People Need Photos But Shouldn’t Take Them Themselves. The Science Behind Memories.

You remember in moments. When people recall their memories they are recalled in little video clips of different qualities and lengths. Some memories are vivid while others are jumbled and faded. If your brain is a VHS player, photographs are the VHS tapes. A photograph can help your brain recall the moment that was captured but also the moments before and after. Along with moments come feelings. Both of them combined make memories.

Viewing photographs frequently keeps the related memories fresh in your mind. This is similar to when you watch your favorite movie over and over again allowing you to quote the whole thing. There is a caveat though. Taking pictures makes you less likely to remember that moment. Maybe this is why I have a terrible memory! Photographer joke aside I have an idea as to why this happens and why I do remember the moments I photograph.

There have been a few studies that suggest that humans can’t really multitask. [Multitasking is often used interchangeably with time management skills and that’s different. Multitasking is doing two or more tasks simultaneously.] The studies basically say if you have 100% brainpower to devote to tasks and you are devoting 20% to one and 80% to another you aren’t giving your full attention to either. For example, it’s taking me longer to write this post because I’m also watching Harry Potter. Or really I’m not watching Harry Potter and it’s still distracting enough to make me take longer on this post. So when you really want to soak in a moment and commit it to memory you can’t also be making sure the subject is in focus.

You might be thinking… BUT you are a photographer how do you still remember the weddings you’ve photographed? What can I do if I can’t have someone else capture the moment? Great questions! I thought you’d never ask! I remember the weddings I’ve photographed even though I experience a lot of the weddings through a lens because I spend HOURS looking at and editing them later. The more time I spend editing them I more I end up remembering them. The weddings that I send out to my editor I don’t remember as much. If you can’t have another person capture the moment? I think the best way is to quickly snap a picture of the moment it doesn’t have to be perfect then spend the rest of the moment in the moment. For example, I took a video of the 4014 steam train for my kids when it went through town. I remember capturing the video rather than experiencing it because I experienced it entirely through a lens.

To get the most out of your memory, focus on the moment. Put down the distractions. Let someone else capture the moment for you. Display or look at your images often to make sure the memory stays vivid.

**Yes, VHS not DVDs. I think the brain, maybe just mine, is more analog than a DVD and its Bonus Features menu.

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