Is photography therapeutic?

Countless millions of people around the world enjoy photography for a variety of reasons. For some it is simply an enjoyable hobby. Others find it to be stimulating from a creative standpoint. Many people enjoy it as it helps them create a treasured family record of special events, as well as every day occurrences. A question popped into my mind recently: Is photography therapeutic?

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 216mm, efov 581mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-800
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 216mm, efov 581mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-800

After burning the midnight oil on client video projects I often find that I need a break to relax and unwind. Usually I grab a camera, book a day off in my schedule and just spend the day creating images of whatever happens to catch my fancy.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, ISO-1600
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, ISO-1600

Quite often none of the images that I create that day end up being used for anything. I just find the experience to be a great way to relax. I suppose that is a type of therapy.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 69mm, efov 186mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-640
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 69mm, efov 186mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-640

I know quite a few other people that find using their cameras in this manner has a similar effect for them.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4.-56 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-800
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4.-56 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-800

I did stumble on an interesting bit of research done by the University of Texas at Dallas. The researchers wanted to find out if spending a couple of months involved with several different types of learning or social environments could improve mental functioning.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720

What the research discovered that seniors who spent time doing photography, or a combination of photography and quilting (don’t ask me why that combination works) showed significant gains in memory.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 37mm, efov 99mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 37mm, efov 99mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-160, -0.7 step

I’d love to hear about your experiences when you’ve found being engaged with your photography has been somehow therapeutic for you.

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17 thoughts on “Is photography therapeutic?”

  1. Before I had any digital cameras I might take my film camera out and take photos with it even once I couldn’t afford to place the film in it, The act of taking photos (even faux photos) helps ME to relax and makes ME happy. thus affirmative photography is incredibly therapeutic. Whatever, Thanks for sharing.

  2. By coincidence I was showing my daughter some photos I’d taken at lunch today (as well as your blog, which she loved as much as I). I told her how I went out for my lunch break (with Nikon V1 and newly purchased 32 mm /1.2). The day was grey, and there was absolutely nothing of interest to look at, never mind photograph, but I went for a walk, and ended up taking 7 or 8 decent images. I love photography because it forces me to look, and I find everything has much more interest, including people, after I’ve spent an hour doing that. (And looking at others’ efforts has a similar effect.) I suspect that those who draw experience something similar, although active composing is less “zen” then simply looking. I love photography for all the other obvious reasons, of course – detail, composition, color, texture, fascinating subjects, etc., etc – but I think just looking and forcing oneself to be receptive to what’s around may be the biggest therapeutic component.

  3. Before I had any digital cameras I would take my film camera out and take photos with it even when I couldn’t afford to put film in it — the act of taking photos (even pretend photos) helps me to relax and makes me happy. So yes photography is very therapeutic.

  4. Hi, Tom,
    Yes, definitely.
    When I grab my camera and leave to the countryside looking for birds and whatever comes in my path, all my worries are left behind.
    And at the end of the day even if I don’t bring great shots it does not matter. it is good enough to know that the eagle, the wolf, the otter are still there …
    Thanks for your post.

  5. Hi Tom:
    Very well said! When I need to get out and rejuvenate I take a camera with me and have a wonderful time creating memories of this experience. Most of the time these memories (photos) stay within the memory section of my computer and I visit them as my need or mood dictates. The experience of being “wherever” and having a camera is “healthful” and I remember something you said recently to me: “this is just what the doctor ordered!” So when I take pictures for the hundredth time of the same landscape or go often to places like the Bird Kingdom or the Butterfly Conservatory, it is the express enjoyment of the experience that is so therapeutic. Creating ‘award winning’ or internet post-worthy photos is most often not the objective nor the intent of my outings. The purpose of taking a camera with me as a go “a-wondering” is most definitely to enjoy the experience and to create healthy and healing memories.

  6. Short answer: Yes.

    My wife suggested I should now look into quilting, something to do with remembering what she says 🙂

    Thanks for the aritcle.

  7. First of all, thank you very much!!!

    I am just an enthusiast of photography, one of those that stop taking pictures because of a bulky camera. Thanks to your blog i take the decision to buy a Nikon 1 j5 and that fix my life, hahaha. Why? because i can take the camera everywhere and i can make pictures wherever it comes to my mind without sacrificing to much image quality or customisation. So, i have noted that i feel more relaxed and prone to new ideas in general.

    So in the ligth of this article, i only want to thank you again.

    Sincerely
    Cesar

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