Sunday, 11 August 2013

Snap snap grin grin wink wink, say no more.

These days we're all taking photos left right and centre. Since digital photography took off and we no longer had to worry about processing costs or the capacity limitations of a 24 exposure film roll we've become a nation of prolific snappers.
But what becomes of all these pictures?
A great many get deleted straight away of course, either because they're crap or to make room on the memory card, but what of the rest?
If we discount professional photographers we're left with two or three distinct groups of individuals with their particular photographic tendencies.

There's the keen amateur photographer who aspires to be able to take fantastic pictures like the professionals, but doesn't have all the seriously expensive gear and a studio to make it happen. This is a generalisation of course, because some so-called professionals leave a lot to be desired and some amateurs manage to achieve fabulous results with modest equipment. With an understanding of aspects of photography such as aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, lighting and composition, a keen amateur will be well placed to take professional quality pictures that they can be proud of.

At the other end of the spectrum we find the 'Happy Snapper'. We all know someone like this, don't we? Usually distinguishable by the mobile phone in the hand being pointed at the least interesting subjects like a drunken friend pulling a silly face. The resulting images will most likely find their way on to a social networking website (read my little tirade on this subject here if you haven't already) for the consumption of other like-minded individuals. These pictures tend to lack any kind of thought towards composition, with the Happy Snapper in question too intent on 'capturing the moment' to worry about whether you'll be able to tell what the picture is actually of.

Not everyone falls into these categories and the vast majority probably own a reasonable compact camera that gets taken out to the odd wedding or holiday, and they take a little time to make sure the picture they take is one that they'll enjoy looking at and that can be shared with others without embarrassment at their own photographic inadequacy.

Whoever takes the pictures, and regardless of their artistic merit, the question is about what happens after they've been taken.
There's an astounding array of viewing methods for digital photographs from the home PC, through digital photo frames to a slideshow on a TV from a USB memory stick. But a lot of people still enjoy having a collection of physical photographs in an album that they can just leaf through when they fancy it. Not a bad idea as most people's attitude to electronic backups is lax in the extreme.
Back in the days of film cameras (yes I know many enthusiasts still prefer film to digital and I do understand the appeal) photo albums were the only choice apart from the odd individual who liked to have slides so they could bore unsuspecting visitors rigid with a slideshow of their latest holiday pictures.
People gained collections of albums that would take up huge amounts of bookshelf space, but rarely would the average person ever take them out to have a look through.

One of the benefits of digital photography is our increased ability to be selective about our photos. We don't mind hitting the delete button on a crappy image, whereas back in the days when we all had film cameras things were a little different. It might have taken a couple of months to fill up a roll of film, by which time we'd have forgotten what we'd taken pictures of. We'd send the film off for processing, wait in anticipation for the photos to arrive, and then been disappointed when less than half of them turned out to be any good. But, hands up - who still couldn't bring themselves to throw away the crap ones and still shoved them in the album with the rest? That's just it, it was harder to part with rubbish photos because of all the arse-ache you'd gone through to get them.
The other evening we went through a big box full of photos from the last thirty years or so, and despite having had a major cull a couple of years back, the amount of useless pictures was ridiculous. Some were so faded or blurry, anyone who didn't know would have trouble working out what they were of. The worst offenders were the ones taken on 110 or 126 format film - anyone under 40 probably doesn't remember these which were at the distinctly budget end of the camera market along with the best-forgotten 'disc' format which as I recall only held about 15 piss-poor quality pictures. And let's not forget the Polaroid - for many years the best friend of broad-minded couples everywhere who have no doubt been thankful no end for the digital camera revolution, know what I mean nudge nudge...

Regardless of any inconvenience factors though, most people will still enjoy having some of their photos printed. There's something far more satisfying about an actual photograph you can hold in your hand, in the same way that it's always nicer to have a CD than a download from iTunes.
In 1982, 'A Flock Of Seagulls' sang "If I had a photograph of you, something to remind me". Chances are, they did have one, but it was probably blurry, poorly lit, and stuffed in an overcrowded album and forgotten about, along with the rest of the pictures that should have been binned.

Kodak Disc. Seriously - what were they thinking?