It turns out that photography has an unsuspected psychological benefit.
Taking photos can enhance the enjoyment of everyday activities, a new study finds.
Far from being distracted in the moment, people who take photos seem to get more out of their experience — in most circumstances.
The study’s authors write:
“To the best of our knowledge, this research is the first extensive investigation examining how taking photos affects people’s enjoyment of their experiences.
We show that, relative to not taking photos, photography can heighten enjoyment of positive experiences by increasing engagement.”
The researchers conducted nine experiments including over 2,000 people for their paper.
Some were in the lab, while others were out ‘in the field’.
In one, for example, people were taken on a bus tour.
Half were advised to take photos and the other half not.
Those that took photos generally found the experience more enjoyable.
The reason that taking photos works is that it helps engage people in the experience, the authors write:
“…capturing experiences with photos actually focuses attention onto the experience, particularly on aspects of the experience worth capturing.
As a result, photo-taking leads people to become more engaged with the experience.”
Perhaps the benefits are also related to ‘mindful photography‘:
“…happiness is boosted by being grateful for what you have.
Unfortunately we often ignore what we have in the rush through everyday life.
One way of combating this is to take photographs of whatever is important to you as a reminder.”
Even just taking ‘mental pictures’ during the experience was enough to help people enjoy it more.
However, the researchers did find that when people were already engaged an experience, taking photos didn’t help.
Also, handling large photographic equipment seemed to stop people enjoy the experience.
Trillions of photos
Given how many photos are taken every day, it seems people are enjoying themselves a lot more.
The authors write:
“…the New York Times estimates that in 2010, people took 0.3 trillion photos worldwide, and this number will reach 1.3 trillion by 2017.
In addition, the number of photos being uploaded on different social media sites every day can provide a lower-bound estimate of the number of photos taken.
For example, Facebook reports that their worldwide users upload two billion pictures daily, and Instagram users upload 80 million photos per day.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Diehl et al., 2016).