It is possible to overthink things. Not just photography. Sometimes there seem to be too many choices: have you ever been immobilised, standing in front of the shelves in a supermarket, faced with 50 varieties of something? This is what psychologists call the “paradox of choice”. There are so many options that you don’t know what to do. And the more you think about it, the harder it gets to make a decision. Photography can be like that too. The more you analyse what you are doing, the harder it can be to actually do anything. Analysis paralysis sets in. You end up being so self-critical that you don’t take any pictures. When this happens to me, this is what I do.
1. Deliberately limit my choices. Constraint inspires creativity, as someone once said. If I only take one camera out with me, or limit myself to one lens, I won’t waste time worrying if I’ve got the wrong one. I have to just work with what I have, and get on with it.
2. Never mind what others might think. Sometimes when I’m framing an image I imagine what people will say about it, or how they might react to it. But if something inspires you to raise your camera to your eye, go for it. You’ve seen something. Trust your instincts, as Obi-Wan Kenobi says. Once you start worrying about what other people will think, you’re doomed. Do what you want, and see what happens.
3. Grab a friend, or a drink. When we’re on holiday I often find that I take better pictures after a glass of wine. I’m more inclined to be daring, and I’m less self-critical. Going for a photo walk with a friend or two can have a similar effect: it can give you confidence to attempt new things and take pictures you might otherwise not have taken.
So if you’re overthinking your photography, give these approaches a try. Come to think of it, they don’t just apply to photography. If you find yourself becoming too self-critical and indecisive, overcome by analysis paralysis, in whatever aspect of your life, this advice still applies. Rather than thinking about things too much, and not doing anything as a result, just do something. (A case in point: I couldn’t decide what pictures to use to illustrate this post, so I just used some photos from my recent trip to Venice. Job done!)