Wu Wei and the art of effortless effort

Another term that I learned from the study of martial arts and that has a real-life practical application to my photography is Wu Wei.

Wu Wei is a term that comes from Chinese Taoism and roughly translates as “Doing without doing or action without action” It’s a very deep and difficult concept to understand especially for us westerners but we can experience it as we get better at what we do and our focus reaches higher levels.

Wu Wei and the art of effortless effort - Xavier D. Buendia - XDBPhotography

Without getting too much into the mystic and religious part of Taoism which I’m in no way familiar with, I’ll try to explain what Wu Wei is and what it means to me.

As a food photographer, I’m constantly encountering Wu Wei, especially with my clients. Chefs with incredible skills and tons of knowledge and experience.

Wu Wei and the art of effortless effort - XDBPhotography - Xavier D. Buendia

The meaning might be confusing as I’ve heard people say they believe it means to do something without actually doing anything, creating something out of nothing. Like sitting there and waiting for something to happen without any sort of action taken.

In fact, it means that one has gained so much practice, experience and knowledge that doing something difficult seems effortless, the natural way of doing things to put it in a simple way, like cooking for example

Do you remember Senna, how effortless his driving seemed. There’s an interview with him in Monaco and he’s saying how he had a nearly out of body experience like if someone else was taking over and driving the car. That’s Wu Wei.

How many times, you as a photographer have been in the position where you know exactly what settings to dial on your camera and shoot away without anything else getting in the way?

Instead of sitting and waiting for things to happen, go out and perfect your understanding of light, composition, and your photography. The beauty of this craft is that one never truly finishes learning, same in business, no matter how busy or successful you are, there is always room for improvement and refinement.

Next time you’re out with your camera, ask yourself… how’s my Wu Wei?

Xavier D. Buendia - Stray Tog - Wu Wei and the art of effortless effort

As for me, I see Wu Wei on my food photography a lot, with my clinets and with my photography, I do it so often and consistently that has become second nature. With my personal work like street photography and portraiture… not so much. But that’s what hobbies are for.

Are you on Instagram? Why not follow my photography on @xdbphotography and my personal stuff on @stray_tog

Until next time.


Copyright Notice: All photographs are subject to copyright and protected by UK and international law. Total or partial copy and/or reproduction is strictly forbidden. If you wish to use these photographs for personal, editorial or commercial purposes, please get in touch. ©Xavier D. Buendia /XDBPhotography