When I take a photo these days, I don’t think much about it. I know it will be automatically saved to the cloud; I know it will have a timestamp automatically saved with it. It’s not like the old days when the point of taking a photo was to get it printed and then slip the prints into sleeves in albums.
But that also means it’s easy to forget the photos you have, and perhaps also the experiences they were meant to memorialise. There is research demonstrating that when you take pictures, you may not remember the thing as well as if you had gone through the same experience camera-free.
Angela Lashbrook writes at Elemental about some of that research. One study suggests that when we’re taking a photo, we think more about how that photo will be received (for example, whether people will like it on Instagram) than about what we actually want to notice or remember.
I’d say that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Any good photographer will consider, as they’re taking a photo, what it might convey to people who see it hanging in a gallery or published online. In our own lives, it makes sense to think about what the photo’s purpose is, and what your purpose is in taking the photo, rather than snapping shots mindlessly.
I like one solution that Linda Henkel, who studies the psychology of taking and sharing photos, told to Elemental. “Photos will spark your memory much better, says Henkel, if a small number of them are curated into an album.”
Then you can review the photos when you want to remind yourself of your vacation, or your child’s first year, or another memorable experience. You may not scroll through your thousands of photos from last year, but perhaps you’d like to choose the best ones and come back to them from time to time. You could even print a photo book or hang some favourites on your wall. In doing so, you’ll have more opportunities to think about why those moments were special to you in the first place.