There is a great swedish photographer named Anders Petersen, which I had the honor to meet during Stockholm Photography Week last year. The images that Petersen produces is some of the most raw and honest I've ever seen. At first, pretty obscene, almost disgusting. But the more you look at them, the more you understand. It is photographs taken thanks to a brilliant ability to recognize the feelings in your body and the ability to react to them by raising your camera to your eye. Shoot with your heart, not your head. That is Petersens motto and one of the best pieces of advice you could ever get. Until he told me those words I'd never heard anyone concretize it in that way. I've been living by the same mantra, but it wasn't until now that I got it
To be able to do so takes a lot of work. First of all, you need to know your camera and its buttons as good as you know yourself. If not better. Never let a moment slip away because you stand there trying to figure out which wheel to turn to set the ISO. If you need to set you camera, you should be able to do it at the same time as you are speaking to someone on the street, preferably without looking down.
Second, you need to get into the moment and let everything else go. Leave room to take in the feelings of the place you are in, leave room to feel what is happening. Watch the eyes and faces of people around you, watch how they interact with each other. Interact and talk to the people yourself, don't be afraid to be a part of the small world that is now your studio.
Not totally comfortable with maneuvering your gear? Set it to auto-mode! Instead of fumbling around, getting irritated, get rid of that variable and use auto! Yes, you will need to learn how to set the aperture and shutter speed, but even more Important is to understand that to capture what is happening around you, you need to actually SEE what is happening around you.
Stop trying to figure out what you think that other people will like. Stop trying to make photographs for someone else. You can only work and shoot from who you are and what you want to create. Stop thinking and start feeling.
Remember this; there is no right and wrong way to photograph. There is only your way to shoot and the other ways. Photography blogs and magazines might list the ten best ways to get sharper portraits. Or what you should do to create more colorful landscapes. But that doesn't mean that it is the only (or right) way. You decide what your photographs should look like and you decide what you want to produce. There is no right or wrong way.
If you want to read more about mindfulness, you should continue with these posts!