Why learn photography? It’s a good question. Of all the other pursuits that you could spend your time and energy on, why choose cameras and photos? Well, in short, because it can increase the quality of your life in so many ways.
Though this article can prove beneficial to anyone, it was specifically written with three kinds of people in mind:
- Non-photographers who are thinking about learning photography but aren’t sure if the big initial investment is worth it or if the benefits are worth the effort.
- Photographers who are feeling mentally burned out and want to remind themselves of why they started photography in the first place.
- Struggling photographers who aren’t sure if they should keep going and are looking for reasons to justify this hobby or career path.
If any of those describe you, keep reading. Here are several ways in which photography can make your life better, so start learning it today (or keep going if you’ve already started).
1. It Can Make You Happier
I know a lot of people might disagree, but photography does have the potential to make you a happier person — which is also true of many other creative hobbies — and there’s science to back up that claim.
Long story short, photographs have more power to lift your mood than eating chocolate, listening to music, watching TV, or drinking alcohol. All of those things register an average mood increase of 1% whereas photographs are closer to 11%.
Not only that, but the very act of photography is both satisfying and stress relieving, at least for some people. For everyone else, photography still gives you a way to deal with idle hands and restlessness.
It provides a creative outlet that’s distinctly unique from other forms of creativity, like drawing, painting, or writing. It’s less about creating from nothing than it is about capturing what’s already there, and there’s a lot of power in that difference.
2. It Opens Your Eyes and Mind
This is the first benefit that most people think of when photography is mentioned: the fact that photography forces you to see things according to new angles, new perspectives, and new lenses. Nobody can see things like a photographer, not even an artist.
But what does this really mean in practice? Essentially, we’re saying that photography unlocks a part of you that lets you see things that were always there but you never cared to notice. It opens up a new dimension in your brain.
Photography requires that you approach subjects from unusual angles and perspectives in a physical sense, but it also molds you in a way that lets you see those same subjects from new metaphorical angles and perspectives. It changes you, often for the better.
3. It Lets You Connect With Others
For the most part, photography is a great way to meet new people. If you do portrait, product, or event work, you’ll always be meeting new clients. Local photography groups are another great way to meet folks and make friends.
But the deeper benefit is that photography can help you establish stronger bonds with the people who are already in your life, whether by capturing your daughter’s graduation, snapping shots of your nephew, or showing your mother the wonders of the world at large.
More so, photography can transform someone’s life. For example, taking a beautiful portrait of a subject with low self-esteem can change how they see themselves. It’s a wonderful thing when your photography can help improve the lives of others, not just yourself.
4. It Helps Preserve Special Moments
Here’s another well-known benefit to photography, but I’d be remiss to leave this one out. With everything gone digital these days, it’s easier than ever to preserve memories — but a skilled photographer can do so in a way that’s more true and impactful.
It’s one thing to document that burger you’re eating, but it’s another to document someone’s birth, graduation, or wedding. Or let’s go even smaller than that: what about a simple photograph of a friend who’s splitting his sides with laughter?
You never know how valuable a photograph might be, which is why we think everyone should learn a bit of photography, even if you never intend to go beyond the level of a hobbyist. Those special moments are precious and everyone deserves to have them.
5. It Enhances Other Life Activities
One of the great things about photography is that it’s an activity that can be paired with many other activities: cooking, hiking, picnics, road trips, zoo visits, weddings, gatherings among friends and family, etc.
And contrary to popular belief, photography can actually enhance your enjoyment of these complementary activities! According to a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:
Across three field and six lab experiments, we find that taking photos enhances enjoyment of positive experiences across a range of contexts and methodologies. This occurs when photo-taking increases engagement with the experience, which is less likely when the experience itself is already highly engaging, or when photo-taking interferes with the experience.
As further evidence of an engagement-based process, we show that photo-taking directs greater visual attention to aspects of the experience one may want to photograph.
Or in other words, as long as the activity itself isn’t too involved (i.e. sports), photography can help you better appreciate it by turning something that’s mostly passive into something that requires more active participation.
6. It Boosts Your Confidence
Becoming skilled in anything can be a great way to boost your confidence, but there’s something special about photography in this regard.
It’s one thing to feel confident in your abilities. It’s another thing entirely to build confidence in life. How much “life confidence” do you get from being a master programmer, master IT repairman, etc? Some. Not much, though.
But when you learn photography and start being able to capture the beauty of everything around you, that’s the kind of thing you can share on Facebook or Instagram. Photography is something that everyone can appreciate, and that can be a massive confidence booster.
Is it healthy to base your entire sense of self-worth on the praises of others? Of course not! But everyone has to start somewhere and a little bit of that can go a long way towards making you feel more confident in yourself.
7. It Can Generate Extra Income
Perhaps the most practical reason to pick up photography is that it can bring in supplemental income. There are various ways to make money through photography, such as selling stock photos online.
Will you be raking in thousands of dollars per month? Probably not without starting an actual photography business, but you can certainly earn a few extra hundred dollars, whether through stock shots, portraits, real estate, local restaurants, etc.
There are even ways to make money with only smartphone photos. And with that extra cash, you can put it towards expanding your camera gear or digging your way out of debt.
Has Photography Improved Your Life?
It has for me. I’ve experienced all of the benefits listed above, at least in part, and have found that picking up photography was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Am I good? I don’t think so, but that’s okay. You don’t have to be skilled in order for photography to have a positive impact on your own life.
If you’re thinking of giving it a try for yourself, please do! You won’t regret it. You don’t even have to invest much money — start with a smartphone camera and that should be good enough.