7 Reasons Why Photography Is Great for You: Some Well-Needed Positivity

The last 18 months have been a brutal procession of adversity and change, to the point where I have to limit how much news I read for my own mental health. In a similar vein to the Reddit sub, /r/eyebleach, here are seven reasons why photography is a great hobby to have.

In all honesty, I couldn't really say what lead me to photography. I remember as a child borrowing the family camera — at first film, then very early digital — and wandering around taking pictures, but I don't recall any special attraction to the craft. But, something happened once I had bought my first dedicated camera as an adult, and it was an all but instant reaction. I knew I loved it and I felt compelled to take my camera everywhere — something that hasn't left me.

Our industry has had as tumultuous a time as the rest of the world over the last couple of years, particularly with much of the sector struggling with low sales. Then, there is, of course, the content with a negative premise — of which I have written some myself, I can't deny that — and although under normal circumstances, that's just par for the course, it's beginning to feel a bit much in conjunction with everything else that is happening. So, I wanted to create a wholly positive article, and I can't think of anything better than seven reasons why photography is a great discipline to pick up.

1. Physical Health

There aren't many creative hobbies that effortlessly boost physical health, but almost all photography does. Whether you're hiking for a landscape image or taking pictures of your children, you'll find that you're moving around a lot. In fact, there aren't many genres that have you exerting almost no effort. If you move into professional or semi-professional photography, you'll find that areas like wedding photography are highly demanding on the body, with you likely standing and moving around for sometimes in excess of 12 hours, all while carrying heavy equipment.

I have always found the pursuit of photography to require me to be active in one way or another, and it's something of an underappreciated boon of the craft.

2. Mental Health

Mental health is a topic I care deeply about, and I have written on it many times. I believe that photography is often a force for good when it comes to the mind, and this is for a few reasons. Firstly, as mentioned above, it keeps me active, which certainly helps the mental too. Secondly, having a passion gives you a focus and purpose. Thirdly, photography often requires you to be outside, and fresh air with vitamin D is a powerful thing. In fact, nearly every entry to this list aids in positive mental health in one way or another. I truly believe it is one of the most fulfilling and rounded hobbies you could pick up, particularly if you're struggling with low mood or anxiety.

3. A Creative Outlet

While many of us require some sort of creative outlet to satisfy that part of our brain, a sadly large portion do not have anything substantial in which to channel that desire. For less creative people, this can be irritating, while for highly creative people, this can have a profoundly negative effect on their lives.

Photography is beautifully poised to resolve damn near all creative urges, with many genres, techniques, and aesthetics to explore and hone. It doesn't matter whether you're designing an elaborate set for a stunning studio portrait series or trying to capture an insect with a macro lens in a new and interesting way. You can seldom hold a camera and not be creative with it.

4. A Deep and Varied Craft

I cannot speak for anyone else, but when I find myself interested in a subject, the deeper and more varied it is, the more attractive I find it. There is something satisfying and motivating about a craft that has a rich history and layers of complexity to it. Even if I knew I could never reach the level of mastery of the people I revere, I find knowing how challenging and endless the subject is to be motivating. Like many of us, I can't help but try my hand at everything that catches my eye, and in photography, that has led me to a fuller understanding of the craft and what I love about it. While I work in a commercial space, I shoot portrait, fashion, environmental, product, and even macro; this is before all the different types of photography I do in my personal work and for fun. If I become jaded in an area, I simply shoot in another one for a while. For example, drones have given me a lot of entertainment and enjoyment of late.

5. Social and Community

This is one area where photography shines, and if I am brutally honest with myself, I do not take full advantage of it. There are myriad groups, forums, and clubs to discuss photography with like-minded enthusiasts. Then, there are conferences, events, and courses you can enroll in with lots of us people in and around photography. Finally, there are photo walks, workshops, and trips that have you in groups with other photographers, enjoying the craft. The list goes on, but the point is evident: the social side of photography is as large and as present as you want it to be, with social butterflies having an infinite botanical conservatory to flutter in.

Although any trips I have been on with other photographers have been for press or work within the industry, some of the most fun I've had with a camera has been on these. One noteworthy example was when I photographed wild monkeys in Costa Rica with the other professionals on the trip. We were all helping each other get shots and sharing our successes. It was as wholesome and as enjoyable a trip as I have had.

Photographer and Olympus ambassador, Rob Knight, feeding one of the monkeys we were photographing.

6. A Lasting Body of Work

Do you ever think about your legacy? That is, what you will leave behind that people can remember you by? I know many people who either do not care for the question or the answer is their children, and in a way, I'm envious of that answer. For me, I have a slight obsession with leaving behind a body of work in writing (primarily fiction) and photography. I know I'm not alone in that concern, and I think it's entirely justifiable.

Even if you're not interested in developing a legacy on an international scale (after all, it's exceptionally unlikely you ever will), think how much you treasure anything your grandparents or great grandparents did, should you be lucky enough to have anything. The idea of generations to come enjoying things I created in my lifetime is both fulfilling and motivating, to me at least.

7. Document History Personally and Globally

When it comes to my journey in photography, some of the most important work I feel I have created is some form of documentation. On the professional side, I spent months capturing RAF Uxbridge before it was demolished. This military base is significant in recent British history, and I was able to capture the bunker with the mission room from which the Battle of Britain was planned. The Operations Room is also where the D-Day evacuation of Dunkirk had their air support managed and where Winston Churchill said the immortal words: "Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few." If I can get clearance to share the images publicly, I will write a dedicated article on this job.

The documentation of history doesn't have to be on such a grand scale, however. Capturing portraits and moments for and of your family will be cherished for generations.

A cherished image I took of my late grandparents for their 60th wedding anniversary.

What Makes Photography a Force for Good in Your Life?

This is far from an exhaustive list, so what do you believe makes photography a great hobby to pick up? What are the ways in which it positively affects your life?

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2 Comments

Tom Reichner's picture

Roberk Baggs asked,

"This is far from an exhaustive list, so what do you believe makes photography a great hobby to pick up? What are the ways in which it positively affects your life?"

I relate personally to all 7 of the reasons you gave, but reason #4, A Deep and Varied Craft, particularly resonates with me.

You mention layers of complexity and a deep history. That is precisely what makes wildlife photography so all-consuming to me. It is not so much the photography itself, or the gear, but rather the lifelong study of the wild animals which I photograph. That and the travel that takes me to those animals.

About a year ago, I decided to expand my subject matter from mammals and birds to include reptiles and amphibians. And I have learned more than I ever would have imagined about those critters and the environments in which they live. In the past year, I have spent literally hundreds of hours doing online research about snakes, lizards, toads, and salamanders. I have reached out to dozens of experts in many different parts of my country, and they have all been so helpful and provided me with so much information!

My new subject matter has also led me to new travels. I spent an entire month in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, to search out the diverse reptile life that lives there. There are 13 different species of Rattlesnakes in Arizona! My goal is to find and photograph all 13 species. On my month-long trip this past spring, I found 5 of them, so I have 8 species left. I suspect that will take 3 or 4 more trips to Arizona, to complete my goal.

And then there are so many other states, each with its own unique set of reptile and amphibian species. This could lead to a lifetime of travel, above and beyond what I already do for mammals and birds.

And each and every species requires hours of study and research, in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of what their lifecycle is like - what habitat they prefer, what temperatures they are most active at, how they find a mate, how the young survive and grow, what they prefer to eat, what hunting methods they employ, what predators they must contend with, etc., etc., etc. As one can imagine, learning all of this for 400 or 500 different species of reptiles and amphibians can take a lifetime!

And what I have discussed thus far doesn't even address the particular challenges of photographing each species. Each and every species will ideally take 15 or 20 hours of camera time in order for me to build a collection of images that show different color phases, different subspecies, individuals in various types of habitat, and various behaviors such as resting, eating, hunting, basking, swimming, mating, etc.

I could literally fill 100 lifetimes just doing a proper job of photographing the reptiles and amphibians of North America. And at the end of those 100 lifetimes, there would still be so much left undone. There are indeed many layers of complexity and a very diverse history with each and every thing that we have an interest in photographing.

Lorin Duckman's picture

I don't consider it a hobby. At 74, after a disappointing career in the law which ended in 2007, I have continued my quest for personal achievement in the art and craft of photography and visual arts. I look to photograph the sky upon waking up, after my first breath and first look. I shoot everyday, read about the art and craft, look up a practitioner, go to a museum when covid allows, and try to be creative. I call it fun, fulfilling fun, because I don't have to make a living at it.