Having Your Cake and Eating It Too, or Photography Meets Statistics

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.

3 thoughts on “Having Your Cake and Eating It Too, or Photography Meets Statistics”

  1. I have often kicked myself for not being more “present” instead of taking photos/videos but I will say I get so much pleasure out of reliving events when I can look back on the recorded memory. I was glad to hear that recording an event can actually enhance the experience. The memories are wonderful…

    1. Judy, in spite of the general conclusion of the article, I personally still think there is a danger in concentrating on the mechanics of taking a photo. At least I feel that way about myself–hence my comment about photographing sunsets. However, if I make a point of getting the shot I want quickly and then turn my full attention to enjoying the scene, that danger is mitigated. Of course you have to avoid the tourist trend of photo bagging–just snapping shots without hardly looking at all and then walking away. We saw that a lot during our recent trip to Yellowstone.

  2. I’m working on it. I just so often feel I want to “capture” the moment but have come to realize that what is in my “mind’s eye” is so precious and valuable. I do try to do what you say – take the photo I want to relive the memory and then put the camera aside and just enjoy being in the moment. Thanks for your commentary.

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