Photographs can facilitate a host of wellbeing benefits.
Firstly, photographs can elicit a range of emotions. Viewing recognisable photographs has been found to trigger the amygdala, a part of the brain which processes emotions. Therefore, looking back at photographs which are directly linked to a positive experience or memory can give rise to pleasant emotions.
Secondly photography can be a form of expressive art which has been shown to boost feelings of self-esteem and empowerment. Technology now exists to enable people with limited dexterity and visual impairment to be able to take and view photographs. For example, switch adapted cameras and large iPad screens. Photography as a form of art or expression has no limits or demands. There is no ‘wrong way’ to do photography!
This activity is about capturing natural surroundings outdoors with a camera but could easily be adapted for taking pictures of loved ones, friends or places both indoors and outside, which take the person’s interest or have a special connection or meaning.
If you can – take a camera along with you on outings, family gatherings to capture unplanned moments too!
Planning to spend time outside, capturing the surroundings with a camera could be another way to engage with nature and getting outside into nature has been shows to increase feelings of vitality and can improve physical health.
What you need
- A camera (this could be on a tablet, mobile device, a switch adapted digital camera or regular film camera as appropriate to the individual using it)
- A tripod or adapted equipment such as a wheelchair clamp as necessary
- A method for processing the images – a PC and printer or access to a commercial photo processing service
- A blank scrapbook or photo album
- Crafting materials – glue stick, scissors or card
Guidance and instructions
- Choose a location for your photography session. As much as possible this would involve the individual you are supporting choosing a preferred place or somewhere or something that they are drawn to or catches their eye.
- Firstly, explore the area – for example in a woodland area you might like to take a walk around first to allow time to look around and absorb and process the surroundings.
- Consider what optimal positioning and lighting would be for each environment.
- Set up the camera or device in a position which is user friendly – as much as possible providing autonomy over where the person wishes to point the lens. If they can’t do this by themselves, look for where their attention is drawn to. Creativity can take many forms and is not about producing the perfect end result. You may not perceive the significance of the point of focus but to the person it may be important.
- Help to capture the image as much as necessary.
- View the picture together. Watch for any responses made by the person and reflect these back. You may wish to talk about the picture, by naming what you see for example, but remember to stay tuned-in to the emotional response of the person and your own feelings. ‘The bird singing made me smile, I like the sound it makes’.
- Capture some more shots!
- If appropriate you may like to collect some tactile objects of reference to accompany the images.
- Choose how to view the pictures again when back indoors. Can they be seen best on a laptop or by projecting them onto a large screen.
- Remember to give plenty of time to view and process each image, only moving on when the person shows that they are ready to.
- You may also like to share the images with other people and celebrate the accomplishment.
- Make choices together regarding which pictures (if any) to print and how they will be displayed. Perhaps in a scrapbook or album or on a collage.
- Label the pictures to enable the person to be able to share with others. Viewing the photographs with others provides an opportunity to engage in social interaction, share stories and may lead to attuned connection with others.
- Be sure to revisit the photographs from time to time, or as much as the person would like.
What to observe, assess and record
- Watch for facial expressions and body language that may indicate what they like or dislike and what their attention is being drawn to.
- How are they before, during and after the activity?
- What impact does capturing and later viewing the image appear to have on mood, emotions and general wellbeing?
- Does the person enjoy or benefit in any way from sharing their pictures with others?
© Samantha Bell, Assistant Educational Psychologist & Special Educational Needs Teacher, MSc Psychology, BA (Hons), QTS, NAC Communications and Research
Email: [email protected]
© Julie Calveley, PhD, BSc(Hons) Psychology, Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities, NAC Director
Email: [email protected]
Created October 2023