Martin Messier

May 22, 2023

Photographic Memory: An Easy Technique That Works

Here's a strategy I recently learned from a buddy of mine of how to train and develop your photographic memory. He tells me this system is used by army officers and soldiers to train in observation skills and their own photographic memory. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to confirm this fact anywhere on the internet.

Follow these instructions to the letter. Practice every day and you'll get results within 30 days. As you become more proficient in the skill, you will find that you apply it constantly in your daily life.

Tools you will need

  • A desk lamp
  • A black sheet of paper
  • A document or book you want to memorize


1. Set some time to practice. 10-15 minutes will be ideal.

2. Find a quiet place in your living quarters. You have to be able to make it dark. If you have blackout curtains in your room, use them. A closet can also serve you well. Take your desk lamp into that room and plug it into an outlet.

3. Cut out a rectangular hole in your black sheet of paper. Make it about the size of a paragraph.

4. Place the black sheet over the book or document. Put the hole over the text you want to memorize.

5. Calibrate the distance between your eyes and the document. Put it at a distance where your eyes can focus instantly on the writing.

6. Turn off all lights. Your eyes will begin to adjust to the dark. You will notice a certain "phantom light" as they become familiar with the new light settings.

7. Turn on the lamp for a split second and turn it off.

8. Your eyes will have photographed the exposed paragraph in the document of book. Pay attention to that picture. When it completely fades out, turn on the lamp again for a split second and turn it back off. Remember to continuously focus on the document.

9. Do this repeatedly until you can recite the entire paragraph without making mistakes. Eventually, you will see it in your mind's eye, as a picture, and you will be able to read off of it easily.

When you associate the practice of this technique with the principles you read below, you will find all your other skills improve rapidly.

How does memory work?

It all starts with sensation and perception, i.e., when your brain encodes sensory information. Your biological sense pick up information and encode it neurologically.

Take for instance the memory of your childhood home. Your nervous system registered its characteristics, such as its size, its color, its smell and the habitual sounds that played around it.

Each of these stimuli is what I refer to as a "sensation."

All of these sensations are packaged up into what I refer to as a "perception". This happens in the hippocampus. It then labels that perception into a concept such as "my house". I refer to that process as "conception".

Once the information is encoded as a concept, your nervous system stores it permanently.

Electricity and chemistry

This information is encoded and stored electrically and chemically. When you need to retrieve a piece of information — whether it's a sensation, a perception or a concept — your nervous cells communicate with one another.

To do that, they must bridge a space between them. We call that space a "synapse".

All the communication that takes place in your brain happens in those synaptic gaps. Electrical signals that move the information jump from cell to cell.

As these signals move, your brain releases chemical carriers named "neurotransmitters." These chemicals spread across these cells and bind to them. Each neuron can create thousands of these binds. An average brain has over 100 trillion synapses.

Neural networks

Neurons operate in networks. They group themselves based on the way they process information.

While they connect to one another using the process described above, these binds aren't eternal. They are flexible. If a neuron sends a message to another neuron more than once, the synapse between them becomes more robust to optimize the communication channel.

The more you learn, the more you absorb and encode information from the world around you, the more changes happen in your neurology. As these changes takes place, more and more neurons connect and interact.

This means that sophisticated information and memory routes are created, developed, maintained and modified continuously.

The power of muscle memory

The more an basketball player shoots free throws, the more his or her nervous will strengthen the neural circuit associated with that action. Eventually, without thinking, a player can shoot a perfect free throw and make it because the memory of the perfect shot is so perfectly encoded in their neurology.

For instance, watch basketball great Michael Jordan make a free throw with his eyes closed (in an offical game):

You can use this exact same framework for cognitive memory.

If you are working on memorizing your class notes for a test, all you have to do is review them consistently review them. Very quickly, you'll notice you're capable of remembering the information without breaking a sweat.

Once the test is over and you ace it, if you stop reviewing these notes, your neurons will ease their connection. In time, the memory will fade, making those neurological resources available for other tasks. In short, that's how you forget.

Key takeaway: repeat consistently

At its most basic, the key lesson to developing your photographic memory is this: repeat consistently.

After all, photographic memory is simply a skill as any other. The more you practice it, the more it develops. If you practice it consistently, you will amaze yourself at how fast you're able to capture, encode and recall information.

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