Life Lessons from Photography #1: Detach from Expectations and Assume the Positive

by heidistraubephotographer

I’ve learned a lot from being a photographer, and from doing many photo shoots…so I thought I’d share some of my discoveries with you!  Here’s the start of a new series.

Photographer or not, you’ll find helpful tips:

The process of photography parallels what happens in the rest of our lives.

Go ahead! Read and see for yourself…

Photography Life Lessons #1:

Detach from Expectations and Assume the Positive.

I was laughing the other day with a long-time photography client, as we recalled a photo shoot some years back when her 6 year old daughter refused to participate.

The mother had excitedly shared her vision for the shoot. It was wonderful: her daughter, dressed in a lovely velvet dress, looking angelic and innocent, sitting on the curving front stairs. The light from the staircase window would be magical, spilling over her face and shoulders like a Vermeer painting.

I too, was looking forward to this shoot. I loved this family and shooting at this home, the light of day was perfect, and (until it was time to put on the dress) all was unfolding right on time.  I had my own pleasing vision of amazing and delighting both my client and myself by capturing the beauty and spirits of her child.

It wasn’t going to happen. At least not in the way that had been planned.

After a half hour of the mother’s pleading, enticing, commanding, and bribing, and my own reassurance and encouragement falling on stubborn, deaf ears, the best we could do was to get the little girl to put on jeans and a t-shirt and go out in the back yard. We surrendered to a totally different dream: hoping that she’d at least hold out long enough for pictures on the slide with the family dog.

Having found the right leverage (a mother’s talent: a birthday party to attend that afternoon…or not) we took the shoot from there and eventually all ended up having fun. I got great informal images of children and dogs playing together. But here’s what we were laughing about with pleasure:

From the photos we shot that day, one ended up being one of my client’s favorite photos of all time.

The shoot that initially was not at all what we had in mind, and could have been perceived as disappointing, challenging, and inevitably headed for disaster, had resulted in the gift of an image that was vibrant, unique, and a wonderful reflection of this child’s joy and exuberant personality at that age.

We had detached from expectations, assumed the positive, and been given the gift of the unexpected.

Of course we both agreed that it still would have been nice to get the classic Vermeer lighted photo in the window (OK, I confess, we didn’t give up; we did attain that vision this year.)  But as beautiful as that image is, that day we ended up capturing something else unique and special. The mother has a wonderful photo that will tug at her heartstrings and give her pleasure for many years from now.

There was bittersweet laughter shared the other day as well. A photo shoot that seemed such an important event at the time became totally silly to have worried about, given some life threatening challenges that appeared soon after. It was nice to affirm that all is well, and mother and daughter are both here to continue the relationship dance.

Sometimes things don’t go the way we want or expect them to.

Sometimes they actually come out in a way that both surprises and pleases us.

And too often we realize later that we wasted a lot of time and energy being attached to our vision, being afraid of change, and expecting the worst because things weren’t going the way we expected.


So…the lesson applied…to photography…

As a photographer, I’ve learned not to stress out when the original idea for a photo shoot isn’t attainable. I stay flexible, look for other opportunities, and reassure my clients that no matter what, we’ll get something they like. I enjoy the adventure of the unknown, and hold the positive expectation that the outcome will be good and reflect the spirit intended. And marvelous things happen.

I also know that one shoot does not define the lives of anyone. I keep things in perspective, and enjoy the good things that are happening right now.

Photographers: Relax, be flexible, and let things flow. Expect positive and unknown results. And know that if it’s not the perfect shoot, lives don’t depend on it.

And to our lives…Consider this…

What if you could remember that disruptions to your plans are not always bad?

(Wouldn’t it be nice?)

What if, faced with the unexpected, you anticipated good surprises, and were able to drop your worrying?

(Wouldn’t it feel great?)

I’m not minimizing the fact that you encounter serious things in life. Losing a job, for example, or experiencing money, health or relationship challenges definitely affects your life in very tangible ways.

But your attitude of dealing with those challenges, and your ability to maintain hope for the unknown future can make a big difference. You make better decisions when you’re relaxed, anticipating the best, and not worrying. Solutions to challenges come from positive expectations, not when you’re frozen with fear and foreboding.

Try playing with this today:

Each time that something happens that disappoints, frustrates, or angers you, stop and ask yourself:

“Is this as big as it seems? And what if this is leading to a good thing?”

And imagine that you’re living a year from now, and all has been resolved.

Question the seriousness. Feel the release of expectation. And try to believe in the possibility of the positive. Notice how your heart and body shift. Let yourself relax, in body and mind.

Break the pattern of assuming that all unmet expectations are automatically “bad”, and are just more evidence that your life is going downhill.

I know: For some of you, this will be difficult and may feel unreal or silly. Your practical mind says, “Very nice fantasy, but the situation and problems still remain!”

But what if it were true?

What if all this really will have changed by a year from now, and you’ve wasted time being miserable?

Isn’t it more pleasurable to assume that this is a bump in the road (however large) and that good things will still happen?

Of course, still take the steps to address your challenges…but retain your hope and confidence in positive outcomes.

Try it. Play lightly.

Detach from expectations, and assume a positive future.

Continue to watch for the positive aspects of the unknown, and allow them into your life.


P.S. Want to be a master? Try working with this image:

A year from now, you look back, and things are even better than you can ever have imagined. Your life has been a miracle.

See how your body relaxes then!


How did this work for you? Let me know! Send feedback, questions and comments to, or leave your comments on this blog.

I’ll be writing follow-up articles based on what people need.

I want to hear how your life is going, what works, and what doesn’t, and find more ways that I can help.

With intentions for less stress, more happiness,