Mental Health Benefits of Photography
Note by Karin van Mierlo on the updated version.
This article was first published in the first year of the Covid pandemic.
Now that we seem to have entered a post-Covid world, I have adjusted the article slightly to bring it up to date.
The idea of the article still stands, of course. And although we’ve moved on from Covid, there are other challenges in the world that can cause stress and anxiety.
I have experienced the mental health benefits of photography all my life, not only during the pandemic. I share a personal story about a difficult time in my life where photography really helped me, in an article published on Feature Shoot.
I’m so passionate about promoting the mental health benefits of photography that I’ve even created a mindful photography course called See Fresh. The photos that accompany this article were created by some of the See Fresh students.
Take it away Jenn Perreira!
Photography as Self-Expression
Among the best and most accessible therapeutic activities is photography. Contrary to popular belief, photography requires minimal equipment to enjoy. The most basic requirement is a camera and the majority of smartphones nowadays are already equipped with cameras that produce great-quality shots.
Researchers from Lancaster University believe that engaging in photography may help in improving the well-being of an isolated person.
Photography as a form of self-expression helps a person to reconstruct and maintain a positive identity despite the negativities brought about by the feelings of isolation. It is only one of the many mental health benefits of photography.
Photo Marrilyn Hough ~ See Fresh Student
Photo Marrilyn Hough~ See Fresh Student
For people who are struggling with stress, here are ten reasons why photography can be an effective strategy to promote and maintain a healthy mind during stressful times.
1. Photography brings out positive self-care habits.
Depressed people are more likely to forget to take care of themselves. The lack of motivation for self-care stems from the fact that a person does not go out as much during challenging times.
By doing photography, a person looks forward to the next session. The new habit that is formed will motivate the person to improve self-care. The process itself is therapeutic since the brain becomes busy and refreshes the psychological well-being in order to be creative.
Read More: Mindful Photography Tips
2. Photography is an effective ice-breaker.
One of the sociological problems we’ve faced during lockdowns was the lack of avenues to interact. People became moody and chose to isolate themselves because they felt that there was nothing worthy to share. But many discovered that with photography, a person becomes motivated to take new pictures to share in the community.
Online photography groups oftentimes put up challenges for the members and discuss the photos in forums. The photos become helpful in sparking conversations and making connections that will ease out the lonely feelings.
And many photography websites still do this. For instance, there’s a monthly photography challenge right here on Photography Playground! Feel free to join 🙂
3. Photography lets you look back at good times.
Reminiscing is one of the ways to bring back positive emotions. The unique moments that are captured in photos will make the brain active and bring back the memories of good times. It will instantly lift up the mood and will make the person take more photos in the future.
There is beauty everywhere but you cannot always see it with the naked eye. Every shot has a different story about the unique environment that you can only see through the lens of the camera.
Doing photography will make you want to discover what the world has to share. It will allow you to capture every discovery and freeze them through photos.
5. Photography is an effective brain exercise.
When you do photography, the brain works double in order to keep up with the cognitive demands of the activity. The creative process becomes a brain exercise that helps enhance episodic memory and enhance reasoning skills.
Photo Marg Becker ~ See Fresh Student
Photo Marg Becker ~ See Fresh Student
6. Photography keeps the body in motion.
Aside from exercising the brain, photography also makes the body move and burn calories. A photographer typically walks around to look for a good subject or a good angle.
Some angles also demand physical strength in order to get a great shot. Lots of photographers even climb trees or bend over just to get closer to the subject.
7. Photography gets you engaged with things you love.
A photographer is typically drawn to things that are interesting to him or her. This makes it easier for a person to focus and connect with a subject that is meaningful. It doubles the fun of taking interesting photos since it becomes rewarding when nice photos are captured.
8. Photos uplift the mood.
There’s a study that’s titled The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature, that supports the idea that art helps the body to reduce stress hormones.
As a form of art, photography relaxes someone and becomes a good motivating factor to see the world in a positive light.
9. Photography makes you creative.
Since photography is an art form, it makes the brain active in order to process creative thoughts. Once the body is in motion, the brain encourages it to take photos that will translate the creative thoughts into tangible representations which, in this case, are the photos.
10. Photography shows different perspectives.
The uncertainty caused by challenging times is what makes many people feel unmotivated with their lives.
Photography is a way to escape dark thoughts by motivating the person to look at life from a different perspective.
Instead of brooding indoors, taking photos of anything worth interesting can let a person enjoy the moment and look forward to the next photo session.
It gives a person a reason to look forward to the future instead of dreading the uncertainties.
How to Enjoy Photography During Stressful Times
Even the World Health Organization is worried about the effects of the pandemic on mental health. Stress brings about many health problems, particularly in psychological well-being. Since photography is identified as an effective hobby to ease depressive behavior, it is only wise to give it a try.
Here is how you can enjoy photography:
1. Take the time to learn photo editing.
One of the best ways to spend extra time around the house is to improve your photos. There are plenty of both free and paid tutorials about photo editing.
You may also download applications or explore what you already have and use them to edit old photos.
Aside from the chance of enhancing photos, it is also a good time to reminisce about the shots and see how you can improve your photography and editing skills.
Photo Raquel Marçal ~ See Fresh Student
Photo Raquel Marçal ~ See Fresh Student
2. Try food photography.
Many people started to enjoy cooking during quarantine than before COVID-19 happened. To further enjoy the sumptuous food, why not try taking delectable food shots? You can create a whole album intended only for food and share them on social media or with other photographers.
3. Explore Black & White photography
It may look simple but black-and-white photography is actually very technical if you are aiming to get award-winning shots. You can try your hand with it and have your pet or other family members be your model.
Read More: Snapseed Black & White Tutorial.
4. Take photo challenges.
Join photography groups that hold contests and photo challenges. It will be fun to take the challenges plus there is even a chance that you will win one of the contests.
5. Use a free background remover to get creative with photos.
Another fun idea is to get creative and use a background remover.
If you remove the background from the image, you get to practice your editing skills plus you will get inspired by all the creative pictures that you will produce later on.
In today’s fast-paced world, many people find it extra-challenging to enjoy life to the fullest. Good thing that there are many ways to get out of a depressive mood and still see life from a positive perspective.
Photography is one great way to help express bottled-up emotions. Think of making photos as an opportunity to truly see how beautiful life is.
How about you? Do you experience the mental health benefits of photography in today’s world? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Jenn Pereira is the Product Designer of Removal.AI, an AI technology used to remove background from images.
Wanna immerse yourself in the mindful nature of photography? Check out See Fresh | Mindful Photography Course!