5 Good Reasons to Put your Camera Away

Practicing my hands sketching skills.

Photography is something near and dear to my heart. I define myself as a photographer, and yet, against so many people’s expectations there are many times I choose to put my camera away or leave it behind entirely. If you find yourself click happy, I assure you, the world won’t end if you don’t have photos of every moment of your travels.

Here are my top reasons to leave your professional camera gear behind:

1. You have a camera phone that will work for what you need.

Not everything is a kodak moment and sometimes a simple camera phone will be sufficient to grab a few photos to help you remember being there and then you can put it away. I don’t know about you, but I have been to dozens of American zoos. Many have the same animals and I don’t need 300 photos of penguins with fake painted backgrounds. I just want to be there to watch them hopping and swimming and having fun. I want to live in the moment, as they are doing. No need for repetitive photos that will just take up precious hard drive space. A few photos here and there to post on social media or your blog will be enough to spark the memory years down the line.

The same is true if you want to immerse yourself in the moment such as a once in a lifetime scenic train ride.  Viewing the scene through the viewfinder feels more like watching a youtube video. Nice, but not the same. Trust me, those photos taken through the layer of smudged windows and LCD screen won’t compare to the experience of getting lost in the scenery and committing it to memory. If you’re worried you might forget about it, snap a couple photos on your phone or point and shoot and keep a journal to describe in vivid detail how it made you feel.

2. You’re on a tour and/or time limit.

You’re with other people who might get annoyed at the length of time you might want to stay put in order to capture something special. If you have a walking tour you might miss the cryptically funny stories of the Emperor Nero your guide has worked so hard to perfect. (You had to be there…) Or you only have a few hours to spare, sometimes it’s nice to be in the moment with your friends, share a bite of lunch and savor the flavors of the best gelato in the world.  By all means, take your camera if you like, but don’t glue it to your eyeball and let yourself get so obsessed you miss the experiences. If something beautiful really strikes you, of course don’t let yourself miss a golden opportunity, just ask your travel mates to take a moment or plan to make a return visit when you’ll have more time.

3. You want to practice another skill.

I admit, I’ve often wished I was a better sketcher or painter, but I picked up photography because I took to it more naturally and it is easier for me to capture what I envision. But sometimes It’s good to challenge yourself. Leave that camera behind and and bring your sketchbook and pencils instead. Grab a travel set of watercolors and perch yourself in a park and paint the scenes around you. And let’s be real, you’ll look much less like a creep/paparazzi with a paintbrush and paper than sitting in the grass for two hour and a camera pointed at strangers. (And that’s certainly not a knock at street photography at all, I have a huge respect and fondness for the art, but it doesn’t change that people get nervous when they realize a stranger is pointing a camera at them in public.)

4. You don’t want to be the designated photographer.

Anyone who has even hint of skill at photography knows the feeling of being pulled aside by friends or family members asking you to take a photo for them. A group portrait. A scenic view. A cute kid with food all over their face.

There’s something really special about being able to provide friends and family member with lasting photographic memories. However, each photographer should be able to choose how and when they feel up to it or if they’d rather take time to enjoy a beer and a hot dog. Set the expectations ahead of time or leave your camera at home and let others bring their own cameras. Offer to take a few photos with their cameras if you feel up to it, so that they can take the memories home with them. Then you can sit and catch up with family and friends you might not see as often as you’d like.

5. Responsible/Ethical Reasons. To be respectful.

There are times and places cameras can be intrusive and even destructive. Art museums often request no photography because the automatic flash can degrade the paint. Sure everyone wants to capture a photo of a classic work of art. (I’m guilty of sneaking a terrible photo of The Mona Lisa or The David‘s ass.) But please keep in mind light causes paint colors to fade and museums often make their money from gift shop sales. Flash photography inside aquariums is often prohibited as well due to the health and well being of the ocean life as well. Flashes of bright light or your red focus beams can even blind some species of fish.

And of course there are some places like churches, temples and mosques that it’s often disrespectful to take photographs. You might see signs requesting no photography, if you’re not sure, ask first.

6. Bonus reason. That gear is just plain heavy. Save your back and shoulders by lightening that load.

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