THE BLOG

Take Fewer Photos. Make More Memories.

05/16/2014 12:07 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2014
Braden Thompson

Have you ever snapped the perfect photo and then confidently thrown it up on the Internet only to be received by an empty field of nothing? (*cricket chirps*) ... two likes, maybe three on Facebook. Not even 10 so it changes the likes to a number on Instagram. You feel like crap. Understandably so, because it's never fun trying to fish your great grandmother's pearl necklace out of the pig trough.

*Side note: The image above is of my favorite place on earth. I posted it on Facebook almost a year ago. Current number of likes: Goose egg.

In a recent article, researchers found evidence that taking photos hinders our ability to recall events fully. While you're worried about getting that perfect angle so you can post up a jealousy-inducing photo and feed off a short-lived ego boost from a few likes, you're actually preventing the memories of that experience from completely taking hold in your mind. I believe it but you can take it for what it's worth. #internetneverlies

A number of months ago, I sat on top of a small mountain in the dead of winter looking down at the lights of the small rural city below. Desperate to show off where I was, I took my phone out and tapped the screen a number of times hoping to get the ISO just a tad higher. After snapping three or four sub-par photos and realizing there was no way my poor man's iPhone 4s would do the scene justice (I can hear the loud gasps of the pretentious early adopters now, "You still have a 4s?! That was TWO MODELS AGO!!!"), I put my phone back in my pocket.

Disappointed I wouldn't be producing an image sure to garner an amazing number of cheap, ego-boosting likes, I decided to do something a little different. I would try to use my mind to capture exactly what I saw. Something that phones are so consistently lousy at doing.

I sat there alone on the cold ground for the next 15 minutes quietly taking notice of every little thing. It's a memory and image I can still recall with vivid detail to this day. It never got any likes and no one knows what it looked like, but I don't care. I like it better that way. It was a special and spiritual experience for me.

This idea isn't new. In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Walter is sitting with Sean O'Connell, famed adventure photographer, when a rare snow leopard comes into frame. After a few seconds, Walter becomes anxious and asks when Sean is going to take the picture. Sean's reply is beautiful and inspiring:

Sometimes I don't. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.

Or jump over to the hilarious NBC comedy, Parks and Rec. In the scene where Ben Wyatt proposes to Leslie Knope, Ben gets on one knee and begins to ask THE question. Leslie stops him in midsentence and says, through tears of joy:

Wait. I need to remember this.

Ben smiles and looks around awkwardly, not sure what to do with himself as Leslie looks around the room. After a brief pause, he starts again only to be stopped a second time:

No no no. I need to remember every little thing about how perfect my life is, right now, at this exact moment.

I'm not pooh-poohing on photography. I'm merely suggesting that we stop and realize our minds are more powerful than we often give them credit. So in your future adventures and experiences, remember:

Take fewer photos. Make more memories.

Braden is an advocate for better living who finds fulfillment in helping others. Find more of his work on Medium, LifeHack and Everything Braden.