How Too Much of a Good Thing, Isn’t So Good
Photography is Everywhere
I wanted to start this article by describing to you the power of photography. Through an experiment. Check this out.
“Take a break from your screen. Look around at the room, the space that surrounds you. For this moment, recognize every item that utilizes a photo. Count them up and say the number out loud.”
What a terrible exercise, what was I thinking? In my defense, I am going through a period of minimalism. Also I’m not going to count my own pictures laying about, that’s so vain. I bet you thought this exercise was about me, didn’t you?
But no, other than the printings of my own vanity, the only item I have with a photograph on it is a “Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail”. Which you should totally go do.
Photography is Still Mad Powerful.
Horrific experiment aside, the photograph is still a powerful vessel that conveys an infinite amount of possibility. It allows for proof of evidence, story-telling, provocative thought, research, saving memories, entertainment, visiting of far-away places, well you get the picture.
That is why since its beginning, the use of photography has continued to grow. Back then, like computers, it was limited to those in the know. The parts were bulky, the processing academic, the results slow.
Today, you would be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t have a camera on them.
Hence, that is why expectations are that in 2022, it is forecasted that the number of photos taken will hit 1.5 TRILLION.
I wanted to be nice and middle-roady about this but I am going to put my foot down.
That’s just too many damn photos.
To put a trillion in perspective: If you took one photo per second you would take 1 million photos in less than 12 days and 1 billion in 32 years but getting to 1 trillion would take nearly 32,000 years.
My opinion stems from my personal desire to not waste time. Or my rather pragmatic ideal of not engaging in activities that are pointless. (No need to call me out on this, I am aware that much of what I do is both a waste of time and pointless. I’m working on it.)
Take a look at your phone. Scroll through and think about how many photos live on this device. How many have you never looked at? How many times has your phone filled to its memory’s brink?
To you I ask, “What is the point?”
And you may ask, “Why should I care?”
Science Gets Involved
“…the primary role of photography has shifted from commemorating special events and remembering family life, to a way of communicating to our peers, forming our own identity, and bolstering social bonds.”
What if I could make the case that this actually wasn’t good for you?
- You’ll forget the moments that matter. In the same article as the above quote, researchers illuminate that photographing everything reduces your brain’s ability to remember details. Have you ever used Google Maps to visit a new place? Ever tried to go back home without the aid? A simple experiment, try mapping a route ahead of time, memorizing which roads you need to take. See what happens for the drive back.
- You’re wasting time. How much time do you devote to managing these pics? I can relate, having spent hours scrolling through thousands of pictures to either get lost in memories or search for something specific. I literally found 40,000 more just last evening. Under the canon of less is more, more of your life could be yours to keep if you had fewer photos. Do as I say, not as I do.
- You’re killing the planet. I recently wrote an article about reducing the number of ‘Thank You’ emails you send in order to save the world. I guarantee this falls under that umbrella and one less photo a day would serve the world.
- Doing it right will cost you money. I spent thousands of dollars to outfit myself with a storage solution in the form of a 40TB hard drive. While most people will not need storage of that level, if you don’t want to lose your photos you should be backing them up. Meaningful images, especially ones you’ve paid for, should be treated with respect. Don’t make me show you wedding client emails who lost them…
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. While I rarely take my own advice, I still preach all things in moderation. Photography like fine wine is best appreciated in small amounts of quality rather than overwhelming deluges of mediocrity.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The solution is simple and right at hand.
Stop taking so many freakin’ photos.
Just stop. Don’t do it.
When the moment is just so perfect or you absolutely have to, then grab one.
If you and four other friends are side by side photographing the exact same thing, just share one of theirs. One.
Focus on being intentional with the subject you are photographing. Conceive the image in your head before pressing the shutter. Take one or two, rather than five or ten.
Cull your images immediately. On a DSLR/mirrorless camera perhaps don’t, rumor is, it is bad to delete from the memory card and you could accidentally lose them all. On a your phone, pick the best. Delete the rest.
Here’s a list of benefits from having/taking fewer photos. And I have a final challenge for you at the end.
- Intention — Being intentional in photo-taking will hopefully have a trickle-down effect so that you start to think more deeply about what it is you are trying to accomplish. This can be with anything. From meal prep to picking a show to binge.
- Bonding — When you find more pride in the smaller yet better selection of images you’ve taken, you may be more likely to share them with others. This is a chance to bond and share more deeply with those you know and maybe some you don’t know as well
- Legacy — My mom showed me an album of negatives from our family history. We have a wall of various family photos. These moments are available to stand the test of time and can be shared with those further down the line. I feel it is unlikely though I have no experience here, that when a parent passes on, we will also inherit an unlocked smartphone with curated collections of meaningful photos to remember them by.
- Restraint — Is a skill that must be learned. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Walking away from a photo you could take can be empowering. It seems silly to say, but I might even compare it to taking away a crutch. You find you don’t need it, and you’re happier without it. Like all of these lessons, if you look beyond picture-taking as a metaphor, you might see some larger life lessons here.
- Stress — Will be less. Need I say more?
My Ultimate Challenge To You
I totally stole this from someone.
After Step 1 though, it’s all me.
- Every month, pick one image you’ve taken. One single image. PRINT IT. No smaller than 8″x10″.
- Buy a portfolio. Put these prints in it.
- Carry it with you. Show people. Share your story. Engage. Dance in the rain.
Buy this portfolio on Amazon. I use the same brand for mine. Print anywhere, Walgreens, Target, Costco, wherever!
Buy this bag and level up your carrying ability. (I do own this one)
All I can say is this.
We live in a wild and crazy world of abundance. I take more photos at a single wedding than my grandparents took their entire lives.
If I wanted to share a single picture with you every day, you would be dead before I could.
THAT IS INSANE.
This isn’t even about photography anymore. We don’t need to take more photos than we can ever look at. We don’t need more clothes than we can ever wear. We DON’T NEED more food than we COULD EVER EAT.
So take stock. Think about things, make your life easier, and ultimately, be happier.
It all starts with one less photo.