I am that person who points a camera at everyone and everything around me. On vacation, during lunch, in everyday life. So many moments feel worthy of capturing to me. I love taking pictures of things, and why shouldn’t I? It’s practically free, and smartphones mean our cameras are with us at all times. If you are a photographer or Instagram addict, you have probably encountered people who don't agree with my philosophy. You may even be tired of hearing the following:
"You take too many pictures! You're missing everything that's going on!"
At this point you lower your camera just enough to make angry eyebrows at the person accusing you. "I like taking pictures." You grouch back.
A study published in TIME Magazine over the summer says that, actually, you might be on to something. The study concluded that people enjoy and remember an experience more when they take photos of it. Kristin Diehl, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall, points out in the article, “People look longer at things they want to photograph.”
I read that and I was like, duh, of course they do! It is such an obvious point but it makes so much sense. The longer and more carefully you look at something, the better you will remember it. Making the active choice to look at a monument or a moment in time and think, Hey, that is really cool. I want a picture of that, helps you remember the experience and enjoy it more fully.
Taking photos while experiencing something is like reading a textbook while also highlighting important parts and writing your own notes in the margins. As professors love to tell us, you retain more that way then just reading the chapter straight through. With photography, you are actively choosing the parts of your day that you want to remember by focusing on them with a camera lens.
If photography isn't a huge passion in your life and you only sometimes take pictures, that is okay too! You can still benefit. The study found that it was nothing to do with actually taking the photo that made people remember the experience more. Planning the picture is what is important. So, you can take mental pictures and achieve exactly the same thing.
And here’s another little tip for you non-photographers out there: next time you are at a tourist attraction, a park, anywhere that you notice someone with their camera out, pay attention to what they are photographing. In my experience, people who take a lot of photos pay more attention to their surroundings because they are always looking for their next subject. And they have a habit of spotting things most people don’t. They look up, around corners, or in little out of the way places in hopes of spotting something cool.
Photography forces you to slow down, focus, and look at the world a little differently. It is one of the few high-tech gadgets that actually encourages mindfulness. In life, I would encourage you to pause from your busy schedule, notice something you like, and take a mental picture of it. Then go out for a walk with a real camera in your hand and see what you can uncover. Because the research says that us photographers live happier, better, more interesting lives, right? Well, something like that, anyway.