Why Photography is the Best Hobby

Why Photography is the Best Hobby

1280 720 James Tocchio

People have always asked me why I like photography so much. The early answer was an ignorant shrug, “I just like it.” And the conversation would end. A few years into my hobby the answer evolved into something pretentious and annoying. “I simply enjoy the idea that this machine can freeze a moment in time forever.” This cringe-worthy statement delivered, the conversation would end. These days, the answer to the perennial question is less lofty, but succinct and honest.

I love photography because it’s the best of all possible hobbies.

Here’s how I came to this bold conclusion.

Not long ago, I arrived home from the day-job to find my pant’s pocket empty and my house keys dangling from a hook on the opposite side of a locked front door. I gazed blankly through a frosty window at the glistening keys, swore once, and retreated to the warmth of my just-parked car. My wife wouldn’t be home for a few hours, no spare key, and shattering a window was a bit too extreme. I had time to kill. Recalling that I needed a roll of Kodak Ektar and a couple of batteries, I fired up the ignition and made my way to the local camera shop.

I arrived at the shop, bought the batteries and the film, and was heading toward the door counter when a friendly worker from behind the checkout counter said, “Hey James, we got a G2 in if you want to see it?”

Ten minutes later I had bought a Contax G2 with Zeiss Planar 45mm F/2 prime and a Leica Minilux for good measure.

Well, that escalated quickly.

But my wife still wasn’t home, and the house was still locked up. I had another couple of hours in which to contemplate my penchant for forgetfulness and my susceptibility to reduced-price photo gear, so I stopped at a sandwich shop, grabbed dinner, and read through my new camera’s manual to completion. That done, and with an hour still before my wife would be home, I noticed that the sun was doing some neat things at the center of our solar system and I figured that driving a few hundred yards closer to it would put me in a better position to take its picture with my new camera.

As I sat there watching this solar display, with time to waste and a bin full of unexpected and interesting cameras sitting on the passenger seat next to me, a voluptuous, moisture-dense cloud in the distance billowed upward and shed sudden sheets of rain. The raking sunbeams played through the undulating veil of kinetic moisture and illuminated the back edges of the clouds, and drew forth texture from the trees and the sand.

The whole thing was remarkably beautiful – and not what one expects to see from the vantage point of a Panera Bread parking lot. I sat for a handful of minutes, taking a couple of pictures, yeah, but mostly just enjoying this break in the hectic business of a typical day.

It got me thinking. Why do I love photography?

And the answer was there. But not in the form of the G2 in my hand or the other new cameras I’d bought earlier in the day, or even in the photos of the setting sun and the sudden interesting weather. The answer was in the momentary rest found in the middle of a stressed-to-the-point-of-forgetting-your-keys-like-an-imbecile modern life.

Photography isn’t unique in this. There are many hobbies available to us if we decide to dive into them, and many hobbies can provide the moments of relaxation and reflection I’ve detailed just now. But not all hobbies are created equal. I’ve enjoyed a lot of different hobbies over the years – building motorcycles, watch collecting, physical fitness, cars… the list goes on. And while these hobbies have been fun and important to me, they’re mostly transitory experiences that wane over time and leave only a general interest when they’ve passed.

What is it about photography that makes it relevant year after year, decade after decade?

To start, I think photography is distinct from many hobbies in that it’s a hobby of creation while so many others that I’ve tried have been hobbies of collection or consumption.

Collecting watches, or being really into whiskey, or fishing – these are all worthy pursuits. But to use these as examples, I was only ever spending cash to amass trinkets that might never be used, or drinking and later excreting fluids, or harming lesser animals. There was little opportunity to leave something in a better state than I found it. In fact, things were usually worse off because of my hobby. I’d scratched a couple of previously undamaged Omega Speedmasters, sent a bunch of bottles to the landfill, or stabbed a metal hook through the eye of a previously healthy, now blinded pickerel. Ouch.

With photography, it’s different. Every time I take a walk I’m given the opportunity to create something. Every time I go to the beach, or the park, or go out with the family, or take a trip (or even sit in a Panera Bread parking lot) I’m given the chance to create something.

Even in this, photography isn’t unique. Other hobbies, like painting or furniture-making to name two, give an avenue for creative people to create things of course, but none do so as easily as photography. It’s hard to think of a hobby that offers the same kind of flexible, accessible opportunity for creation. My father’s a woodworker, but you’re not going to find him spinning a lathe in the parking lot of a Panera Bread or cutting dados at Thanksgiving dinner.

Photography is also unique to most other hobbies in that it’s a hobby that’s also extremely useful. As a document of our existence, as a time capsule, as a way to make heirloom images.

If you’re any kind of self-aware human being, you’ll understand the horrifically temporary nature of our lives. Worrisome individuals, like myself, might even rage and fight against the inexorable march of time. One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply shoot photos.

Take photos of your life. Shoot your travels and adventures, shoot your friends and family, compile a lifetime of images into albums and give them away as gifts. Frame your photos and hang them on your walls. Relive the moments that are gone forever and shoot today to remember it tomorrow. You’ll be thankful that you did, and so will the people who care about you when you’re nothing more than a six-inch-pot full of ash.

Woah, but let’s not be too glum. We’ve still got life ahead of us, and we’re not just shooting for posterity. Photography also augments every aspect of the shooter’s life in a way that no other hobby can. It even enhances our other hobbies.

Are you into motorcycles? Then you’ll be into shooting photos of your motorcycle. Into entomology and nature? Then you’ll have a fun time learning about macro shooting. Do you love to travel? Don’t do it without a camera. Are you a family man or woman? Well there’s nothing better than making a gorgeous print of your beautiful little kids.

See, photography is the only hobby that so easily and effectively improves every facet of our lives. That’s remarkable.

And photography is accessible in ways that most hobbies simply aren’t. Where other hobbies might require that you live in a certain place (not many surfing enthusiasts living in Idaho, I’d guess) photography does not. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re talented, or if you’re rich or poor, where you come from, who your parents are, your height or weight or how many friends you’ve got. Photography is available to everyone.

There are no licenses to apply for, no special fees to pay, no government registrations or taxes, no maintenance necessary. There are no rules dictating what you must shoot, how you must shoot, where, or when, or for whom. You can shoot whatever subject you want with whatever camera you’ve got. And all that matters is you’re having fun.

Photography is there when you want it, patient when you don’t. You can shoot every day for a year, stop, and come back after six months only to pick it up right where you left off. The camera takes up no room (hard to say about my old BMW), and doesn’t require winterizing. There are no monthly dues, no subscription fees. It’s a take it, leave it, and use it when you want hobby that will be there forever.

It’s also unlimited in its scope. There’s enough variety within the hobby to keep things interesting for a lifetime.

Never shot a camera? Good, you’re the best type of new photograepher. Buy a camera and let’s get shooting. Have you shot SLRs your whole life? Then try a rangefinder for something new. Are you sick of the clinical precision of modern gear? You can shoot lenses from the 1960s as if they were manufactured yesterday. Bored (somehow) with normal photography? Try shooting film, or pinhole cameras, or view cameras, or shooting infrared light, or shoot underwater with a Nikonos, or try portraits, or landscapes, or macro, or solargraphy.

Want to focus on collecting rare cameras? You can do that too. How about collecting only brass cameras, or Russian cameras, or only Nikon cameras, or only cameras made in France, or get real specific and only collect green art deco box cameras that were made in the United States. Yes, there’s literally something for everyone.

Of course, this is all opinion. There are many avenues to happiness. My point is that photography is whatever anyone wants it to be. For different people it will be different things. For me, it’s all things. It’s relaxation when I’m stressed. It’s the hunt for a special camera, the hunt for a better shot. It’s collecting amazing machines. It’s making something out of nothing. It’s creating a document of my life and giving the gift of images to the people around me. It’s also (and this is important) having something to do for a few hours when I’ve locked my stupid ass out of the house.

In short, photography is the best hobby in the world. And that’s why I love it.

Are you convinced? Need a camera?

Find one at our own F Stop Cameras

Find one on eBay

Find one at B&H Photo

Follow Casual Photophile on Facebook and Instagram

[Some of the links in this article will direct users to our affiliates at B&H Photo, Amazon, and eBay. By purchasing anything using these links, Casual Photophile may receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. This helps Casual Photophile produce the content we produce. Many thanks for your support.]

James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • Nice and personal – more posts like this for me please. Happy New year, and thanks for the whole site 👏🏻

  • I really enjoyed reading that James, maybe it’s because it resonates so much on a personal level from you, to me and to pretty much everyone who’ll ever read it. You’re right it is one of those particular hobbies where it doesn’t matter your equipment, if you know what you want to do you can do it with anything you can afford and still get great results. It’s also one of the few hobbies I’ve ever had where I can’t think of a day when I leave the house without the tools I need to create with, even if it means I make a few barely acceptable images because in my mind if I didn’t have something on me to do that, well I might miss that one all important life moment that I simply have to document, or that sunset that will never be repeated, or maybe I’ll just miss that completely mundane street photography moment that matters to no one except me? Point being, I’d have missed it and I’ve never felt that way with any other hobby I’ve had. (in fact when I left my camera on my desk in work the other day on my lunch hour I was distraught at the amount of images I imagined I was missing as I sat eating and watching the world go by).
    Anyways hope you have a great New Year and looking forward to what the site brings in 2017.

    P.S. That’s a very pretty G2 you got yourself there.

    • James – Founder/Editor January 1, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Thanks for the kind words, pal! I know the feeling. That’s why I’ve started to really like small, capable cameras the best. Happy shooting in 2017, my friend.

  • Well said. Thanks. And Happy New Year.

  • Excellent post and really nicely illustrated. Love the pic of the Honda 350!
    Happy New Year!

  • Many years ago I exchanged my troublesome Leica M6TTL for a G2 and was delighted with it, after I had the collimation of the AF rangefinder adjusted (Kelvin at Protech, UK – still in operation). The lenses are every bit a match for the equivalent Leica lenses and of course you can use the very useful 35-70 zoom. The only thing that lets the camera down is the single horizontally orientated phase detection AF detector. This can be very fussy on picking up a focus and you can forget about trying to take photos through glass. Taking a photo of a street scene in portrait mode and trying to lock focus is a serious trial of digital dexterity. You generally have to obtain a focus in landscape mode, half press the shutter button to lock focus (or press the focus lock button), then rotate the camera through 90º, without accidentally pressing the shutter release. I ended up with quite a few interesting shots at 45º and as my hands became increasingly arthritic, I found this exercise close to impossible. I was a beta tester for Contax UK for their digital range at the time and when they shut up shop in early 2004, they virtually gave away their stock of ex-display lenses to us beta testers. I ended up with the whole kit of lenses (16/21/28/35/45/90/35-70). The only oddity is the 35 Planar, which is ultra sharp in the centre but with rather a steep fall off in resolution towards the corners until around f5.6. I now regret selling the whole kit in 2006 to buy a Leica M8 and some more Leica lenses. The quiet motor drive of the G2 made the Leica film cameras of the period seem rather primitive. For those who would prefer a manual M mount camera, the Hexar RF is effectively the same camera as the G2 but with MF and the same excellent shutter and motor drive. The Hexar even has a super silent drive mode and IMHO is a very under-rated camera.


    • James – Founder/Editor January 1, 2017 at 11:10 am

      I am really interested in some of the wide lenses for this camera. Seems like exactly my kind of setup. But we’ll see. I’m still on my first roll with the 45mm. Thanks for the stories and recommendations. Happy New Year.

  • Great writing James, describes perfectly how I feel it. For me it’s this incredible sensation of liberty and creativity, combined with my love for travelling and discovering new things to look at…

  • Good read. You are right in many levels.

  • Very enjoyable reading and a nice way to kick off the new year. Best wishes to you and yours in 2017.

  • James, I relate to many of the benefits and pleasures of photography you talk about. I used to write all the time (mostly poetry and haikus), which I saw (and still see really) as the ultimate portable art form. But photography comes a close second, and there’s something about capturing images that are already there in an interesting way that is often more rewarding than creating words from nothing.

    Aside from the images, just the pleasure of using vintage equipment brings great pleasure (and by “vintage” I would even include something like a fun 80s point and shoot like a Nikon AF3 or Minolta AF-S).

    Your point about it being a hobby of creation, rather than consumption really struck a cord with me in particular.

    Oh and being a Contax fan (the post here on CP about the Contax 139 Quartz was a major factor in me buying one, my first Contax), that G2 looks very appealing indeed…

    • I’ve been getting into photography lately, but I still consider writing and journaling to be the ultimate hobby for me. I would rather be remembered by my thoughts and writings than by a picture on the wall, though I guess it does help to have an image attached to a person. Sometimes though, when I have a writers block, I go out and shoot, and the process of capturing and looking at images inspires new writings, so my two hobbies now complement each other nicely, haha!

  • This is fast becoming one of my favourite photography blogs. It’s so much more than just photography, it has some excellent writing to go with it. Be proud, it’s very inspiring. Thank you.

  • awesome article, greetings from argentina!

  • Sir, thank you for a fantastic read. I shoot a rangefinder and a TLR and I find myself explaining to people why I still shoot film or why I chose such odd cameras when I could just shoot a Nikon or a Canon like everyone else does. I don’t mind interacting with strangers and answering their questions, but sometimes when I just want to shoot and create it can be exhausting. Thank you for a great article.

  • dhioshahbana (@dshahbana) January 18, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    This is spot on! Thank you for this awesome article.

  • Great read it describes perfectly how I feel about photography. I see in Photography as the perfect way to use my creativity but also to capture memories from my life but also travel. It is an great feeling to see a picture that you have taken that bring up emotions like a sound, a smell or just simply a memory.

  • I like taking photos to leave a gift to to the family’s of my subjects. This spring I took photos of a local High School Softball team. Sure I got some action shots but it was the special moments that I captured. I took one of one of the girls wearing a batting helmet and holding a bat. She had a beautiful smile. Her Father, one of the coach’s, shared it on his FB page. “My First Born doing what she loves”.

  • Wildly Insecure June 21, 2019 at 8:22 am

    Great yarn…I love the personal stories more than the news and reviews…and I hope you didn’t ave to sleep on the couch for too long after your investment!

  • James,

    I discovered this site just a short while back, and am absolutely gobsmacked by the quality of the writing. Amusingly, I have owned several of these cameras that have been highlighted by you and your talented writing team and it’s always an entertaining read to see them discussed.

    At present, I don’t own any film cameras, and honestly I don’t see one in my future, but I will come back here, of only to bathe in the wondrous prose available. I’ve tried several of my acquaintances of the site and encouraged them to come and partake.

    Thank you

  • Great article as always. I feel guilty sometimes that my cameras, those I haven’t sold off except for the two that I use. (Nikon D600 and F3). Are mostly paperweights. I do shoot the digital a little, when the mood hits. It snowed here in north Alabama unexpectedly so got some shots of the dogs. But I like that my cameras are there, just waiting if the mood strikes to make some photos. Have a great new year James! Looking forward to more in this series.

  • So true and well said. I have found myself coming full circle back to film and now going to give that Olympus XA a try. BTW your advice on the Fujifilm Tiara was great, I love that camera.

Leave a Reply

James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio