Pick Up Your Cameras: Photography Is Good for Your Health

Pick Up Your Cameras: Photography Is Good for Your Health

Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, finding avenues for relaxation, exercise, and enjoyment is crucial for maintaining mental and physical well-being. Photography is a practice that can be more than just a hobby or a profession but also a therapeutic tool. This article discusses how photography can add value, peace, and well-being into your life.

Now more than ever, stress, anxiety, and depression have crept into the daily lives of many people across the world. Are we just talking about it more now, or have the pressures of modern life caught up with human nature? Whoever you are, and whatever you are going through, everyone needs an outlet to relieve stress and exercise our minds. There is a need to get outside to restore a little bit of balance.

I have always loved photography, and I have always loved walking, although I had never really combined those two activities. A couple of years ago, two significant life events happened back to back, with my daughter moving out of the family home to make her own way in the world, and shortly after, our beloved German Shepherd, Indie, passed away at the age of 14. I was lost in the midst of Empty Nest Syndrome combined with grief. One thing that made this worse was that I had lost the habit of walking alongside losing the habit of providing for a child and a dog. I didn’t realize how heavily that impacted both my physical and mental health. I had no motivation to go out for a walk alone; I had not walked for leisure on my own in over 18 years, always accompanied by a small hand to hold, and then a dog on the end of a leash, adventuring together. Our walks never felt like exercise; it was always about the fun, fresh air, and adventure. When trying to walk alone, it really made things worse as all I could think about was the fact that I was alone.

That all changed when a friend suggested I take my camera out with me on walks. This is advice that I would readily give to others, but it’s funny that we tend not to take our own advice. It made perfect sense; I have plenty of options when it comes to photography equipment between film and digital. I began inspecting the world, and going to places that I might have otherwise felt awkward to go on my own. I was looking for seasonal changes in forests, for small details and textures in cities, and finding a spot to watch the world go by. There were no expectations surrounding these images; I often went out without any sort of plan other than a destination, which meant I was free to shoot whatever I wanted to. Walking once again had a purpose as I pieced together images that portrayed some of the things I noticed on my walks.

Whether strolling through the streets of your nearest city, or meandering along nature trails, the action of walking and taking photographs encourages physical movement and engagement with the surrounding environment. Through photography, walking goes beyond exercise. It can be a sensory experience, as you stop and really look in your search for objects and scenes to photograph, you engage in observation and interpretation as you explore with a camera in hand.

In a world full of stress and distractions, getting out into the world with your camera can be a method of practicing mindfulness and help contribute to a healthier, happier you. Maintaining a positive outlook can feel like an uphill battle sometimes, however, photography has the power to shift our perspectives. By training our gaze on the beauty and wonder that often goes unnoticed amidst the chaos, even the most mundane scenes can be transformed into worthwhile photographic pursuits, reminding us to seek out moments of joy and appreciation in the littlest of things.

A camera has the ability to grant us access to places and moments that we might not otherwise venture into. Maybe there are public places that you wouldn’t consider going alone due to being self-conscious, such as a busy market. The thought of the experience being limited without a companion may make this seem less than the ideal day out. While the prospect of navigating packed stalls might seem daunting to navigate alone, the presence of a camera can give you purpose with your presence, turning this experience into an inviting visual playground. Photography not only empowers us to explore new places and perspectives but also provides us with a sense of purpose and belonging—a reminder that our presence in the world is both valid and meaningful.

The equipment that you use doesn’t matter. Whether you choose to take a range of equipment with you, limit yourself with one lens, or even shoot with your smartphone, it is all about the experience. Take the pressure off, and just concentrate on what will be in front of your lens and think about how to compose that shot in the moment.

Okay, walking with a camera isn’t going to heal the world and cure depression. While the path to happiness may vary from person to person, research suggests that engaging in creative activities such as photography can significantly contribute to overall well-being. Whether it's the satisfaction of capturing a great shot or the sense of accomplishment that comes with sharing our work with others, photography has the power to inject our lives with little moments of fulfillment.

I admit, photography isn’t always relaxing! If you are still learning your way around a new camera, or trying to learn the basics of photography, there can be some stress and frustration involved. Yet it is in these moments of struggle that we find opportunities for growth. Whether it's experimenting with different camera settings, adapting to changing lighting conditions, or finding creative solutions to unexpected obstacles, by confronting photographic challenges head-on, we really hone our problem-solving skills, deepen our understanding, and ultimately come out of the other side feeling good at having overcome the challenge, better equipped with more knowledge.

The simple act of taking a leisurely stroll with a camera to capture the world around us holds more power than you know if you have never tried it. So, the next time you want to alleviate some stress or take your mind off something negative, pick up your camera and step outside.

Kim Simpson's picture

Kim Simpson is a photographer based in the West of Scotland. Her photographic practice is an exploration of the human experience, with a particular emphasis on themes of identity and belonging.

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I absolutely agree, I go for walks with my camera, and I consider myself a wildlife photographer with an emphasis on birds. I retired in 2017 and I often wonder what I would be doing if I hadn’t taken up photography. Every day I step out of my house, take photos, come home and edit them, and then print out the best images I capture of these beautiful creatures. I wager that is exactly how an artist feels after painting a picture on a blank canvas. Thanks for confirming what I have been thinking about my hobby!

I totally agree. I'm a cinematographer in Cape Town and have always seen stills as a fun relaxing pursuit as opposed to the working stress of shooting movies. Now as I'm slowly extricating myself from working hard, I rely more and more on taking still images to relax. I loved the article, thanks.

Glad to hear that photography has such a positive impact on you!

Thanks for writing and posting this article. Great observation and much needed!