In 1827, Joseph Niepce took the first photo. A few years later, another man developed the first real practical camera. Innovations continued, and as the technology became more advanced and accessible, photography bloomed as a hobby and a profession. Photographers were also recognized as artists with their work displayed in galleries. Photos also became an integral part of journalism. Today, digital photography is extremely popular and everyone can take pictures now either with a cheap camera or just their cell phone. Why does photography matter?
#1 Learning photography is good for your mind
Research proves that learning a new skill is good for your brain. The harder the skill, the more it can improve your memory and brain health. In photography, you learn skills like how light works, how to take advantage of the camera’s settings, what filters and lenses work best for different scenarios, and so on. It’s a great skill to develop because it’s easy to see your photos improve as your knowledge grows.
#2 It can encourage your physical health
To capture views from beautiful mountain tops or underwater landscapes, a photographer needs to get there first. That encourages physical activities like hiking, swimming, and so on. If you’re carrying a lot of gear, that increases the effort needed. Not everyone needs to push themselves far, however. Even just a walk around the neighborhood to photograph birds or whatever else catches your eye is great for your physical health.
#3. It encourages creativity
Photography is a mixture of technical knowledge (how the camera works, how light works, etc) and creativity. Even people who don’t have extensive knowledge of the science of photography can still take beautiful photos because they have a creative eye. The more you shoot, the more you can stretch that artsy side. There are many benefits to creativity, including better problem-solving, better focus, and reduced stress.
#4 It can encourage you to travel
Traveling for the sake of photography changes how you look at the world. Things you may have never thought about before catch your eye, like the glow of a sunrise through an airplane window or the grittiness of a gas station in the desert. With photos, you get to capture these moments and preserve them forever. When you travel to take photos, you get additional benefits like a better understanding of different cultures, new foods, and new activities. Can’t travel far for some reason? You can still take great photos and experience new things by traveling to unfamiliar parts of the area you live in.
#5 You can make new social connections
Photography provides many opportunities for social connection. Taking a workshop or class helps you meet people who share your passion, while posting your photos online can facilitate conversations, too. If you like to take portraits, talking to your subjects (and always getting their informed consent, of course) can introduce you to people you normally wouldn’t meet. Social connections like these have numerous benefits.
#6. It’s an accessible art form
Many art forms are difficult and take years to get to the point where you’re proud to show off your work. Because of digital technology, good photography isn’t limited to professionals. With a smartphone or cheap digital camera, you can capture beautiful images and edit them using all kinds of software, some of which are free or very affordable. With the right know-how and tools, you can create images that rival professionals who are using expensive equipment.
#7 Photography can help with memory issues
Some people worry that an obsession with taking photos distracts us from “living in the moment,” but there’s evidence that photos help those struggling with memory disorders. If someone is trying to remember another person, showing them a photo can help. The same goes for important events like weddings or graduations. Looking at photos from their younger years (which will be much easier as adults born in the era of digital photography grow older) also stimulates memories and facilitates conversations.
#8 Photography can play a part in therapy
People going through therapy often struggle with expressing their emotions. Photography offers people a unique way to communicate with a therapist and themselves when words fail. As an example, Vietnam war veteran Christopher Chaffee took up photography to help with his depression and PTSD. After talking with professionals at the VA Medical Center, he ended up founding a photography club for other veterans. There are countless other anecdotes of people finding better mental health through photography. Scientific evidence also shows that creative pursuits reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
#9 Photography captures history
In 1861, Frederick Douglass held a lecture called “Pictures and Progress.” He emphasized the significance of photography, saying that “the great cheapness, and universality of pictures must exert a powerful though silent influence, upon the ideas and sentiment of present and future generations.” He included images in general in that statement, but given that he was one of the most photographed Americans of the 19th century, he saw something special in photography. Some of history’s most famous images are photographs, including “Tank Man,” which shows a lone Chinese man standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen square. Photos depict history in a way drawings or paintings can’t.
#10 Photography can increase empathy (but it’s complicated)
When people see images like the aforementioned “Tank Man,” emotions usually rise to the surface. This can have a bigger impact on people than reading a report of an event. The reason is often because of what’s called “the identifiable victim effect.” It’s easier to empathize with a single person standing in for a historical event. However, when we’re flooded with heartbreaking and violent images, we can also become desensitized. Our empathy fades. Photography is a tool, and like any tool, it needs to be used carefully or it can backfire.