With the accessibility and overabundance of smartphones with improved camera abilities, taking too many pictures of a moment can actually harm the brain’s memory. In other words, if you take a photo, you might not remember the memory of the moment as well.
Elizabeth Loftus, psychological science professor at University of California, Irvine, clarifies there are two ways it works: we either let photos remember moments for us, or we get so focused on taking a photo that we ignore what’s happening in the moment.
Photo-Taking Impairment Effect
The photo-taking impairment effect is a fascinating phenomenon that has been widely studied in recent years. Essentially, it refers to the idea that taking photos with our phones can actually impair our ability to remember the event being photographed. By relying on our camera roll to capture moments and preserve memories, we are not attempting to remember the event being photographed.
It’s like rather than remembering a person’s phone number, you write it down on a paper because you feel there’s no need to remember it. Unfortunately, sometimes the paper becomes lost or illegible to decipher and you’re fresh out of luck.
So rather than diverting our attention away from the experience itself by photographing with your phone, create an enriching mental recollection of the experience through your five senses.
Attentional Disengagement Effect
The other factor of why we are unable to recall the moment is because we are distracted such as photographing the moment, otherwise known as attentional disengagement.
For example, when we take a photo, we get distracted and use up our attention on things like holding the phone, framing the photo, making sure people are smiling, and checking the background. Doing this takes away from our ability to remember the moment.
When we are fully engaged and present in the moment, our brains are able to encode information more efficiently.
Tips: how to make photography help — not harm — with your memories
- Have someone else take the photos. Preferably a Professional Photographer, like me, so people can be fully engaged with the event itself.
- Take a few photos, then put down the phone. Do you really need 20 burst photos of the same graduation pose of your child? Limit the time your camera is out and enjoy it.
- Practice mindfulness. Be in the present and forgo photographing the moment.
Conclusion: A cost to having an accessible camera phone
While the technology of the camera phone is improving annually, it doesn’t come without a cost. The cost is our attention. If we’re so focused on photos and visuals, then we’re more likely to ignore the important moments and experiences around us. What gets ignored does not get remembered. Don’t limit your experience when you’re focused on your camera phone.
Live in the moment
Let’s talk on how to improve your overall photography experience for your and your loved ones.