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How Does Photography Make You Happy?

If amidst all the challenges of the changing times and around the craft itself, you’re still really passionate about photography, it probably brings you significant joy. But why?

With the physical, financial, and emotional restraints imposed on us by the pandemic, more and more people have been experiencing sadness. Some are emotionally affected at a normal and reactionary level, but many have also been experiencing anxiety and depression at a clinical and pathologic level due to all the restrictions, fear, and loss that the pandemic has brought. It’s safe to say that in most parts of the world, even in countries that are already starting to recover, COVID-19 has left us with psychological effects that may take a while for us to get past. 

Throughout the duration of this worldwide crisis, a lot of people have openly and publicly held on to things that make them happy. From cooking, painting, journaling, gaming, perhaps due to the countless hours that people now spend at home, people have found themselves in a deeper appreciation of the hobbies that they once had no time for. Without a doubt, this includes photography. Even at a time when most of us don’t have the luxury of traveling far to photography beautiful places, or even just to see (and photograph) other people, many of us cling to photography. Even myself as a landscape photographer found ways to continue shooting amidst all the limitations. Even in the abundance of such restrictions, many of us found comfort in holding a camera and taking pictures. 

We’re passionate about photography for so many diverse reasons. We take photos because doing so gives us satisfaction, nourishes us, energizes us, or in many ways, photography sustains us. If you’re reading this now, then you probably felt something good about the thought of photography and it’s safe to say that photography does make you happy. It may seem like such a shallow and limited idea but in reality, it's not that hard to see that a lot of people are moved by photography for a multitude of reasons and these reasons change over time. 

What Made You First Pick Up a Camera?

I often shoot with friends and since I never have photos of myself, I have photos of them for uses like these.

We all have many different reasons for making that decision to start learning photography and taking it seriously. While some people are born into families that share a love for the arts, even more people take up the craft very casually and often, for very (initially) shallow reasons. Without a doubt, a lot of people start exploring photography because they think that it could make them rich. (And boy, a lot of them are in for a surprise.) Some people probably start considering photography in hopes of becoming a famous artist someday. With the popularity of social media, it’s safe to say that a lot of people simply wanted to have nice things to post online. I first picked up a camera because a girl I liked back in high school encouraged me to do so and I thought it would bring us closer. More importantly, we should acknowledge that our reasons for taking up photography constantly change over time, and our love and passion for the craft become more deeply rooted in who we are as persons. As you progress further into this craft, you realize that your initial impressions about the craft may have been misguided, shallow, or are now invalid, and you realize that you continue to practice, learn, and hone your skills for entirely different reasons altogether. 

Capturing Precious Moments

Documenting moments in people’s lives is definitely one of the most basic reasons why photography brings people joy. For as long as photography has been around, keeping and illustrating memories has been the primary reason why people take pictures. As cameras became more readily available, accessible, compact, and instantaneous, photography has been serving the purpose of recording the most important moments in people’s lives and this ultimately gives us happiness. 

A couple of the last few and most memorable concerts I shot before. (L) Jon Foreman of Switchfoot (R) Chris Martin of Coldplay.

When I first started photography, music was my other passion. I played in a band for a while, and it was no surprise that I would take photos of the gigs and concerts that we played at. For the first few of my early photography years, I photographed some of the best musicians I looked up to, and the feeling of witnessing their artistry and being able to capture those in photos made me happy. For a time, photography was about capturing those exhilarating moments and though I rarely shoot concerts nowadays, looking at the photos I took back then, no matter how amateurish they may be, reminds me of times that brought me joy. 

Expression

Recently, my hobbyist workflow involved shooting, storing the images for a very long time, and later on processing them according to how I’m feeling on that day. (Bangaan, Ifugao Province, Philippines)

Some people are output-driven. They are motivated and satisfied by the output itself. Perhaps the visual stimulation that they get from looking at the photographs and the satisfaction of knowing that they created those photos bring them joy. On a deeper level, the satisfaction may be coming from being able to express themselves. For a lot of people, any creative process is about expressing themselves and telling their stories. Some people don’t immortalize particular moments in their lives, but instead, they turn their emotions into images, and being able to do so makes them happy or at the very least relieved. 

Validation

No matter how many times we tell ourselves and fellow photographers to do things not to please others, it’s very likely that a lot of us still seek validation from people. These people may be our fellow photographers or just appreciative viewers online or at an exhibit. It’s without a doubt that being told that you’ve done well would at the very least make you feel good. Though it is probably better if this wasn’t your primary reason for doing photography, it’s still a valid source of happiness as a photographer. 

The Process

It probably sounds cliche, but some people actually enjoy the process. Maybe as much as the output does, some of us get satisfaction from the mere thought of taking pictures as an artistic exercise. I’ve always thought of this as one of the reasons why photography makes me happy but it was always something unproven because I was also pleased (at least at that point) by what I’ve created. It was very recently when I actually proved this for myself. 

It’s been over a year since I’ve been to one of my usual locations for shooting cityscapes in my area, and it felt triumphant to be back after such a long time of deprivation. It was a great day that was topped off by an awesome sunset, and I drove home extremely satisfied. It was a few hours after I got home when I got the memory card from my camera to transfer the files for post-processing and I got error messages. The SD card somehow got corrupted, and all the photos I took with my main camera were ultimately lost, and no recovery software was able to bring them back. I was definitely disappointed thinking of the output I could have had but the feeling of satisfaction that shooting gave me was still there. The process of shooting indeed brought me significant joy on its own. 

A behind-the-scenes photo I took of my most recent shoot. This is what’s left of that particular day after my files got destroyed.

The reasons for which we find happiness and comfort in the creative exercise that is photography may be different and very individualized. It’s also imperative that as we grow as people, the reasons for which we do things also evolve. Photography has allowed us to endure consecutive crises in our lives and has made a significant impact on who we are. At the very least, photography gave and continues to give us hope. Something this powerful, inspiring, and enduring should definitely be shared.

Why do you shoot? How does photography bring you joy? Tell us your stories in the comments. 

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15 Comments

Justin Sharp's picture

Photography is often tedious and filled with continuous frustrations. I choose to get up every day and pursue it with 100% energy, effort, and enthusiasm. It drains all creative energy until I'm physically and mentally exhausted. I choose to get up every day and pursue it with 100% energy, effort, and enthusiasm. I feel like I fail more than I succeed. I choose to get up every day and pursue it with 100% energy, effort, and enthusiasm. It is one of the most fulfilling parts of my life and I wouldn't choose to do anything else. If I want something that makes me happy, I'll take a trip to Disney World. Until then, I'll be leaving out at 3:00 am with my 8x10 view camera doing what I love to do.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

I think that still counts as making you happy. It fulfills you. Maybe not in a scream-out-loud at disneyland kind of way but that is a more enduring kind of happiness. Cheers man. Keep the passion burning. :)

MC G's picture

Recently my wife made me stop doing my glamor photography. IT SUCKS..

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Oh how come?

MC G's picture

Just didn't want me doing it anymore. Even for money :\

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Dang. That's too bad. I hope she changes her mind. Or if not, maybe another genre. Keep the passion burning, my friend. :)

B Roxas Palma's picture

Photography for me is a learning process.... the process never stops.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Indeed! At least, it shouldn't ever stop. It does for some people though

B Roxas Palma's picture

thank you for your article... you nailed it!

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Thank you. Glad you like it!

Robert Tran's picture

Thoughtful article, Nicco Valenzuela - I particularly appreciate the way you didn't dismiss validation and instead, put it into perspective and gave it context. Whatever one's reasons, no need to argue with others especially on the Internet about the validity / merits of one over the another. If it gets us out doing what we enjoy, then good enough.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Hey Robert! Glad you like it. :)

Jon Kellett's picture

For me, getting out with the camera allows me to express my creativity and seek new experiences. It allows me to destress.

There is part of me in almost all my photos and each is the product of my view of the world and the experiences that I've had.

That is how photography makes me happy: The research, the planning, the travel, the capture and later developing of the images. I say developing even though I'm digital only now, because the raw is an imperfect start the holds promise of revealing the scene as it was (in my eyes, or in my mind).

I definitely don't enjoy tagging or culling, but hey... That's part of the process.

That said, time to walk the dog and see if any images stand out :-)

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Perfectly said! I can say that its mostly the same for me. Photography is breathing in and breathing out.

Glenn Magallano's picture

It's the process that I love and the network. I choose not to be too frustrated by filtering my projects. I just love how photography satisfies my inner self. :)