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Mental Health Awareness week #5: making your photography reflective

Mental Health Awareness week #5: making your photography reflective
(Image credit: Paul Sanders)
Meet the pro: Paul Sanders

Paul Sanders

(Image credit: Paul Sanders)

Paul has been a pro photographer since 1984, and by 2004 he was Picture Editor at The Times. In 2011 he became a full-time landscape photographer, and is passionate about the power photography has to help people overcome anxiety, and to positively adjust their outlook on life.

I’ve mentioned the benefits of a beginner’s mind, but using your technical experience helps a lot in being able to translate what you feel and see into what you produce at the printing stage. Using simple techniques, such as under or overexposure, enables you to create mood and drama. 

The most useful thing for me is to write down how I feel about the place, myself and what I am observing around me. This is important because it might be a few weeks before I process my images, and it helps to be able to re-engage with the feelings I had at the time. 

Always photograph your subject with a print in mind. Don’t imagine it on screen, imagine it on paper, so you can feel the weight of the paper and better immerse yourself in the moment. Printing is a very mindful way to get back into your images, the print should mirror your moment: tone density, color, movement all should be present. I print nearly every image I like. I only use one paper too (Fotospeed Platinum Cotton), as it suits my style best.

Dark tones in a photo add a powerful sense of drama to a scene, capturing the feeling of the weather and conditions you’re experiencing (Image credit: Paul Sanders)

Monochrome or color?

I shoot mainly in black and white – I only shoot color on my iPhone. Color distracts me, I find it irritating as sometimes color overrides content. That said, I do see color, but I always translate it into tones of grey. 

I have my camera set to the monochrome setting and the aspect ratio I plan to print the final image in. I find that this makes processing and visualizing easier. In-camera I shoot RAW and JPEG, and often I use the JPEG pretty much straight from the camera with only minor adjustments. 

If I need to get more from the file I use the RAW and my Lightroom presets to bring out the emotion, beauty or simplicity I experienced.

Using something as simple as under or overexposure can help recreate a unique mood or feeling you are having (Image credit: Paul Sanders)

Read more: 

Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK
Best printer inks for inkjet printers
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Learn the craft of slow-shutter-speed photography
Can photography improve your mental health

Lauren Scott

Lauren is the editor of Digital Photographer magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 

An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over seven years, she has served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine

PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine

In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography.