Although the methods used are different, a central tenet of both Zen and Taoist thought is that one should seek to clear one’s mind so that one can view the world without filtering it. Interestingly enough, that is also a valuable practice in photography.
You may have had the experience of wanting to take a picture of your favorite Aunt Millie. You look through the camera and notice her smiling face with those kind eyes and snap the picture at just the right moment. But, when you look at the print, you notice the tree growing out of Millie’s left ear or the prominent red “stop” sign in the frame. The reason, of course, is that when you pressed the shutter release you were reacting emotionally to the subject and forgetting that there was more to the photograph. Not to say that photographs should be emotionless, quite the contrary. But, you need to take a step back (figuratively) before pressing the button. Remember to look at the viewfinder, and not through it. When you look at the viewfinder, you see it for what it is – a rectangle enclosing an image. You notice when there is something distracting at the edge of the frame or that the light striking the subject is casting an unattractive shadow. Looking at the viewfinder alerts you so that you can see whether you need to change your angle of view or another aspect of the image so that you make the photograph that you want – one that allows the emotional content to come through. Aunt Millie will appreciate the effort.