So Many Images, So Little Time

In this digital age, thousands of images are created every day. Some are incredible, life changing. Some are average. Some are mediocre. Some get shared on social media, most languish on our cameras and phones, never to see the light of day.

As an image maker, I think about all these images wasting away in digital obscurity.

I have been shooting for over 30 years. I started with a Pentax K1000. The only automated feature on the camera was a through the lens (TTL) light metre. It was a great learning camera but when it was stolen I was happy to upgrade to the latest technology – a camera with autofocus! I was still shooting film however. I still had to physically take my film to the camera store to get it developed and then go back some time later to pick up my physical images. What followed next, since I am an organized person, was usually some form of scrap book or photo album. I knew I would want to share my images with friends and family and a photo album was a much better system than a shoe box.

With the advance of digital, the time and effort to get my images processed was eliminated. I could see my images immediately. The convenience is incredible. Once on my computer I could fix, alter or make them black and white in seconds. The possibilities were endless. Now the time was spent playing with images rather than walking to the store and back. Then came camera phones, in camera editing and social media. Sharing images is now instantaneous. Response to those images can be instantaneous. The need to create a photo book is lessened now. But I would also argue that it is harder too.

Many say that it is now too easy to take pictures. The fact that each image is essentially free (no film had to be purchased), allows people the freedom to shoot without thinking or planning, essentially amassing hundreds of less than adequate images. And in most situations, these images are not edited. If they are saved to the computer, they just sit there, taking up space.

Managing all these images takes time and effort in ways that film never did. I now have multiple devices that record images. Each requires a unique system to copy to my computer. Once there, I have a system to manage them but only because I have worked as a professional photographer and I had to develop a way to manage them for client viewing.

Most people have an application on their computer that can manage images but are they getting the most out of them? Are the images tagged and categorized so the can be found easily? What if they don’t care HOW it works they just want it TO WORK. I knew one woman who, instead of copying the images off her digital camera onto her computer, she would just buy another SD card. She had a drawer full of them. This meant that all the images of her children were never seen. Why did she do this? Because she was a very busy lawyer with no time or interest in technology. But she did want to record the life of her children.

We take pictures to record a memory. To help us remember a special event. To share something beautiful or funny. In the back of our minds we aren’t thinking, I’ll delete this later as I won’t need it. We are thinking, this is important. When I have time later, I will look at it again. The question is, what will that experience entail? Scrolling through the phone? Scrolling through Picasa or iphoto? Making a photo book? Putting together a home video?

In the photography section of this blog I’m going to explore some of these issues and what we can do to make them easier. Memories are precious, they need to be celebrated not just in the moment (thank you Instagram) but also in the future.

Upcoming Topics:

  • How to take fewer, better pictures and enjoy the moment as well.
  • How to ruthlessly edit
  • How to build simple systems that allow you to save, document and protect your images
  • How to decide the best to celebrate those images – book, home video, print and frame, gifts

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