You will be surprised at how many ways photography improves our physical and mental health.
Photography has become a therapeutic tool, a means of community interaction, and a source of inspiration for a number of individuals.
The benefits you can get from photography include positive effects on one’s well-being, memory, creativity, and even physical health.
We looked at many scientific pieces of research & real-life examples and compiled a list of the main benefits.
Top Benefits of Photography
- Photography is a form of self-care.
- Photography improves a person’s well-being through community interaction.
- It also improves well-being through the potential for reminiscence.
- Helps to find beauty in our world.
- Enhances memory and keeps your brain healthy.
- Gets you outdoors and makes you exercise.
- Photography makes you enjoy what you are doing more.
- Photography can help people who are struggling with depression.
- Stimulates and improves your creativity.
1. Photography is a form of self-care
A study by Dr Liz Brewster of Lancaster University and Dr Andrew Cox of the University of Sheffield showed that shooting daily and sharing your photos with others improves a person’s self-care.
Here‘s a quote from one person who participated in this research:
“[My job] was a very highly stressful role … Oh, God. There were some days when I’d almost not stopped to breathe, you know what I mean … And just the thought: oh wait a moment, no, I’ll stop and take a photograph of this insect sitting on my computer or something. Just taking a moment is very salutary I think.”
Here’s how sharing photos improves a person’s self-care:
You start doing something different every day and it develops into a new habit, which is therapeutic and refreshing. It also makes you more creative by forcing you to think of new photos to upload each day.
What is more, sometimes this new habit developed into the aim to get a better camera and to learn how to take better pictures.
2. Photography improves a person’s well-being through community interaction
During the same research, Dr. Liz Brewster and Dr. Andrew Cox continued to explain that photography also connects people who later are likely to turn into small communities.
The project was simple:
Participants had to take one photo per day and share it with other participants on the site.
During the process a neighbourhood with similar mindsets formed around. Some people made new valuable connections and even found support.
People who take pictures tend to meet new people with shared interests and share their moments. Photography simply can help you find lookalike people and fight loneliness.
3. It improves your well-being through the potential for reminiscence
Every photograph is a unique captured moment we can visually see and remember.
It can bring you back to the exact frozen moment, so you get the ability to look back at your life.
Reminiscence is a reminder of previous events and bringing back all positive thoughts.
If you feel sad or depressed, it’s always a good idea to take a look through your old photo albums.
This way we manage to bring memories from the past, which is a great method to lift the mood.
4. Helps to find beauty around you
Famous Austrian-American photojournalist Ernst Haas once said this:
“I am not interested in shooting new things – I am interested to see things new.”
It means that everyone can find beauty in something. Each photograph reflects a unique vision of the world.
Another photographer, Rena Effendi, who mostly captures images of global social problems, says that she finds beauty in her world through photography.
As a photographer, she starts to fall in love with a certain place just after some time passes. But then it’s the time when she starts taking the most powerful photos.
Here’s the full interview by National Geographic with Rena Effendi:
5. Enhances memory and keeps your brain healthy
We are not getting younger and so are our brains.
For example, language is way easier to learn when you are younger because your brain starts to “relax” in time and needs to get constant exercise to avoid cognitive decline.
Of course, people don’t usually feel it much until they become old. But it’s better to start exercising your brain as soon as possible.
According to Denise C. Park, professor of behavioral and brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas, and her fellow researchers, photography is one of the hobbies with high cognitive demand which elevates episodic memory for older people.
Participants in their research had to learn new skills that would activate their working and episodic memory and reasoning.
One of the skills was… digital photography.
The results were positive. Participants have been practicing these skills for 3 months and after that period their memory function was enhanced and episodic memory improved.
Well, we can assume that doctors should consider starting prescribing photography as a medicine.
6. Photography gets you outdoors and makes you exercise
Sometimes we take pictures of our food at home. And it doesn’t require a lot of energy.
But most of the time photography pushes you to go out.
No matter if you are taking pictures of people walking in the city center, chasing down celebrities (this can be a great exercise for sure), or capturing animals or landscapes – it burns your calories.
It always puts you in motion.
Photography makes you climb a tree for a better shot, makes you duck, lay down, stand up again, approach the subject closer, and then go further away again.
If it’s not enough, the CDC Organization highlights that similar physical activity can lower the risk of chronic diseases.
Next time you miss the gym session just grab your camera and go for a walk into a local forest and capture some eye-catching pictures.
7. Makes you enjoy things more
Kristin Diehl, professor of marketing at USC Marshall School of Business found out that taking pictures of something makes you more pleased with it.
“What we find is you look at the world slightly differently, because you’re looking for things you want to capture, that you may want to hang onto,” Diehl says.
She adds that thinking about what you are going to take a photo of is making you more engaged. It’s what creates a more enjoyable experience.
When something attracts your attention and you decide to take a photo of it, it heightens the pleasure of the subject.
And when the image is really good, it boosts your happiness even more.
8. Taking pictures can help people struggling with depression
A study by two researchers Y. Saito and H. Tada showcased that images can be used as positive mood stimulants and can decrease negative mood.
Another study called The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature highlighted that art therapy reduces the stress hormone cortisol.
Some people find that photography is a tool that helps to find a way out of depression.
Here’s a real-life example:
Photographer Tara Wray said that she always feels better after doing some photography.
She describes it as a therapeutic tool.
Even at these times when she doesn’t want to do it and forcing herself to do it, she feels better after doing it.
The photographer described the camera as a sort of protection and a reason to be somewhere. And “taking what you think is a good picture becomes a kind of inner relaxation”.
Photography can also be used as a tool to see the world differently. For example, when you feel sorrowful and depressed, trying to take positive and valuable photos can help you stay motivated.
9. Photography stimulates and improves creativity
According to Forbes, taking a photo of the same object every day can improve your inner creativity.
This method activates your brain and awakens creativity.
In addition, we start to think of what kind of emotion we want to express through the photo.
Photographer Steve Gosling states that photography “encourages us to look beyond the obvious” – to see things from a unique point of view.
He also adds that if you educate your curiosity and dare to experiment, you will result in eye-catching creative photographs.
Photography awakens our creativity. In most cases, we think of what kind of emotion we want to express through the photo and how to make it unique.
- Brewster, A. M Cox. ‘The daily digital practice as a form of self-care: Using photography for everyday well-being‘
- C. Park, J. Lodi-Smith, L. Drew, S. Haber, A. Hebrank, G. N. Bischof, W. Aamodt. ‘The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: The Synapse Project‘
- Heather L. Stuckey, and Jeremy Nobel. ‘The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature‘
- Y. Saito, H. Tada. ‘Effects of color images on stress reduction: Using images as mood stimulants‘
- Manfrotto School Of Xcellence