So you've heard of photography as an art form, as a career choice, and a form of self expression but you haven't heard of photography as a form of therapy?
Photography for me is a passion that I have been able to use not as a career or business model but as a form of therapy. I am someone that has always felt lost and like I don't belong. I have struggled with mental health most of my adult life and since giving up sport I hadn't found a way to escape my constant racing thoughts until I got into photography. It has helped me slow down, focus my mentality, appreciate the small things and at the end of the day usually gives me something i can be proud of. Anyway, enough about me, let's get into it....
Seriously though, how can this image not immediately relax you? T H E R A P E U T I C asf!
What is therapeutic photography?
Therapeutic photography is essentially taking photos for the sole benefit of the photographer. Not to sell stunning images as prints, to publish or to improve a portfolio, not even necessarily to share at all.
There is a lot of scientific research behind the benefits of therapeutic photography. In 2018 Lancaster University found that taking a photograph a day improved wellbeing through alone time, self care and community interaction.
"Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is"
I think this quote pretty much sums it up for me. I was always searching, reaching for something i didn't have, always comparing myself to others, trying to get what they had or what not, that i missed so many miraculous every day moments. A beautiful native bird chirping outside my window or a bright coloured flower in full bloom on my door step. Photography has helped me slow down and "smell the roses" if you wanna be corny about it. Things that i wouldn't even notice, let alone stop and appreciate I now see everywhere, everyday.
The benefits of therapeutic photography
Mindfulness is described as "the psychological process of purposely bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one develops through the practice of meditation and through other training." Other training in this case being photography.
I think since I've started photography i've noticed 7 or 8 abundant bird species that I'd never even seen before despite the fact they live on my doorstep! Thats honestly crazy to me! That I could miss that much just because I was never paying attention. Now some of my favourite photos i've taken are of wildlife in my own backyard...
Confidence & self esteem
By capturing photos you can be proud of and using your camera daily you build both confidence and self esteem. By taking a photo a day Ive seriously improved my skillset and confidence with using a DSLR camera. While still very much an amateur I am quite proud of the quality of the images I choose to share with others and they have dramatically improved since using photography as my creative therapy.
Maya Angelou once said "you can never use up creativity, the more you use the more you have." If this isn't the truth i don't know what is. When I started photography I made a list of images i thought i could replicate or achieve. When i wrote the list i was concerned that i would hardly have anything to take photos of as i don't live in a big city with a gorgeous skyline, nor does it snow here, nor do we have exotic wildlife.... I wondered what i could even photograph to begin with but the more i did it, the more ideas i had and the more creative I got. Now i've been photographing daily for 6 months and each day i have brand new ideas.... And let me tell you, i was never an overly creative person but with practice the ideas just keep coming, see below for an example....
I didn't realise this until I got into photography myself but the online photo groups and facebook pages alone have a huge network of positive likeminded photographers. The few photography facebook pages I follow overflow with stunning images from amateur photographers and positivity from the community. I love seeing what other amateur photographers in my area get up to and what they're shooting. It's a great way to meet like minded people and even get some ideas for new photos to try.
In summary, therapeutic photography is a personal activity that involves taking photographs of whatever you want solely for your (the photographers) enjoyment.
Speaking from personal experience therapeutic photography has seriously helped me improve my mental health, mindfulness, creativity and my skills using a professional camera. I love having a "hobby" that is so positive and impacts my life far beyond just when i'm holding the camera.
PSA. You don't need a professional camera to do this, a smart phone camera achieves the same results. If you're looking for a different way to focus your mind, de-stress or, even a new hobby I would seriously recommend taking up photography.
If you do, let me know how you find it, id love to hear how it works for you.
You can keep up with my daily photos on my instagram accounts