It seems fitting during Children’s Mental Health week to write about the mental and physical health benefits of photography for children and teenagers. I’ve been running my photography courses for a number of years and adore spending time with the students as we explore various parks and gardens throughout Sussex. Photography is a great hobby and has had a huge positive effect on my own well-being, personal growth and confidence as well as keeping my high blood pressure in check!
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PHOTOGRAPHY?
I do believe taking pictures has so many benefits on children’s and teen’s physical and mental health too and I’ve listed some of the those benefits below.
Mindfulness for mental health
Studies show that mindfulness-based approaches can significantly reduce symptoms of mental illness such as anxiety and depression. The whole process of taking photos requires our attention and encourages us to be ‘in the moment’. From choosing a subject, framing a picture and considering the light as we create our final image we need to to keep our mind focused. When capturing wildlife we might be intently watching animals or birds and waiting for them to move (or keep still!) before we press our camera shutter. One of my favourite moments on a photography course was rounding a corner and seeing a group of rabbits (did you know a group of rabbits is called a ‘fluffle’??!) in Tilgate Park, Crawley – all of the children instantly froze whist composing their images without disturbing them.
A different perspective on life
Being outside in nature connects children to all of their senses and can be very grounding and calming. In order for them to experience the health benefits of photography I encourage children to get outside in nature and get creative – literally looking at the world differently and connecting with their surroundings. By looking up at trees (getting right up close to the trunk and looking up to the sky) and looking down (laying down in the grass) they notice small details they haven’t noticed before.
Although some children sign up for my courses with friends, the majority arrive on the day not knowing anyone – their parents will tell me they’re nervous and shy. By the end of the course they are more than happy to get involved and are enthusiastically chatting and sharing their pictures (and life story) with the other students. They take an interest in what the other children are doing and bounce ideas of each other as they get more creative. I always receive feedback from parents saying how much fun their children have had on the courses.
“My teenage daughter recently took part in Alex’s Introduction to Photography course.
It was held very local to us, in a beautiful garden setting, which added a great natural element to all the photos.
Alex was on hand at all times, giving great advice, knowledge and using all her experience to encourage the students to explore every angle of taking photographs. She was very friendly and calm and I had no fears about leaving my daughter in her care.
My daughter learnt so much and with Alex’s encouragement she has moved on from her point & shoot camera to a bridge camera allowing her to take far more detailed shots & and now has a new skill and understanding to improve upon.
I would thoroughly recommend Alex, and we look forward to participating in the next course”.
Taking photos on a daily basis can be a fun and easy way to keep a gratitude journal to boost mental health and well being. Using their digital cameras (or phones) children who enjoy photography can focus on and capture objects from their everyday life that make them happy. Photography preserves the emotions and memories we felt at the time when we took the pictures. Hopefully we can look back on all these moments with happy memories.
“We have cameras with us all the time, and we often take pictures habitually without a whole lot of intention,” said Jaime Kurtz, professor of psychology at James Madison University who conducted a study into students taking photos of things that brought them joy or were important to them. “Mindful photography is about slowing down. It’s not just snapping mindless photos. It’s keeping an eye out for something that is beautiful or meaningful to you.”
physical benefits of photography
Having two teenagers of my own and struggling to get them off their technology and social media is one of the reasons that I hold my photography courses outside. We cover a fair amount of distance whilst we explore and find different things to photograph. I encourage students to practice their new photography skills further by taking their cameras out in the garden or on family walks. One of the benefits of photography its that it can be directed into the child’s other interests – my son loves trains and we take lots of pictures at the Bluebell Railway – but a lot of children on my courses are interested in birds, flowers and nature in general and they can focus on those.
Boosting self esteem
One of the advantages of using a digital camera today is that we are all able to share our images with our friends and family instantly. I encourage parents to spend time looking at the images their children have taken and to give them positive feedback. Children are proud of the images they’ve captured and their confidence increases as they are given praise. In turn, their passion for photography increases and they have more fun creating images they love.
A picture captures a thousand words
We all know that a picture captures a thousand words but photography gets teens talking too! As we walk through parks children start talking about their photography interests and other hobbies. Children are often happy talking about photographs they have taken
Encourages creative expression
Photography is a wonderful way to encourage creative expression – the the ability to use our imaginations and minds to create something that represents ourselves. I always tell children that the images they capture can never be ‘wrong’ – only improved. Even pictures that are technically ‘wrong’ can still work as a fabulous work of art. As an art lover myself I love to encourage creativity and have recently introduced a new course aiming to focus on the more creative side of photography by using prisms and mirrors.
If your child or teenager enjoys taking pictures and you’d like them to experience the health benefits of photography I run several courses throughout the school year. Students can use a digital camera (DSLR, mirrorless or ‘point and shoot’) and I also run courses for younger children using phones or iPads. Head over to my photography courses page for more details and I hope to see your children very soon. If you can suggest any more health benefits of photography for children and teenagers I’d love to hear from you too!