If You Just Have Ten Minutes

November 01, 2022

On procrastination and why ten minutes helps you get over it

Photo by Khadeeja Yasser on Unsplash

Are you struggling with your writing to produce? Do you wait weeks on end before you sit down at your writing device thinking that you’ll do it later or that your idea needs to be better?

Well, you are not alone.

When I lived in New York City, I had a film camera on me for the day. I had to teach at one of the schools that I taught photography at, but my friend Janelle Issis texted me to ask if I wanted to shoot after I was done with class.

I said that I only had a film camera with me with a roll of 24 exposures for the day, and she said that was ok.

Janelle had just moved to NYC, and we met just a couple blocks North of the school I taught at on the corner of 18th street and Broadway.

Janelle asked me if I had any ideas to photograph, and off the top of my head I blurted out, “Let’s see what we can shoot in just ten minutes.”

This was about to be my fastest photo shoot ever. I mean seriously, who produces many solid shots in just ten minutes?

Panic set in as Janelle’s cousin Jackie set a timer on her cell phone. I gave myself the challenge of shooting 24 exposures (on film mind you), in just 10 minutes — oh the pressure.

The first shot was on the hood of an unsuspecting taxi. Apparently the driver had pulled over to get some food in a nearby restaurant, so we quickly and carefully shot on the hood, next to the door, in front of the grill, and looking into the side view mirrors. “Four shots down,” I thought, this will be easy! Wrong!

The taxi driver came out of the restaurant just as we were walking away from his car looking at us a bit suspiciously. We left no trace.

Next, there was a storefront window. There was a beautiful soft glow to the display of the window, and the light fall off quickly made the streets surrounding very dark. “Great!”, I thought. This was the perfect neutral backdrop that I needed to produce clean shots.

I photographed Janelle’s hair, her profile, a half shot with her holding her hand to her face, the front of her face illuminated with the background in the street pitch black, and her shoulder. Five more shots down! Boom!

Casually looking down, I looked at the exposure count on the top of my Nikon FM2 and it was right where I wanted it to be in just 4 minutes. But wait, 11 shots to go in 6 minutes on an empty New York City street? Panic set in.

We raced around the corner of 18th and found an entry way to an apartment building that was perfectly illuminated. Janelle is a professional dancer, so I asked her to perform dance moves beneath the awning that strutted out into the night from the building. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Seven more shots! Four more to go with three minutes left on the clock!

I turned around and noticed the glow of the same corner that we started on and asked her to act cool as if she was waiting for a taxi (even though the same one that we started with was still there). She pulled it off effortlessly with four poses and we high fived with 1 minute left on the clock.

Clearly being it was film we could not review the shots, but we made a couple more photos on our phones just for fun and went to grab a bite to eat.

A few weeks later I developed the roll in my bathroom darkroom of my apartment. As I produced the scans, I was surprised at the number of keepers that I had in the roll in comparison to how it is when I take longer to think about my composition and framing. I had simply reacted with the skills that I know instead of spending time trying to be perfect.

And a year after that, I sat down with my good friend Jordan Matter and told him how I had produced the images in just ten minutes flat. His ten minute photo challenge was born and became very popular due to me — you’re welcome Jordan!

The lesson:

Sometimes in order to create something amazing, don’t think — react. As photographers, writers, or other creators, sometimes we have to trust ourselves that we have it in us to hit the publish button by creating what we know.

And as I say this, I share this story in just 10 minutes flat. No editing today, no changes, no time. I have to run to teach another class and do what I love.

What can you create in just ten minutes?

Hi, I am Charlie Naebeck
I am a husband, photographer, teacher, writer, entrepreneur, and adventurer.
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If You Just Have Ten Minutes was originally published in Photography101 on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.