Research defends shutterbugs: Photographing and enjoying a moment aren’t mutually exclusive


posted Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 11:18 AM EDT


Have you ever been told by a friend or family member (probably a non-photographer one) to stop taking pictures and to "enjoy the moment?" If so, it turns out that they might've been wrong all along and that you were perfectly capable of enjoying the moment with your camera in hand, happily snapping away.

In a new paper published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers Kristin Diehl, Gal Zauberman and Alixandra Barasch found that individuals with cameras were more engaged in certain activities than individuals who had been instructed to keep their camera away.

The full results are quite lengthy, but one of the main takeaways from the research is that you become more engaged with an experience when you are capturing photos and that this increased engagement can lead to more enjoyment as well. Part of the explanation for this is that you are more interested in the visual aspects of an experience when you are taking photos.

Image by Flickr user Steven Roberge. Used under Creative Commons 2.0.

Quartz recalls a 2013 study which concluded that people who took photos of an event were less likely to be able to recall the experience the next day than those who didn't capture images. It is perhaps important to take note of these results as well, but also consider that not being able to recall an experience as accurately as someone else does not necessarily mean you enjoyed it any less or that you couldn't have enjoyed it more.

"Photographer Photographed" by Flickr user Thangaraj Kumaravel. Used under CC 2.0.

It is also worth considering that the popular act of immediately sharing and uploading the photos you took might not have the same enjoyment-increasing effect as the act of capturing images.

While there is still much more research to be conducted, the next time someone tells you to put away the camera to enjoy the moment, point them toward these latest results and keep pressing that shutter. You can have your proverbial cake and eat it too.

(Quartz article seen via Reddit. Index image by Flickr user Niklas Montelius. Used under CC 2.0)