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Taking Notes

Taking Notes

Life so often leads us to missing photographic opportunities. Perhaps we as photographers must learn to become better note takers, too.

For most of us photographers, the reality is that we’re not making a living from photography. For many of us, that’s deliberate. Some simply don’t want to turn a favorite hobby into a job. Others of us, may have goals and dreams, but perhaps we’re just starting out or the demand for our particular brand of photography just isn’t that high yet. Whatever the reasons, the point is, most of us have to do something else for a living—and everything else that we have to do, from jobs to family obligations, takes away from the time we have to devote to photography.

All of that leads to us seeing all kinds of photographic opportunities as we go about the rest of our lives. But, because we are busy with the rest of our lives, we just don’t stop to take the picture. I’m sure it’s happened to you, and it’s definitely happened to me many times. How many times have you noted that thus and such place looked like a great spot for photography—but you didn’t have time to stop.

What happens then? Well, maybe you forget about the idea entirely. It’s a passing thought you had on the way to an appointment, and then once you’ve reached your appointment, other thoughts take over, and the brilliant idea for a photograph that you had just a few moments ago is gone forever.

Or maybe the place itself gets lost. Have you ever been journeying around an unfamiliar area on your way to an obligation of some sort, and while you’re on the journey, you see something you’d love to return and photograph? But when you get back home and you sit down to plan out a return trip to this place that you passed, you can’t remember which road it was on. If the destination you spotted was in a large enough place with a complex enough network of roads, it might be years before you find it again because now you’ll have to set aside time to explore the entire geographical area until you find it again.

All of these thoughts lead me to the idea that we as photographers really ought to spend more time taking notes of some sort. We so often see things that are worth photographing, but we just can’t stop for whatever reason—and it’s too easy to forget those good ideas or forget where we saw that thing we want to photograph.

So when that happens? Most all of us have a minute or two to pause and make a record that we can return to. The question then becomes, what is the best way to take notes?

That answer will be different for everyone, but there are lots of ways to go about it. Myself, I’ll take a few quick pictures on my phone. This captures the GPS location so I can easily find it again, and then when I’m looking for something different to explore, all I need to do is scroll through my phone’s photo roll, find something, and make a note of its location through the phone’s location settings.

Some of us though, don’t always trust GPS—and I have to admit, a couple of times when I’ve taken pictures, my phone has marked them with locations that were nowhere near to the actual location. So another solution could be an app like OneNote or something similar. Take a few photos, and then it only takes a couple of minutes to paste them into a page of a OneNote journal and tap out a few notes about the location and what you found about it that was special.

Some of us like handwritten notes. The solution then becomes to carry a small notebook, one that fits in a pocket or purse. Pull over, jot down a few notes and then be on your way again.

There are lots of different ways to do it. The important part is actually doing it so that you don’t miss out on a potential opportunity forever.

And that leads me to a second thought, which is that when you have a quiet evening, perhaps there is a bit more you can do with these ideas. You’ve got your reference photos and your notes. Is it now worthwhile to organize them somehow? Create an album specifically for ideas in your phone’s photo roll, or create that OneNote journal. You could even print off a few images and paste them into a paper journal. No matter how you do it, I think this could be a valuable resource, and maybe even a fun photography-related craft. If nothing else, when you find yourself in a rut looking for something interesting to photograph—well, a journal will always be there with a list of potential opportunities.

Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.

About the author

Will Moneymaker

Will has been creating photographs and exploring his surroundings through his lens since 2000. Follow along as he shares his thoughts and adventures in photography.