After creating Distilled Dollar earlier this year, I faced a photography dilemma — between using stock photos or my own photos.

In the process of deciding to use my own photos, I have learned a few things about photography, frugality & myself.

Photography, just like frugality, is about capturing the beauty that is already there.

The simplicity of it might cause us to overlook the value before our eyes.
Seeing as how this blog includes topics on frugality and finding ways to save money, it seemed like using stock photos would be the wrong choice. Yes; there are free stock photos, but every time I found a photo I liked, it required my credit card.

Stock photos look much better than what I am capable of capturing and so they naturally would lead to more readers.

I was tempted to make the purchase and move on to bigger and better things — like struggling with HTML code and fixing fonts.

Often with frugality, the initial choice is tough but yields more long-term happiness. I choose to walk 20 minutes to work each day instead of driving or taking public transportation. This decision has led to a healthier lifestyle AND an opportunity to save money. A win-win that has turned into a habit. I couldn’t imagine my commute being any other way now.

In a similar fashion, I decided to put my skills to the test and use my own photos. At first, this was a difficult adjustment as I was not one to usually take photos.

This decision resulted in more writing material; it provided me with space to reflect on some of my ideas, and it saved us a few bucks along the way.

Mark that as a win-winwin.

Sometimes, it is all about framing things in the right light.


You don’t need to exert any great amount of physical effort.

Taking the right shot can happen with a subtle change in perspective and you end up with something you never could have imagined.

Take for example, the picture I used for my Four Phases of Financial Independence post. It is a simple of photo of clouds amongst skyscrapers.

Clouds Amidst Skyscrapers
Compare that photo to this one. Same south facing angle, same location. Different weather conditions and different lighting.

Standard

There is a lot more going on in the second shot. You can see Lake Michigan, Millennium Park, multiple concert venues, people travelling to and from various destinations. Even the horizon is filled with more objects for the eye to be drawn to.

Despite the second photo having more detail, the first photo is more intriguing and appealing because of its simplicity.

Just as with personal finance, a simple analogy often has the largest impact on my finances.

The analogy that 1% extra in savings each year means I can escape the rat race 731 days early feels tangible and real because of its simplicity.

I can visualize each of those days, waking up on my schedule and doing what I want to do. Feeling the freedom and security that comes with Financial Independence.

Most of all, feeling the confidence to take on something new.

That 1% analogy has a clearer message for me than hearing, ‘save early and often,’ or, ‘put compound interest to work’.

Okay, back to photography…

My level of simple photography is achievable with any smart phone. I say simple because my level of photography does not compare with what professional photography is able to accomplish.

Only a few years ago, this level of photography would involve a list of expensive items such as a camera, lenses, film, possibly a tripod, software, filters and more. Now, you can get relatively high quality shots from a phone you already have.

As I move forward with this blog, I intend to include more pictures of my hometown, Chicago, as the cover photos for my posts.

This new hobby of photography has made my path to financial independence much more enjoyable, by helping me see the value that’s already in front of me.

What frugal hobbies do you enjoy? Are there any new ones you are thinking about picking up? (My other hobbies not mentioned here include cooking, reading & my latest hobby is obviously blogging.)

-Matt
Master Distiller

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