Usually, we know what those words might be. We can look at a sunset and tell the story of its photo, even before the shutter closes. We know what to expect. And those expectations reflect the resulting image, more or less.
A couple of months ago I decided to take a photo of a shelf in my office. It didn’t look that bad, just a little cluttered, but I knew I could get rid of some things, maybe reorganize a bit. I mostly just wanted a “before” shot for posterity’s sake, before my husband and I started Project 365 x 2.
So imagine my surprise when, after snapping the photo, I brought it up on my camera’s view screen to discover the shelf was transformed. Gone was the moderately organized shelf of my real-world experience. It had been replaced by something much worse. This can’t be what my shelf looks like, I thought.
But it was.
That’s the photo, over on the right. I know it could look a lot worse, and believe me, I have places that do. But compared to the picture in my head, the way I perceived that same view, this is chaos. I can handle a little clutter, but that photo made me cringe. It was telling me a story I hadn’t even realized was there. Unlike that nice safe sunset, this picture’s thousand words caught me off guard.
I don’t know why a photograph instantly points out the trouble spots in a space. I only know that it does. Don’t believe me? Snap a quick picture of a mildly cluttered spot you’ve been meaning to clean out. How does it look through the viewfinder? On your computer? How does the photo compare to your mental picture?
Photographing a potential clean-out area is a great motivating tool. It makes you see a space you’re completely used to in a new way. After that first photo I went nuts, capturing every drawer, cabinet, and bookshelf I hoped to attack. I realized they were all overstuffed, overflowing, and chaotic. In real life, I’ve gotten so comfy with the clutter I don’t even see it. In pixel form, though, it appalls me. All I have to do is bring up my “before” photos and I find the motivation I need.
Try it for yourself. Then come back and tell me: How did the experiment go for you?