Photographic Therapy for the Overwhelmed Photographer

Don Giannatti
4 min readMay 29, 2023

Treat yourself to a little photo therapy. It’s cheaper than the other kind.

Ah, the wonders of self-employment.

Stress free living with only the best clients who shower us with money for merely converting oxygen to CO2.

Or not.

I am a photographer and a designer, so when I start to get stressed, I use the tools at my disposal, I use those tools to help me relax. Over the years I have noticed the types of photos I like to take to unwind a bit.

It isn’t perfect.

But it isn’t $500 an hour either.

And, no matter what, it is an enjoyable thing to do and I always get a photo or design piece that I love.

Here’s my list:

Shoot the Sunrise: Start your day early. There’s peace and tranquility in the hush of dawn. Snap the sunrise, feel the serenity it brings. The early bird gets the calming shot. Smartphone cameras are fine. Don’t let the tech slow you down.

Whenever I can, I will get up in the dark and drive to an overlook at Bryce Canyon. This morning it was 10 degrees below zero. I wanted to shoot it with my film camera (F4), but the old AI lenses would not focus in the cold. Had to switch to my digital Canons. Photo by Don Giannatti

Abstract Focus: Challenge your eye. Abstracts make you look differently at everyday objects. You see new shapes, new colors, new textures. It’s a mindful exercise in a visual world.

Faces in Places: It’s not just about portraits. Find faces in the inanimate. A pair of windows and a door? That’s a face. Turn the everyday into the unexpected. It’s fun, it’s surprising, it’s calming.

Shutter Speed Meditation: Play with slow shutter speeds. The process encourages patience and steadiness — a meditation in itself. The result? Beautiful, calm blurs of motion.

Water Reflections: Photograph reflections on water. It’s soothing and provides perspective — a double dose of calm. Plus, it’s pretty.

Reflection on a Lake: Red Mountain Pass, Colorado. Photo by Don Giannatti

Ephemeral Art: Create temporary art installations with natural elements — leaves, pebbles, sticks. Photograph them. It’s about the process and the impermanence. Like life, yeah?

Food Photography: Cook, style, shoot. The process is therapeutic, and you get to eat your subject after! What’s more calming than that?

Texture Hunting: Seek textures around you. The roughness of tree bark, the smoothness of glass. It’s a tactile experience, made into a visual.

Warehouse Door, Globe, Arizona. Photo by Don Giannatti

Daily Diary: A photo a day. It’s mindfulness made visual. Looking for something photo-worthy every day forces you to slow down, to notice, to see the subtlety of life.

Black & White: Strip away color. Black and white photography simplifies, focuses, calms. It’s pure essence, no distractions.

Chasing Shadows: Play with light and dark. Shadows add depth, drama, mystery. They make you see the unseen.

Cops in Downtown Phoenix. Photo by Don Giannatti

Hands-On Editing: Print your photos. Physically write or paint on them. Get your hands dirty. It’s an interaction with your work like no other.

Stop Motion Story: Make a stop motion story. It’s playtime! And nothing’s as calming as becoming a child again, even for a few moments.

Sky Gazing: Shoot the sky, day or night. It’s vast, it’s infinite. A humbling reminder of our place in the world. Makes you stop and breathe.

Macro Meditation: Get up close. Really close. Macro photography demands attention to detail. It’s a tiny, calming world of its own.

Charred wood, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Photo by Don Giannatti

Finding the different methods that help you create more mindful photography is fulfilling as well.

Let me know if you try any of these ideas and love them.

Portrait of the author by the author’s lovely wife, Marian.

I’m Don Giannatti; photographer, designer, writer, and mentor.

Find more of my writing at my website or at Substack.

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Don Giannatti

Designer. Photographer. Author. Entrepreneur: Loving life at 100MPH. I love designing, making photographs and writing.