Jules was recently thinking about the past and future of photography:
Film was expensive, developing was expensive, and when a roll was finally finished, it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t uncommon to get it developed and have a whole yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worth of Ã¢â‚¬Å“special occasionsÃ¢â‚¬Â. It was treat. Granted, much of what was developed was blurry, but that didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stop you from pasting it into an album anyways!
Today, no reason is required to snap off a few hundred photos. EveryoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life is completely documented, special occasion or no occasion. Hard drives are bursting with 17 angles of the roller coaster at CanadaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Wonderland, and another 15 photos of everyone eating funnel cakes. Are we over burdened with photos? Will I ever get through the 3 gigs of pictures that are safely stored and backed up on various hardware vaults? What will future generations think when they discover a plethora of mediocrity that has been saved forever? Are we adding any value?
It’s a good question, and I think it’s important for Normal Humans to pay a little attention to how they manage their photos.
And Jules is right. If you created a mean average of all the amateur photos taken between, say, 1950 and 2000, you’d get a pretty lame photo.
I’d argue, however, that the mean average of the photos taken between 2000 and 2050 will be considerably better.
We Learn by Practice
Let me change gears for a second. Long before digital video, when asked about how film school could be better, Stephen Spielberg said that they should teach kids to should on VHS tape instead of film. Why? Because VHS tape was cheap, and film was expensive. More importantly, students could waste as much tape as they wanted, because you could record on it over and over again.
We learn by practice and by making mistakes.
I just checked, and I’ve taken about 12,000 photos with my trusty Nikon D-70. Add another couple of thousand with my previous digital camera, and that represents about 600 rolls of film. Before digital, purchase and development costs would’ve made that a healthy investment for a learning amateur like myself.
But I’ve only been taking digital photos for, say, five years. My nephew Miles (that’s him with the bubble gun) was born in 2003. In 2023, how many photos will he already have taken? How much more photography practice will the 20-year-old Miles have than the a 20-year-old Darren in 1994? Ten times? A hundred times?
Especially if you start early, that kind of repeated activity will improve your skills.
Combine more practice with advances in technology that have radically improved sharpness, colour quality and so forth. It’s simply become harder to take lousy photos.
Filtering and Sorting
The chunk we’re missing at the moment is sophisticated filtering and sorting mechanisms. Yes, Miles may take 20,000 photos by the time he graduates high school. Hopefully by then he’ll be able to ask a computer questions like:
- Show me all the photos I took in Tofino.
- Show me all the photos of my girlfriend.
- Show me the photos that other people like the most.
- Show me my most beautiful photos.
And he won’t have had to spend hours categorizing, filtering and labeling his photos (messing around with so-called metadata) to get good results. The computer will just know.
That said, hopefully Miles has deleted 16 of the 17 shots of Jules’s roller coaster. I tend to delete about 85% of the photos I take. I wonder what the average consumer does? Do they keep every photo? Half of them? How do you manage your photos?