In a post a few days ago (here), I mentioned a perceived conflict between the act of photographing and actually experiencing a scene such as a sunset. Similar issues have been raised recently by various performers including the singer Adele who asked a fan “Could you stop filming me with that video camera? Because I’m really here in real life, you can enjoy it in real life rather than through your camera.”
Well, it turns out that, as far as enjoyment goes, this “be here now” issue may be much ado about nothing, at least according to a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study concluded that in many circumstances, the act of taking photos actually enhances rather than detracts from the personal enjoyment of experiences. Who knew?
So go ahead and photograph that beautiful sunset, it may well enhance the pleasure of the experience. Be careful how universally you apply this finding though as the study also found that the act of taking photos can enhance the negative reactions one has to bad experiences.
Side note. Besides the obvious, I got a kick out of this research paper for another reason; it used serious statistical analysis to prove its point. During my career as a statistician, I worked at various times with statistics as applied to many fields of both the social sciences and natural sciences (e.g., sociology, public health, medicine, physics, chemistry, biology and engineering). The widely eclectic collection of subjects covered in the research papers listed on my statistics resume is in a sense a map of my 30+ year career in that field. But I never had the opportunity to apply statistics to anything related my current passion, photography. It kind of makes me wish I’d been able to add that to my resume before hanging up my statistics hat.