Last week, I asked someone to take a couple of pictures for me on his iPhone for a project. It was something of a spontaneous moment… But everyone’s got a smartphone these days, right?
So no biggie…
Later that afternoon, he walked over and offered to AirDrop “the bunch” to me between our iPhones.
(And that was so much faster than receiving an email with the photos attached and then having to save the pics to my iPhone.)
So I stare at my iPhone’s screen. A message popped up that asked if I wanted to accept the incoming photos.
(They would get immediately stored in the native Photos app.)
I clicked “Yes” and voila, my iPhone ingested… 81 photos.
You read correctly.
Yes, the ‘few’ images I had requested ended up being a photo essay of 81 images.
I thanked him, but really… I didn’t want that many photos.
(I secretly grumbled about much time it would take me to go through all of them to find the best one or two.)
Now, I’m sure he was just trying to be helpful by capturing a whole lot of photos to ensure he nailed some good ones for me.
(And now I’m feeling a little guilty being so ungrateful.)
But there’s a fundamental problem at play here that this kind of moment demonstrates.
And I think we’re all guilty of this when we start snapping photos…
We act like digital photography is essentially free.
And to a certain extent, that’s true. The only noticeable cost is the gradual filling up of your smartphone’s memory or your camera’s media card.
But trust me, this way of thinking is certain to create a time bomb down the road.
‘Cause you’re going to wake up a few years later and realize you’ve got 12,000 photos in your phone.
And what are you supposed to do with all of those photos?!
Are you spending the necessary time to separate the wheat from the chaff?
And more importantly, what have you been doing with your thousands of pictures along the way?
Here’s your true cost to taking thousands of your free photos every year:
You’re going to need huge chunks of time to manage your growing photo archive.
You will give up trying and figure you’ll deal with the problem another day.
And you know what that means…
- You didn’t print them.
- You didn’t share them.
- You didn’t enjoy them.
- And nobody else did either.
Whoa… that’s a bummer.
And you know how I feel about waiting too long…
Yes, I say that lots of your pictures actually have expiration dates!
Because beyond your immediate family unit, nobody really wants to see a three-year-old photo of your six year old.
People want to see fresh photos.
Sure, there are always archival benefits to your pictures, but they’re much more valuable in the here and the now!
Less is More
Remember the old days of film photography just before the turn of the century?
(Ahem… the 21st century)
Come on… it wasn’t that long ago when we used rolls of physical film in our cameras. There were only 24 or 36 pictures per roll, and it cost you about twenty bucks to develop each roll.
Trust me, you probably weren’t taking 81 pictures of anything back then.
I know I wasn’t.
The beauty from that pre-digital age was you’d take two… maybe three photos of something… to be sure you got the photo just the way you wanted.
(There was no way to know, because there was no screen in the back. How did we ever survive…?!)
You’d maintain a few family photo albums and probably a couple of shoeboxes with some disorganized pics, and that would be it.
Okay, let’s fast forward to the present….
How much physical space would it take to house… say… twenty thousand physical photos?
Well, of course the answer is zero, because most of these photos would either live on your hard drive, which will eventually go caput, or in the Cloud somewhere.
What happens if one day you forget to pay for your Cloud account? Then, you’ll lose access to those photos.
And then where will you be?
You’ll have no photos of your life… at all.
(You’ve got a stronger back up plan, you say? Well, bravo for you. You can skip to the end of this post.)
Okay, I know I’m being a little apocalyptic.
Perhaps, I exaggerate. But only slightly.
Your Sock Drawer is a Mess
I really feel we’re losing control of all the photos we’re taking.
(I know I’m having a hard time keeping up.)
Sure, many of us effortlessly post dozens or even hundreds of photos online to share our lives in the moment, but I believe this apparent fluidity masks the larger problem of what’s happening to the others 19,000 photos.
Imagine a giant sock drawer you haven’t opened in twenty years with thousands of unmatched socks.
Do you feel the problem now?
If you don’t pay attention to your digital photo library and to the volume of photo files you’re feeding it, you’re going be in a world of hurt down the line.
Of course, there’s often an exception to any rule….
And that’s when you’re capturing a series of related moments via rapid-fire picture taking. My wife has done this a bunch of times with me and my son using her iPhone 6 Plus.
(This art form is very intuitive for her.)
These magical photo sequences can represent a few seconds to up to a minute. You’d never be able to capture these wonderful connected images unless you simply snap away… as if the price per photo were free.
How Many Photos Do You Need?
So no, don’t take lots of pictures all of the time.
Except when sometimes you should.
All right, so you’ve got to be a little flexible when confronting how to capture your family’s lives through digital photography.
Just always ask yourself this question-
How many photos do you really need to take to get what you want?
If you decide to take 81, that’s okay.
Just don’t leave it for another day (decade) to figure out which two or three you should keep.
And remember, nobody really needs to hold onto 20,000 pictures to tell their life story.
Sometimes, it only takes one.