7 Ways To A More Observant Life

Every single person can benefit from being more perceptive/observant in their daily lives; not just photographers. From a quick assessment, it would seem as though photographers have the most to gain from being observant, but the truth is that every profession relies on the people who have an eye for detail. The people who seem to be in tune with everything around them.

Is it that these people care more? Or are they just paying more attention? I say a little of both, but if you care, you probably also want to learn how you can be more attentive, and observant in your daily life. Here are a few ways in which you can build habits into your daily life so that observation becomes an innate skill.

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 You Can Build Habits That Make You More Observant

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. Those are 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 Being More Observant Help You In Your Daily Life?

  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 many pieces of equipment work, because you’ll find yourself observing the buttons and symbols on the equipment. You’ll also observe how people make things work and learn skills more quickly 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 brings calmness to you. You are no longer centred 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.


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Published: November 28, 2008 | Last Updated: July 19, 2021

7 thoughts on “7 Ways To A More Observant Life”

  1. One tip I found useful is to walk around a city without an aim. Just, walk. Look at things, maybe could the steps between one bus stop to another. So on.

    And, especially for street photogs (or any photog for that matter) always go three-four times to a place before you shoot it. And then go back again. And again.
    The more often you see a place, the more easy it is to observe it – you’re already familiar with the broad strokes so you can pay attention to the details. That heped me a lot.

  2. what worked for me is padding !
    Taking daily pictures, for any amount of time, pushes me to look for photo opportunities no matter where they show up and to experiment in styles I’ve never did before

    1. Yes, they do, but that’s when detailing takes way too much time, and you lose the larger perspective… But when you look into the details in nature, that’s where you see it’s magnificence.

      Thanks for stopping by. 😀

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