Make Moments: mini-mission

In The 100 Thing Challenge, Dave Bruno writes, “We’re so distracted, we’re missing our own lives. The parent who records his kid’s dance recital or first steps or graduation is so busy trying to capture the moment – to create a thing that proves they were there – they miss out on actually living and enjoying the moment.”

Video has never been my thing, but as a photographer, I am always considering how things might look through a lens. I love the sound of the shutter and telling a story through a photograph.

I was so excited to capture every part of my daughter growing up so I took thousands of pictures. Some are in an album, some printed and framed, and others in a box. I rarely look at the photos unless they are on the wall. As it turns out, spending time with her and engaging in her moments today is far more fulfilling than pouring through old photographs.

On the flip side, I only have 5 pictures (or less) of my grandparents when they were young. I look at one of them (shown here) every day. It makes me smile to think about how happy they may have been in that moment.

I am so grateful to have this image that preserves the love of my grandparents, but also glad that I don’t have hundreds of others. They might make this one less special.

This mini-mission is to Make Moments instead of memories. Leave your camera at home on your next vacation or outing. See what happens when you are fully engaged in the moment, instead of catching the shot. Since mobile phones have become a better camera than calling device, you might need to leave that behind too.

I’m not suggesting that you never take another picture, but consider why you are behind the camera. If you are already thinking about the comments your picture might get on facebook, you might be missing the point. Of course photography is for sharing, but sometimes we shoot to share instead of preserving a memory. Not to mention, your actions may be interfering with the experience of others. We’ve all sat next to the parent at the school play narrating their own video or using their flash during the ballet. Not fun!

How can you be present when you are framing a shot, or adjusting the shutter speed on your camera? To really enjoy an event, to make the moment something unforgettable, you need to really be there.

Remember that less is not nothing, so please don’t abandon your cameras all together, just use them with purpose and see what it’s like to leave them at home.

If you are like me, this post has has struck a nerve. Could you go to a special event camera-free? Travel to a new place with nothing to remind you about your trip besides your own memories? Do you plan to try this mini-mission?

For more experiments to simplify your life, read Mini-missions for Simplicity. It’s available on the Amazon Kindle store, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.



  1. Leslie says

    Great post. I spent 2008 doing a photo-a-day project, and while I learned a lot about using my DSLR camera and caputuring life, I spent more time documenting than living. In February, I agonized over whether to bring my fancy camera or my P&S on a vaca to NYC. I would normally be concerned with bringing my bulky camera and getting technically beautiful photos. I brought my P&S, took way fewer pictures, and have a couple of shots (that are not so technically beautiful) to remember my trip and just really enjoyed being there.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Leslie, I have taken great shots with my iphone, but once I start thinking about the camera, I’m distracted from the moment. It’s a struggle, but when I think about how little time I spend reflecting on old photos, it’s easier to let go.

  2. Sarah Moriah says

    I often think about this when I look at how many pictures end up in my Picasa albums. Who will have time to look at them all? Who wants to?

    Sometimes I will carry a camera and not shoot at all. I am a crazy macro photographer, but I don’t shoot unless something grabs me – which is rare. I’m also picky. If my eyes don’t see the shot, it’s not going to happen.

    I wish to take a few good photos, and to delete the rest.

    I’m torn about capturing moments on film, but I have to say there can be times to just enjoy and then times to purposely capture. Which is why photo shoots are great, they let you spend the rest of the time in the moment because you’ve set aside time to “capture”.

  3. Daniel Danicic says

    I have found that it takes only one photo to capture the essence of someone close to me. I have a photo of my two boys I took initially to get my older son’s picture in my cel phone contact list. At the last second his younger brother poked his head in the frame. To me it speaks of who they are as my sons and as brothers. It eclipses the hundreds of others taken. I say – live life, snap many random photos without thought and delete 99.9% as soon as possible.

  4. says

    This post really hits home. Especially when I travel, I make a concerted effort to keep my camera in my bag as much as possible and just enjoy the moment. So often, I’ve found that a picture doesn’t capture a moment or place so it’s better to just be 100% present and remember rather than spend time trying to document.

  5. Alicia says

    You have to listen to John Mayer’s song “No More 3 by 5s” I think it fits the theme of this post perfectly. I was into scrapbooking for awhile and I was thinking of what I wanted my scrapbook to look like instead of really enjoying the moment. I take less pictures now maybe just two or three when I do decide to bring a camera.

  6. Michelle says

    I watched a mom at a peewee basketball game watch the whole game through the lens of her camera then complain that she missed the only good shot her son took. That was an ah-ha moment for me even though I never have my camera when I want it. I recently received a picture of my grandmother in her highschool graduation gown and one of my grandfather in the cockpit of his airplane as a young man. I love these pictures and they are extra special exactly because I don’t have a million other pictures of them. One is enough. And now I really concentrate on being in the moment and enjoying the activity and not worrying that I’m not capturing it with my camera. Great post.

  7. says

    I love this post. I am not terribly sentimental, and my husband and I rarely take pictures. We have been on a few vacations and have even fewer pictures to immortalize them, but we still remember the fantastic times we had. And when it comes to sharing vacation/trip photos, I have never heard any jokes about the people who don’t take enough pictures…

  8. says

    Thanks Courtney – a great reminder about focus and paying attention – am I taking a photograph, or being in the moment doing what I’m doing – it’s hard to do both and to be fully present. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop taking photographs – just means I’ll be a little more selective and conscious of being truly present.

  9. says

    What a great article! Since the advent of digital cameras and the oh-so fancy and expensive DSLRs, almost everyone became a “photographer”. Pair this with the seemingly inevitable existence of social networking sites, and there you have it, hundreds and hundreds of photos!

    I like how you craft your words in such a way that they unconsciously made me realize the importance of being in the moment instead of capturing the moment. It happened to me a couple of times already. One time I went to a park with my friends and I tried to take photos as much as I could. After a series of clicks, I noticed that I was already left behind; when I ran back to them, I don’t know what they were talking about anymore.

    Thank you for your words of wisdom, and keep inspiring us! (I just discovered your site days ago, and I read all your posts from the archive. Well, what can I say, I’m hooked! Keep writing!)

  10. says

    Thanks for the introduction to Dave and his interesting work. I managed to enroll as a platinum member for the new A-list blogger boot camp. I am so excited!

    I see you withdrew the special bonus, guess I was too late



  11. says

    Oh! I can so relate… A bit before my eldest dauther’s first birthday, we bought a video camera. I envied friends who had movies from their childhood, although I had lots of photos, so thought it would be neat for us as well as my child.

    I was so busy preparin the birthday meal and family reunion to celebrate. I was the one doing the shopping, cleaning, cookin, etc. I had asked my husband to use the camera, but he never did… I ended up doing that too.

    When everyone left, I was exhausted, disappointed with the few images I managed to get and suddenly it hit me! I had totally missed the chance to celebrate my child’s first birthday!! I was not part of the celebration, I was behind the camera or busy serving, etc. I was in tears.

    I put the camera aside. My husband never picked it up to do his share and I vowed never to miss my actual life to “create memories”! I finally gave the camera to a relative who just had a child. We have no video of our children growing up, but I have enjoyed taking quick pictures that I cherrish ever since.

    I confess that I have some guilt over it, and never told my daughters that we had a video camera or that somewhere there’s a cassette with some video of the eldest.

  12. Susan says

    This post made me realize something that I have been suspecting. My husband Dan is and has always been a MINIMALIST! We seldom take a camera of any type on a vacation. Dan has always felt that it takes away from enjoying those superb moments…a special sunset over the Rockies, etc. Those photos that we did take..and those which are most cherished…are of the old Labs that we have rescued and rehabilitated over the years. Not a single scene shot can compare in terms of bringing back fond memories the way that a favorite picture of an old dog can!

  13. says

    What a lovely photo you have of your grandparents, Courtney!

    We love to make moments, create special time-space interactions for the two of us. And we often snap photos throughout. I used to take the camera everywhere, but for the last few years I’ve only seemed to remember to grab it every so often. So as a result, I used to have way too many pictures I’d never do anything with and now I sometimes regret not having a photo up to look at of a special time… because there is no photo of the time. Of course we do have our memories, but I also love to have special photos and times around me (not very minimalist of me, I know).

    As for being present in the moment, the single greatest thing that has gotten in the way of this is digital photography (in my opinion). I think taking a film camera on a special walk-about can be incredibly fulfilling. There is something about seeing the light reflect off of a puddle of water and capturing (or thinking that you have) the experience of viewing the puddle on film, only to see later a version of what you saw. It’s a whole different thing when you take the photo, see it on the screen immediately, notice it doesn’t reflect what you’re seeing or want portrayed in the photo. And eventually you’re just attempting to capture the moment lost. There is something to the technology of digital photography with regard to instant gratification that I think steals our presence. This was a good reminder to me to grab my film camera next time I’m going on an experiential trek. Or of course I could not grab it at all…

  14. says

    For a number of years I made my living performing on cruise ships. I was constantly amazed at how so many people only seemed to experience their vacation through a lense. You can certainly capture an image through a lense, but you can’t experience the moment.

    Thanks for this reminder.

  15. says

    I have realized this, I’m so distracted when I have my camera. I miss the moments, as I’m messing with my settings. I purposely leave the camera at home more, because it means more, more work, more memories yes, but more editing, storing, sharing instead of being!

  16. says

    This is such a refreshing idea! I have actually been very concerned in the past over the fact that I rarely take photos and don’t have a ton of photos with the special people in my life. After reading this, I really feel more open to accepting that photographs can be fleeting but memories can last a lifetime. I loved this sentence:

    “I am so grateful to have this image that preserves the love of my grandparents, but also glad that I don’t have hundreds of others. They might make this one less special.”

    So very true. Thank you for sharing this :)

  17. Dany says

    Hi! I discovered your blog two days ago and I really like it.
    it’s funny because I’m leaving for 4 days in London and I’ve decided not to take my camera wich is a totally new experience for me. Your post is just what I needed to reinforce my motivation. I’ll see what happen…