Study Confirms: A Photo a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

We know some things instinctively. Photographers have long done photo-a-day projects where one takes and shares online a new photo each day. And I think asking photographers if it’s good to do such a project will get a unanimous, “Yes.” In fact, Instagram has almost four million photos tagged with #365 and #365project.

But beyond instinct, it’s still helpful to have a vocabulary and framework with which to be able to discuss photo-a-day projects and to analyze their costs and benefits. This is by having that context for such projects, one can much more specifically consider and discuss what he or she wants to get out of such a project — it’s not the same for every person! — and have the correct words with which to encourage another photographer to take on such a commitment.

In that vein, we can be grateful to two English academics who did a study of photo-a-day projects. To be clear, this study was done on eight respondents to an online post — not a significant or valid sample by any basis. But from the work they did analyzing these eight photo-a-day projects, they came up with a good framework for looking at these projects.

I encourage you to read the entire paper titled, “The daily digital practice as a form of self-care: Using photography for everyday well-being,” by Liz Brewster and Andrew M. Cox. What follows are some interesting points taken from their extensive article. 

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Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash

The authors note that although most photo-a-day practitioners don’t start their projects to increase their well-being, after doing it for a bit they find that it’s also a nice byproduct. In fact, in many cases, it’s the well-being benefits that keep people engaged with the projects, not necessarily the original reason they began the projects.

Some of those well-being benefits come from the social factor — by committing to posting a photo-a-day, people find themselves accountable to their online communities, increasing both the number of their social interactions and the scope of their social circle. It also fosters a sense of community and support, helping people to get through challenges both minor and major.

The process of taking photos often requires that a person get out more, going places, meeting people, and seeing things that he or she may not have otherwise experienced. In many cases, the project becomes so integrated into their daily life that participants start seeing other unrelated parts of their life through the lens (couldn’t resist, sorry) of their photo-a-day project.

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

One not-often-recognized benefit of photo-a-day-ing is the “reminiscing” aspect. The authors note that being able to look back at a photographic record of one’s year can help to document and remind one of things forgotten by providing a visual timeline of the past. They also found that some photographers, when feeling down, are helped by looking at the last year’s photos.

For more on their framework, see the article. But keep in mind that although the authors are clear in saying that taking on a photo-a-day project should not be considered as an effective psychological intervention for a person who needs help, it’s also obvious that there are many benefits from this.

Bottom line is that saying that a photo a day will keep the doctor away may be a bit of an exaggeration. But there still do seem to be some clear well-being benefits in doing such a project. So, go for it! Here are some links and resources to help you get started with your brand-new photo-a-day project:

  • blipfoto is a very well-conceived photo-a-day site which is in business since 2006 and is distinguished by having been bought by its dedicated users in a crowdfunded venture when in danger of closing in 2016.
  • 365project makes up in users what it lacks in design. They say that they have 160,000 users and there is lots of community interaction in the comments on photos.
  • Facebook: Besides posting on your own feed, there are many groups you can join where people post a photo each day.
  • Lastly, of course, Twitter and Instagram. Tag your photos with #365project and you’ll instantly be part of the info-stream of once-a-day projects (though many of those won’t be photography related).

Would you like to share your own photo-a-day project with us? Please put a link in the comments below.