5 Ways to Turn Photography Into a Restorative Hobby — Even With Your Phone Camera

Have you thought of making photography a hobby of yours?

Photography has become second nature for our generation — we connect by tagging each other in snaps, we open doors in our careers with high quality portraits, we hustle on the side with product photos — but I believe it has the potential to be much more than that.

Photography can be a way to rest.

This may seem counterintuitive — we’ve grown to see photography as a functional dimension of communication. All the selfies, perfectly lit gym poses, and constant stream of friends’ snapshots can make photography seem vain, superficial, and unhealthy. And sometimes it can be — it’s easy to feel weighed down by the pressure to be perfect when we scroll through highlight reels from everyone else all day long.

But there are other aspects to photography — if we approach it as a craft and an art, it can open up a new way to see the world.

You don’t need to have all the latest gadgets to be a “true” photographer. The simple act of holding any camera — the one in your phone will do just fine — can help us see and appreciate the colors and light around us. It can help us be more present in the moment as we slow down to capture a piece of our experience. Being more present can help relax us and enter into our surroundings by seeking beauty — and that effort is restorative.

When we use so much of our day being productive at work or arranging logistics at home, dedicating time and energy to finding beauty for its own sake is a restful endeavor. It calms the mind and slows the metronome ticking in our head. To find and notice beauty, we have to slow down and attend to details. 

Here are five ways to transform your approach to photography into a restful hobby using nothing but your phone camera. 

Rediscover the familiar

It can be easier to see things from a new angle when we try to get that perfect picture. Document a walk down a path you have often tread — you may be able to find a new appreciation of a familiar tree when you try to capture the curve of its branches against the bright blue sky. Or try getting snapshots of a daily ritual like brewing coffee — it can make a familiar coffee mug and your favorite brand of coffee beans a bit more special.

Intentionally approaching everyday scenes with photography can help us know and appreciate them on a deeper level. Consider a part of your environment that has been too easy to take for granted, like the design of frost on the windows, or dew on a fallen leaf. Trying to get a new angle on a familiar item can help us focus and see what has become invisible because it is so commonplace.

There is magic in the ordinary. Slowing down can help us discover that enchantment again.

Be bold and explore

Photography is a fantastic way to explore — it can give us a reason to drive to a new park or try a new colorful recipe that we want to shoot.

I have caught many sunrises with my camera, eager to capture the brightening pink sky. As I sit there waiting for the light to change, I tune into the sounds of nature around me and the rhythm of my own breathing within that scene. It’s a privilege to watch the world wake up, and then share that beautiful moment with others.

Slow down

A walk while waiting for the golden hour can be incredibly relaxing. It takes restraint to wait until the light becomes just right, or the subject settles into our frame. Instead of walking through our day without thinking, photography encourages the discipline of patience: slowing down to observe and appreciate colors and lines, then attempting to capture what you see in them.

So much of our life is spent being rushed and busy. Photography is a way to set aside some time to simply be. The act of slowing down is critical. Snapping the first angle we see and rushing to get another photo could ruin the moment.

Pursuing photography as a hobby forces me to set aside walks where I do nothing but take photos. I’m not out to get from point A to point B — I get to wander and linger. It makes me set aside time in my week when I don’t have to get anything done from my to-do list.

Limit distractions

Before heading out to take a scenic walk or to sit down to photograph something or someone, I suggest putting your phone on airplane mode. Save the sharing of the photos for later. Limiting distractions can help you enter into the moment and focus on the subject you intend to highlight in your shoot. That kind of attention is a great way to get to know a person or place on a deeper level.  

Be patient with yourself

Photography is an art form. It may take practice to get the exact photos you want to produce. Document your progress by creating a photo journal or dedicating one wall in your home for a gallery.

Any new skill takes time to develop. It is tempting to get frustrated because your ability to produce something beautiful does not match your taste — you know what you want to make, but it’s discouraging when you can’t hit that mark. But if you find yourself digging the process, let go of the results — those will come in time as skill grows. Enjoy the creative endeavor and lean into being a beginner.

The time you spend holding a camera can be a rich experience that helps you enter into the world in a more intentional, grateful way. Even if that camera is simply the one on your phone, it can help you find magic in the ordinary again and spend a few moments fully present.

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