Photography is Like Parenting

I recently had the chance to go camping with family. Now, I have chosen not to have children, but I have lots of nieces and nephews so I can easily get my ‘kid fix’ when I need it. I’m always amazed by parents. It seems to me a tough job some days.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

The great thing about being an aunt is that you can hand the kids back when things get tough 😉 ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Unlike photography, there’s really no manual to guide you. But it struck me that, in some ways, parenting and photography are alike. Using some of the things I’ve learned from my parents, and from watching other parents, I’m going to make the case that photography is like parenting…so here goes.

Eat Your Broccoli

Remember how your parents were always telling you to eat that healthy, green stuff on your plate? “It’s good for you,” they’d explain. Well, even though we knew they were right, it was still hard sometimes to choke down those veggies. Photography has veggies too – those things you should do to become a better photographer that you don’t really enjoy doing. Like, for example, photographing frequently around home rather than planning exotic photo trips. Sure, traveling some place new is exciting, but you’ll have stronger skills if you practice often in your local area.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Eat your broccoli! ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Practice honing your photography skills locally before you head off on that once in a lifetime travel trip! ©Samantha Chrysanthou

Practice honing your photography skills locally before you head off on that once in a lifetime travel trip! ©Samantha Chrysanthou

Don’t Stay Up Too Late

We know that staying up late and watching TV is bad for us, but we do it anyway (until we get told to turn off the light and go to bed). It can also be tempting to go hard, guns blazing, with your photography. Chasing the sweet light can mean you’re up late photographing star trails after sunset and still upright when sunrise burns up the sky. You don’t want to miss anything of course, but one thing I’ve learned from long photo trips is the need to pace yourself. There’s nothing worse than hitting that creative wall and having no energy to stand up let alone make a good image. Stay in it for the long haul and respect your body and mind’s need to recharge.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Samantha taking a creative recharge break. ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Keeping rested and sharp allows you to see images beyond the obvious. ©Samantha Chysanthou - oopoomoo.com

Keeping rested and sharp allows you to see images beyond the obvious. ©Samantha Chysanthou – oopoomoo.com

Respect Your Elders

There are many, many talented photographers out there and so much to learn from studying the work of artists who have created before us. In the photo industry I’ve seen a tendency to self-aggrandizement, the belief that you and your work is unique and ‘never been done before’. True creative vision is actually pretty rare, so it’s a good idea to stay a little humble and maybe take some time to review the images and art works of photographers and artists whose work has stood the test of time.

Most of the really great photographers we know, like Wayne Simpson pictured here, are humble and readily acknowledge the work of those who have influenced them.  ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Most of the really great photographers we know, like Wayne Simpson pictured here, are humble and readily acknowledge the work of those who have influenced them. ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Mind Your Manners

One of the tasks of parenting is to teach your children how to behave with other people. Sure you want that toy, but pushing that other kid out of the way and stealing it from your sister is not going to make you many friends. Parents succeed at teaching manners to varying degrees. But as adults, we really have no excuse for bad behaviour. Why is it then that some photographers feel it is just fine to trespass on private property to get a better position? Or scare wildlife away by getting too close? Or yell at tourists who get in their way? I think one of the most remarkable stories from Darwin’s 50 at 50 eBook relates to the incredibly bad behaviour of a bunch of photographers at iconic Delicate Arch. It seems some photographers need to go back to kindergarten to learn some manners.

Here Samantha demonstrates how to tread lightly so as not to stress or disturb wildlife in its natural habitat.

Here Samantha demonstrates how to tread lightly so as not to stress or disturb wildlife in its natural habitat. ©Darwin Wiggett

Pick Good Friends

We’ve all seen this…a nice, sweet kid falling in with ‘the wrong crowd’ and turning into a swearing, pierced, slouched creature. How does this happen? Apparently, parents are right to feel concern over who their children hang out with. Your peers will either elevate you – or bring you down. Finding a mentor in photography can be one of the best things you can do to take your images to a higher level. Consistent, clear, caring feedback can do wonders for your artistic ability. So make sure you pick good friends who not only support your creative efforts but also give you a little challenge sometimes.

Pick great friends to make each journey more rewarding. ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Pick great friends to make each journey more rewarding. ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Well, I’ve come up with five points. Can you think of some ways in which photography is like parenting?

A 'serious' self portrait - ©Samantha Chrysanthou

A ‘serious’ self portrait – ©Samantha Chrysanthou

About the Author

Photographing the incredible beauty of natural things, filming quirky videos, trying new foods with unpronounceable names, curling up with a good book, sharing ideas on how to live lighter on the Earth...these are a few of my favourite things!

10 Comments

  1. Kat Enns
    July 10, 2015

    I never thought of it quite like that, but yeah!! Along with Eat your Broccoli, there is also No Desert Until you Finish Your Supper, which is not just drifting around snapping at things with yer newfangled DSLR, but instead first really learning the basics of photography, of shutter speed, fstop, ISO, focal length, framing, horizons, etc and THEN you can have go and eat all the fun desert out there you want.

    Reply
  2. Ted Evans
    July 10, 2015

    After reading 50/50 I too have preconceived images as a goal but
    am willing to open my eyes to other
    photographic opportunities which often
    have pleasant results.
    I am open to hiring a photo guide for
    a couple of days while there. I hired
    a great guide last summer in the
    Rocky Mountain NP in Colorado.

    Reply
  3. Ted Evans
    July 10, 2015

    To Darwin. Thank you very much for
    such a prompt reply to my questions.
    I have one more in response to your
    reply. During the last week of July at
    the peak of wildflowers, how much
    snow is left ( if any) on the mountains
    beyond as a background? This combo
    is part of a preconceived picture as you
    described in your last blog. If this is not a realistic objective I am not going
    to be all broke up. Just wondering if
    is is doable. Thanks, Ted

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      July 11, 2015

      This year there is less snow than normal left on the peaks, so it is not the best year for you to get your preconceived image… plus it is a big forest fire year and the mountains are hazy so you are not going to get your pristine mountain wildflower meadow with snow-capped peaks… but there are other really awesome things out there as a result of the conditions we see now, you just have to be open to seeing (leave your expectations behind!)

  4. Evelyn Young
    July 10, 2015

    I am a parent and a photographer and from experience I can say that you nailed it in both those professions. Great article.

    Reply
  5. Kat enns
    July 11, 2015

    Forgot to say i loved the photo of the Tired Photographer

    Reply
  6. Bob Melnyk
    July 11, 2015

    Kids are fun. Photography is fun. Both are (or can be) expensive. We get better at both as with time and practice. And Grandchildren are the best.

    Reply
  7. Jane Chesebrough
    July 12, 2015

    I can’t help but wonder what the parents are saying after their kids have spent time with Auntie Samantha and Uncle Darwin and start sticking brocoli up their nose. Great analogies in this article. Love the photo of the kids going fishing.

    Reply
  8. Michel Bury
    July 12, 2015

    Both very funny and very true, Samantha!

    Reply
  9. Wayne Simpson
    August 20, 2015

    Great read guys… and all so true!! Thanks for the mention, I’m honoured! Can’t wait to visit soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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