Don’t Be Too Focused

It is hard to be conscious of what is happening around you when after hours of research you finally found an interesting subject to photograph. To focus on your subject is the right attitude to adopt as it is the only way you can make the photograph you’ve been dreaming of, but it remains important to sometimes re-connect with your surroundings, if only for a few seconds.

When you find a great subject to photograph you’ll want to get the best of it and thus be 100% focused on how to make the shot. When thinking of the many different aspects that can make or break your photograph, you just forget about everything else, seizing the moment. This short period of bliss during a photo shoot is probably one of the reasons so much people become passionate about photography. However, there are moments where you will have to switch focus for a while in order to see what is happening around you.

The first reason is danger. Things can happen very fast when you don’t pay attention to anything else but your subject. A car approaching dangerously close, a cliff right under your feet, a slippery slope, … anything can happen. One day, I was photographing Icebergs on the black sand beach by Jökulsárlón in Iceland. My feet were already in the sea and I was so focused that I didn’t see the huge wave rushing towards me. At the last minute I had to jump to avoid it and fell violently on the ground while trying to protect my gear. That was the story of “how I broke a rib,” and the painful camping month that followed was a lesson I will remember!

This altered state, this feeling of invulnerability experienced by the photographer that makes him able to work in extreme conditions, also represents a terrible endangerment. — Eric Valli

Let aside danger, it is a good practice to keep an eye open to what’s happening around you. By being so focused on photographing the ladybird in front of you, you will simply not see the once-in-a-lifetime unicorn parade happening right behind your back. I almost got caught one day like this. Being so focused on the sunset color over the lake I was photographing, I didn’t pay attention to what was happening behind me. It’s only when I walked back to my car that I noticed the other side of the lake was even more beautiful. Luckily I still had enough time to capture this moment as I wished. But since that day I do my best to be attentive to what surrounds me, be there a potential danger or not.

One side of the lake. I was fascinated by the colours created by the already set sun reflecting on water...

On this side of the lake I was fascinated by the colours created by the sun, already set, reflecting on water…

however, the other side of the lake was, in my opinion, far more interesting!

But that was before I saw the other side!


So even if it is primordial to be focused on the making of your photographs, I strongly suggest you remain vigilant. If you miss a great, even an awesome photograph, that’s OK. But no photograph should be worth your life. So next time, don’t be too focused on your viewfinder!

Something bad already happened to you while you were too focused on the making of a photograph? Even if you know the danger, you can’t help but disconnect from the world around you when you’re making photographs? I’d be curious to read about your stories, so please do not hesitate to write a comment.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of #MakePhotographs or feel outraged by what’s written here, please read this.

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