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Many people struggle with the different elements of learning photography. Mastering the technical aspects of your camera, on top of applying all of the creative and technical concepts, can make it a daunting pursuit for many. Now, with digital photography the norm for most photographers, there is also the added element of learning post-processing if you are really going to become successful as a photographic artist.
As you scratch your head trying to put all the pieces together, you may not have realized that you are exercising many aspects of your brain. Studies have found that digital photography keeps your brain sharp and your mind in good shape.
I have watched one of my family members pursue digital photography well into his 90s. I always thought there was something about this activity and the creative process that was keeping him active and on track. But I never put much thought into it until I read this study from the University of Texas on digital photography and aging.
During the University of Texas study, six groups of individuals aged 60–90 were studied over a 10 week period. Each group was engrossed in a specific activity for 15 hours a week. The primary activities under observation included digital photography, digital quilting, and a variety of activities like playing cards and socializing. Only the groups doing quilting and photography improved their memory abilities when confronted with these continuous and prolonged mental challenges.
The results of the University of Texas study showed that digital photography is the best activity to participate in for aging baby boomers interested in maintaining their cognitive health and development.
What were the benefits? The most significant improvement was found in their use of words and phrases as well as their recognition of conceptual and visual imagery. The reason digital photography came up so high in this cognitive study is that it uses many parts of the brain to be successful.
It affects the creative and technical sides of your brain in both the shooting and post-processing. It also uses memory to make all of the functions work together. These benefits apply to someone who is shooting in full manual or partially automatic programs on their camera and are using advanced Photoshop or similar post-processing programs.
Here’s an example of some of the brain functions that are used when you create an image: When you are out on a photo shoot, and you want to create a compelling image, it takes some time to think about how to creatively compose the scene. Then, you need to choose the aperture and shutter speed settings based on the best creative application for the image, applying your memory of how the camera works.
Some of the high-end cameras these days will give you a decent point and shoot shot, but if you are intentionally going to create something of value, you need to put some technical thought into the image. At the same time, when you are setting up a shot, it helps to think through what you might do for post-processing the image once you get home.
Now that you have conquered the technical aspects of operating the camera, you need to bring the image into post-processing. Whether or not you are using Photoshop or Lightroom, you still need to have some technical ability on the computer and knowledge of how the program works. All of these activities together require memory, creativity, and cognitive abilities to perform these tasks correctly. This is all good exercise for your brain.
The process of creating a digital image is fun, creative and clinically proven to be good for your mind. Just like we need to keep our heart healthy with diet and exercise, we also need to keep our brain active as we age. It’s not just the activity, but learning new and mentally challenging subjects that is the important part of this puzzle.
If you continue to pursue and learn digital photography well into your later years, it will serve as a good way to keep your brain and memory functions sharp.
Does that sound like a good plan for you to continue practicing the craft of digital photography as you age?