible.
So in return, photography has actually helped me with my yoga:
- Photography reminds me that I have the power to change my lens. When I’m in class and I’m struggling, I can think about changing from a telephoto lens, where I’m zoomed in on my aching muscles and the moment of effort, to my wide angle lens where I can see the bigger picture of what I’m trying to achieve through my practice.
- It helps me stop and take note of the moment I’m in. The beauty of the combined breath in class, the way my body feels when I finally get to savasana, the note of kindness in the instructor’s voice. I can record them in my mind as if I’m taking a picture and access their memory anytime I’d like.
- When you practice, you get better. It’s easy for me to see how my photography has changed because I have years and years of archives to skim. But it wasn’t obvious as it was happening. With my yoga practice, this helps me realize that day-to-day the results might not be obvious, but if I stick with it, I’ll be able to compare and see the change.
- There’s room for everyone. Photography is great for everyone at all levels, amateur, pro, artist, commercial. We don’t have to compare ourselves with anyone else’s portfolios, we just have to keep practicing. The same goes for yoga – I don’t have to look around the room and measure myself against anyone else, I just have to keep practicing.
At the end of a headshot session with one of the yoga instructors recently, I found myself discussing how much I’ve enjoyed photographing their group because I felt like every instructor was kind and open in my sessions with them. It made me happy to think that I was able to make them feel at ease in a somewhat uncomfortable situation and I hoped that someday I could get to the next step of making my subjects feel empowered like the instructors were able to do for the people in their classes.
Robert Sturman, a photographer that specializes in yoga, says what I’m feeling much more eloquently than I, so I’ll share his words from an article I stumbled upon: “There is such a wonderful, vulnerable relationship between those I work with and myself. Though my work does take skill to create, and a bit of technological expertise, I have found that the most sophisticated tool I use is my heart. There are unwritten contracts of the soul, and building trust with the model is an essential part of that. The model has to feel comfortable enough with me and trust that I am there with them in an effort to see their light. It’s powerful to show people how amazing they are, and this is what I try to do. Not only this, but also that they’re okay just the way that they are. As human beings, we often spend so much time feeling that we’re inadequate. So if my work can make people feel that they belong, then I am doing my job because everyone belongs.”
Bowing to the light in you. Namaste – Angie