12 July 2014

Pictures: The Old, The New and The Digital

I had a recent realization: I take as many pictures in an average year as my grandparents did in their entire lifetime and as my parents did in the first 30 years of marriage.

Earlier
Then
Now
Average pictures taken per year 34 58 743
Cost of developing a roll of film $50 $10 free
Relative cost for camera $140 $120 $150
Relative cost of color film per picture Color: $2.08
B&W: $1.00
$.42 Free
'Special' shots
Average number of pictures for a special event 1-5 2-10 5-100
Estimate of time put into 'special' shots 10 minutes 5 minutes .5 minutes
Estimate of effort put into 'special' shots A lot Some Not much
Believability of smiles in 'special' shots Not much Some A lot
Estimate of duplicate 'special' shots 2 5 20
Casual shots
Frequency of random, candid shots Few Some Too many
Number of pictures you distributed and regretted Few Some Too many
Number of steps to send distribute a 'regretful' picture Six: Find camera, remember to bring camera, pull out camera, take picture, develop the roll, mail picture to friends. Five: Remember to bring camera, pull out camera, take picture, develop the roll, mail picture to friends.


Three: Pull out phone, snap picture, post to Facebook.
Factor
Method for 'cool' picture distribution Slideshow (usually with long, boring oratory) Prints in the mail Facebook
Method for 'average' picture distribution Slideshow (usually with long, boring oratory) Prints in the mail Facebook
Method for 'mediocre' picture distribution Slideshow (usually with long, boring oratory) Prints in the mail Facebook
Method for 'sub-par' picture distribution Slideshow (usually with long, boring oratory) Prints in the mail Facebook
Difficulty in taking 'cool' pictures and missing the 'sub-par' ones Hard Moderate Easy
Appreciation
Appreciation for 'great' shots High High Low
Comments on 'great' shots "Wow" "Nice picture" "Photoshopped"
Number of times 'great' shots are view again 10+ 5+ 0

(This data is based on pre-digital camera photography for "Earlier" and "Then" categories based on moderate research. All monetary figures are adjusted for inflation.)

In many ways the digital revolution of the camera has done a lot to make picture taking more accessible and less expensive but it has also robbed us of the 'magic' of those special moments we are seeking to preserve. It is that very word, "preserve", that we find the core of the problem. We have shifted from 'capturing a moment' to trying 'to preserve that moment so it lasts forever'. A shift from creating something to help us remember to trying to create something that can be relived on demand.

The shift from capture to preservation has been further driven by the extensive availability of video capture technology (video cameras built into our phones and digital cameras). It comes through in the way that we rabidly try to capture as many moments as possible in video but so rarely look back at the videos we have taken. It seems that such clips are only viewed in moments of great grieve or after severe tragedy. Perhaps that is the best place for them. After all, if you have the real person, place or thing available to you, why would you want to settle with watching old videos of them.

It only takes a couple of times of trying to capture a breathtaking sunset, and being disappointed by the results, to realize that most of life is better enjoyed the first time. Instead of trying to preserve each moment, try to soak in the moment and only snap a picture or two.

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