How to Create Intentional Imagery

For this month’s #12habits challenge, I’m doing something that I’ve known I needed to do for some time now. It’s been an errant thought that I’ve had for probably a couple years now, tried to implement for a week without telling anyone, and then immediately failed at committing to. But now, it’s time to embrace this idea and see it through to fruition.

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This month, I’m putting the phone down.

No; I’m not going on a social media detox:  though I’m certain that’s going to happen at some point this year. For now, social media is helping me more than it’s hurting me—by keeping me accountable with these 30-day challenges. The moment its usage tips the scales in a negative way, I’ll disappear for a month. But until then, I’m going to continue using social media as a tool.

I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that the best camera you can have… is the one that you do have. Even if all you have is your cell phone: use it; take the picture. Don’t let the idea of having the “wrong” gear keep you from getting out there. Having a fancy camera might initially make you want to shoot more, but once the novelty fades, so will your motivation. Use what you have. 

But for me, personally? Using my phone’s camera has become something I do when I’m feeling lazy or unmotivated to go out and shoot. Because I’m fortunate enough to have nice gear. But I certainly don’t use it as often as I should.

So for this month, the only images I’m sharing to my Instagram (and on this blog) are ones that I’ve taken with a DSLR.

 Getting a picture off of a SD card and into the Instagram feed is a finicky process. You’re either taking the picture, popping the card out, sticking it in the computer, praying that your computer will download the RAW files a little faster this time (it doesn’t,) culling the pictures, downloading the ones that made it through the first round into Lightroom or Photoshop (if you’re feeling ambitious,) tweaking them, deleting more pictures, and then finally, after all that curating and polishing and downloading and exporting… you have a picture that you can share to the world! (Or, you go through the entire aforementioned process, decide that everything is terrible and you should sell your gear on Ebay and never be trusted with a camera again, and have nothing to show from the whole shebang.) I revisit the same batch of images so often during this process that I usually end up culling most of the shoot.

Or if you’re in a pinch and have a wifi-compatible camera body, you try to connect your smartphone to the camera for an obscene amount of time, do your best to cull images that you can only see properly when you pinch and zoom them to pixelated oblivion, and then import them into the mobile version of Lightroom to process the RAW files and cull some more. And then you share something to Instagram, if, again, you have anything that’s Instagram-worthy.

This is what I’m going to do for the next month. If I don’t have a recent image that I’ve taken on a DSLR, then I don’t get to share an image that day:  algorithm be damned.

And, because I know that the human mind does its best to worm out the path of least resistance, I’m going to up the ante a little bit (I’m onto you, Brain.)

If I share an image “from the archives,” I also have to, in the same 24-hour period, share an image that I’ve taken within the past 7 days. I know that I’m going to be very tempted to go digging around in one of my hard drives for an old non-smartphone image that I can post. I’m already guilty of that.

But sharing old images, while perfectly fine in most circumstances, isn’t going to help me achieve the overarching goal I’m working towards this month. I’m trying to get out and shoot more. Digging up old pictures isn’t going to help me accomplish that. 

Taken this weekend on a short trip to the beach in TX.

Taken this weekend on a short trip to the beach in TX.

So, to recap:

  1. No mobile photography goes on the Instagram feed. None. Zero. Zilch. (I will be sharing videos in my stories, and those I have to take on my phone—but even the still images in my stories have to be non-mobile photography that follow the same rules of my Instagram feed.)

  2. Each Instagram post I make has to be one I’ve taken on my DSLR within the past week. If I don’t have anything to share, I don’t get to share. Simple as that.

  3. If I share anything “from the archives,” I also have to post a more recent (taken within the last 7 days) image within the same 24-hour period.

What am I hoping to accomplish from this? Well, with my black-and-white 30-day challenge, I got decidedly better with composition. I also had to become more selective with the things I shared—not everything translates well into a black-and-white edit. By taking this newfound pickiness and applying it to DSLR images, I’m hoping that the quality of the work I share will improve once more.

I’ve been using DSLR’s and professional-level equipment for some time now, but my camera is not the extension of myself that I’d like it to be. When I make the time for it, I can adjust my settings without really having to think about it if the lighting conditions change or if I switch my subjects. That doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. But by getting more practice in, I’m hoping that will become second nature to me—allowing me to focus more on the subject than messing with the back of my camera and potentially missing the moment I meant to capture.

If you’d like to follow along or even join me in this venture, use the hashtag #intentionalimagery to find my posts or submit your pictures to be featured in my stories!