7 Ways To A More Observant Life

Every single person can benefit from being more observant. Not just photographers, though photographers have the most to gain from being observant… (this is such a ‘duh’ moment… but humour me and do read on)

This is the second part of a two-post series on why a good photographer is also a good observer. In the first post, we discussed some things that you could pay attention to, to help you become more observant. Today we’re looking at some habits that you can develop to help you along.

How to Build Habits that Make You a More Observant Person

Becoming more observant is not something that you can do overnight. It takes some care, diligence, and effort to do so. Here are a few things that you can try on a daily basis which will help you to become more observant. With time, some of them will become habits, and will become part of your daily life.

  1. Take a painting class: Drawing and painting depend very heavily upon your powers of observation. This one step could be a double-edged sword as it will also improve your assessment and understanding of light, materials and shadows. That’s two skills that you could learn from just one activity!
  2. Take note of yourself: Your handwriting and other things that come to you subconsciously -like the way you speak, the words and gestures that you use – are all part of who you are. If you want to be more observant of others, first become more observant of yourself and your habits. Know Thyself.
  3. Be a mental list-maker: Make a mental record of things around you see how they’re placed and check to see whether they’re the same when you next see them, soon it will become second nature to you.
  4. Pay attention to details: They say “God is in the details.” Paying attention to the little details keeps your mind more alert and always on the watch for interesting bits that you could use later.
  5. Listen to what people say: Yes, you do listen to people. But are you ‘really’ listening? All too often, we find ourselves ‘listening’ to somebody while working at the computer, or watching something on the television. Make it a point to give your full attention to the person who is talking. Making this a habit could pay unseen dividends personally and professionally. Remember that listening is an art in itself.
  6. Spend some time every day just watching people: You see people all the time. But do you really ‘observe’ them? Their expressions, gestures their attire, the newspaper or magazine that they’re reading, it’s all part of who they are. Each and every aspect of them offers insight into their personality, background, and behaviour. With time and practice, some ‘people-watchers’ can even predict what the person is going to do next. It is a great way to spend time, and is remarkably insightful after some practice. Just make sure people don’t think you’re stalking them, or you could find yourself in the slammer.
  7. Remember that you need to observe things. It is rather easy to forget that you need to be observing things around you. Make it your daily mission, and don’t let a day pass where you don’t practice this skill.

How will it help you?

  1. It will offer you an amazing insight into how people think, react, and behave in general. This could have startling revelations in your work, no matter what you do for a living.
  2. It will help you understand how a great many pieces of equipment work, because you’ll find yourself observing the buttons and symbols on the equipment and also observing how people make things work, and learning from those observations.
  3. It will help you choose the right moment to release your camera’s shutter as the crowds part, when watching a particular person walk down the street, or the right moment as your child smiles at you so sweetly.
  4. It will help you appreciate people around you better and possibly help you know what they are feeling and thinking.
  5. It also bring a calmness to you. You are no longer centered within yourself, but are selflessly involved in another person’s world.

Can you think of any more tips? Share them in the comments.

This is part of the Beyond Photo Tips Birthday Special Series. Go here to see all the posts so far.