Taking a photo a day or “365 Day Project” is probably one of the most well-known photography challenges. While it works for some photographers, it’s not as good for the others – but a recent research shows that taking a photo each day can, in fact, be good for your well-being.
The researchers behind this study are Dr. Liz Brewster of Lancaster University and Dr. Andrew Cox of the University of Sheffield. The results were published in a paper in the journal Health. Brewster and Cox have concluded that “taking a photo each day and posting it online has complex benefits.”
As explained in the study, the public commitment to involvement (in this case sharing photos online) is integral to the change in well-being. By sharing the experience, people in a way commit to making a positive change. For the purpose of this study, the researchers selected subjects through an open online invitation. The participants posted a photo every day to platforms such as Instagram, Flickr, and Blipfoto. Each of the participants was monitored over the period of two months. During this time, the researchers were recording the photos and the captions they posted, as well as the interaction with other users. After two months, they interviewed each of the photographers.
The results have shown that taking a photo a day and posting it online improves well-being in three ways:
- through self-care, as it’s renewing and refreshing
- through community interaction, as it lets you communicate with people who share the same interests
- through the potential for reminiscence, because you get the ability to look back at your life.
In the study, the researchers also share some quotes from the interviews with the participants. Here are a couple of examples:
“[My job] was a very highly stressful role … Oh, God. There were some days when I’d almost not stopped to breathe, you know what I mean … And just the thought: oh wait a moment, no, I’ll stop and take a photograph of this insect sitting on my computer or something. Just taking a moment is very salutary I think.”
“If I’m ever feeling down or something it’s nice to be able to scroll back and see good memories. You know, the photos I’ve taken will have a positive memory attached to it even if it’s something as simple as I had a really lovely half an hour for lunch sitting outside the [location] and was feeling really relaxed.”
“Connections with other people and sharing things, and so being able to put things out there and then get a response back. And it can be some surprising people, as well, it’s almost like having a personal conversation but with a lot of people at once, that sounds a bit odd. I’ve found you can be saying these things and then different people will react back to them. And yeah, it gives a sense of connection, which helps well-being.”
“There’s the banter in the workshop or the office or the place where you work. There’s dealing with different people’s days… if somebody has had a bad day they talk about it. You have that experience of sharing your day with other people and hearing other people’s news. When you’re not doing that anymore either you’re retired or you’re working in a solitary environment then you don’t have that experience. And perhaps [photo-a-day] offers that … Because I’m having conversations with people that I would perhaps have had in the workplace.”
Brewster and Cox conclude that “photo a day: is “not a simple and uncomplicated practice; rather it is the complex affordances and variance within the practice that relate it to well-being.” I wrote about my personal experience with the “365 Day Project” before, and it wasn’t as beneficial for me. Still, I guess it all depends on your mindset and how you approach the whole thing.