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Photography can be a great way of distracting yourself from your thoughts or, alternatively, a great form of self-expression. Being creative is an opportunity to express difficult thoughts and emotions that can’t otherwise be put into words. 

Capturing the beauty of the world on camera can be soothing and being in control of a camera and what you take pictures of can be empowering in times of distress. Some have also said that photography also helps them be ‘in the moment’.   

Setting yourself a photo challenge can also help you to leave the house – maybe plot a walk through a local park and take pictures of the wildlife or trees.   There are lots of suggestions to be found on Pinterest – why not try one for a day or week and see if it helps?

You don’t have to have a professional camera to do photography, any phone with a camera works just as well to help with self-care.   

If you’d like to speak to someone about body issues or other mental health worries, please visit our Urgent Help page.

Six tips for beginners for taking good photos on a phone or camera:

  1. Be in the moment and prepare for the unexpected. The best shots are candid and can be fleeting moments, so you need to be prepared to capture these before they’re gone.
  2. Pay attention to what most people don’t. Use reflections for example – puddles, windows or mirrors can offer you the opportunity to create interesting compositions.
  3. Think about light. Photography is all about light. Lighting dictates the shape, texture, contrast, and shadows in your photos. ‘The golden hour’ is after sunrise or before sunset and provides more flattering light.Create a sense of depth. By placing an object or person in the foreground helps give a sense of scale in a landscape for instance.
  4. Frame your picture or make use of lines. A frame or lines can help to draw the viewer to the right place in the photo. This could be an open door or window, branches of a tree, or railway track lines.
  5. Think about your composition. The rule of thirds can help you take eye catching photos. This is more of a guideline, and helps you to not place your subject in the centre. Sometimes it will look better to have the subject in the centre, but the rule of thirds is usually more pleasing to the eye.
  6. Practice and try again. The more mistakes you make the faster you will learn! The great thing about digital photography is you can take loads of snaps and pick the best one.

Many museums or galleries also run free photography opportunities across the year or host free photography competitions for young people. 


What young people have told us:

'Photography allows me to look closely at things, and let myself see the beauty in tiny little things. If I don't have a camera with me, it is easy to walk fast and stay stuck inside my own head, but if I have a camera, I start looking out, and once I've taken one or two photographs I start to notice far more about the environment I'm in, and want to engage with it and record it's beauty, dragging me out of my own head.'

'You don't need a fancy camera, if you have a smartphone you will get good results, just get used to how the camera works on it and the different things you can do with the camera, and also with the editing features that you can use then and there to help make the picture into what you see.'

'I fake my happiness a lot so that people think I'm okay, the only time I'm truly truly happy is when I'm doing nature photography I'm good at it and it just looks so magical.'

'Photography isn't for everyone but its fun in many ways and just trying to get the perfect shot can distract you from a lot of things and make you smile, give it a go cos you never know :) ' 

'I like to take photos so I can make pretty photos. All the photos I take are calm.'

There isn’t much academic research in the area of self-care for young people who are living with mental health issues. We are trying to find out more about what works for different people so we can better advise other young people what to try.

If you’ve tried this activity when you were struggling in relation to your mental health, please let us know if it helped you and how by clicking on the ‘Did this activity help you’ button.