Snapshot restraint - edit, edit, edit

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Alan Browne, May 5, 2005.

  1. Alan Browne

    Alan Browne Guest

    May 5, 2005
    Stop Them Before They Shoot Again

    THE baby pictures just kept coming. At least once a month Suzanne Weber
    opened her e-mail to find the same friend had sent a link to as many as
    50 pictures, often including multiple shots of the same child at the
    same moment at slightly different angles. Finally Ms. Weber, who enjoys
    the occasional digital baby snapshot as much as anyone, stopped
    responding, and the friend, taking the hint, stopped sending.

    Ms. Weber's e-mail, however, is by no means picture-free. Like many
    regular Internet users, she estimates that she will view more than 1,000
    (why stop? it's free) digital pictures this year of friends, family and
    their assorted offspring. And she has some unequivocal advice for
    snap-happy e-mail correspondents everywhere.

    "Edit your pictures, people," said Ms. Weber, a writer in Brooklyn whose
    pen name is Anita Liberty. She suggests no more than three pictures by
    e-mail, no more than 12 to an online "album," no albums more than twice
    a year. (Exceptions may apply for grandparents and best friends.)

    Ms. Weber is not alone in her plea for restraint. At a time when this
    country is indulging in an unparalleled binge of personal picture
    taking, and some digital photographers find themselves drowning in the
    product of their enthusiasm, the notion is dawning that even in a
    digital realm less may still be more.

    Some critics warn that a great photograph's singular power to trigger
    memory may be at risk. For many people a photograph they have seen a
    thousand times itself becomes the memory. With digital pictures it is
    rare for a single photograph to achieve that kind of status.

    "When you have hundreds of pictures where you used to have one, people
    are less likely to ever go back to look at any of them," said Nancy Van
    House, a professor in the school of information management and systems
    at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the social use of
    photography. "A lot of people are getting to the point in their digital
    photography now where it's becoming a problem."

    Tinamarie Fronsdale, who is the keeper of her extended family's photo
    albums, shot more than 300 pictures after getting her first digital
    camera last year. She saved some on CD's and printed others. But she has
    not used the camera in months.

    "It's too much," said Ms. Fronsdale, 47, a special education teacher in
    Berkeley. "Looking back at our family pictures from our childhood, I see
    it isn't important to have so many pictures. We do not need to record
    every moment."

    The idea of passing on hundreds of CD's filled with pictures to her
    nephews was wholly unappealing, Ms. Fronsdale said, when she realized
    they would never casually pull them out the way she did with an
    old-fashioned photo album when she and her mother were recently
    reminiscing about a family friend.

    AMERICA'S amateur photographers produced 28 billion digital pictures
    last year, 6 billion more than they shot on film, even though only half
    as many own a digital camera, according to the market research firm
    InfoTrends. That does not count pictures deleted before being printed or
    transferred for storage.

    People are not just switching formats. They are taking more pictures, 13
    billion more last year on film and digital combined than in 2000, when
    the price of digital cameras began to decline. The number of albums
    compiled using Kodak's popular Ofoto software (now called EasyShare
    Gallery) jumped nearly 90 percent in 2004.

    In an era when no moment passes that is not a photo opportunity, pet
    owners compile vast photo archives of their cats and dogs, teenagers
    wielding cellphone cameras take pictures of one another to fight
    boredom, and it is not uncommon to receive dozens of pictures
    documenting a baby's first few hours of life.

    Many new photographers - and the newly prolific - extol a new category
    they call ephemera. It might include a picture of an interesting glove
    on the sidewalk. Seen through the lens of a camera that never requires
    its owner to pay for film, the mundane takes on new meaning.

    The digital shooting spree is only expected to accelerate as a growing
    number of camera-phone shutterbugs join the ranks of those reveling in
    pictures immediately available and easily shared. Many digital picture
    enthusiasts say the medium has taken on a new currency as a running
    document of everyday life. Others say that even if they never look at a
    picture, just the experience of taking it engages them with a scene in a
    more interesting way.

    Most people save all of their pictures, no matter how blurry or
    unremarkable. Many store them with the file names automatically assigned
    by their cameras, like "DSC31.jpg." Others develop complex
    classification to take the place of shoeboxes or an envelope with "Grand
    Canyon, 2003" scrawled across it.

    Van Swearingen, an avid gar-dener in Greenwich Village, has sorted the
    6,000 flower pictures he has amassed in three years into seasonal
    subfolders on his computer. Within them are folders labeled with the
    date and within those are other folders of the pictures he has cropped
    and color-corrected to his liking.

    But when he was looking for a particular image of a lotus the other day,
    it took him half an hour sifting through computer files. And the
    hundreds of pictures he exchanges daily with other garden hobbyists has
    made him look at his own with a jaundiced eye.

    "The constant stream of images somewhat cheapens the medium for me," Mr.
    Swearingen, 43, said. "It becomes almost too immediate."

    It is partly the pleasure of that immediacy that propels people to take
    all those pictures. Many digital photographers, including Mr.
    Swearingen, describe the immediate gratification as addictive.

    But Jim Lewis, a novelist who wrote an opinion article for Wired
    magazine titled "Memory Overload," suggests it is the hollowness of the
    gratification that fuels the addiction.

    "You take the picture to capture the memory of being there, but if you
    take the picture, you aren't really there," Mr. Lewis said by telephone.
    "You're trying to satisfy a hunger which is actually being created by
    the activity."

    In his article Mr. Lewis compared mushrooming digital photography to a
    map of the world that grows in detail "until every point in reality has
    a counterpoint on paper, the twist being that such a map is at once
    ideally accurate and entirely useless, since it's the same size as the
    thing it's meant to represent."

    MICHAEL KUKER, 31, does not see a problem with that. He has deposited
    9,946 images on his hard drive since buying a digital camera two years
    ago. The no-risk nature of the technology, he said, has emboldened him
    to express himself. He shot 200 pictures of a bridge in Redding, Calif.,
    and saved them all.

    "Once it hits my computer, it stays, even if I don't like it," Mr. Kuker
    said. "In a historical context, 20 to 30 years down the road, someone
    else might find it interesting."

    Or even tomorrow. Like many protophotographers, Mr. Kuker has been
    inspired to take more pictures to attract an audience online. He is a
    member of Flickr, a photography Web site (, where half a
    million people have plunked 8.2 million pictures since it opened for
    business last summer.

    Caterina Fake, Flickr's founder, argues that people just have to get
    used to a new way of interacting with photographs. The digital deluge
    may make it harder for single images to stand out of the dense crowd,
    but it also offers greater intimacy with friends and family and a new
    means of communication among strangers.

    "The nature of photography now is it's in motion," said Ms. Fake. "It
    doesn't stop time anymore, and maybe that's a loss. But there's a kind
    of beauty to that, too."

    Adam Seifer, the founder of another photo-sharing site,,
    said the glut of pictures is a problem only when they are channeled to
    the wrong audience. Mr. Seifer, who takes a picture of every meal he
    eats, concedes that his mother-in-law might not be interested in those
    pictures. "It becomes sort of the new spam," he said.

    But Mr. Seifer's food log receives 15,000 visits a week from people who
    are apparently interested. If photographers save the baby pictures for
    their mothers-in-law, Mr. Seifer argues, and store the rest in a central
    location where others can choose to view them or not, no one would
    suffer from overload.

    Still, even in the enthusiast bastion of online photo sharers, there are
    signs of paring down.

    "I'm thinking of going on an image diet," Frederick Redden, 52, of
    Stuart, Fla., wrote on a Flickr discussion board. His plan to delete
    some of the 250 pictures he had put up, based on unpopularity, was met
    with cries of disapproval.

    One respondent wrote, "If I did that, I'd have to delete all of my
    Alan Browne, May 5, 2005
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  2. Hardly. The disk will crash, the computer will get obsolete and disposed
    without the files being transfered to a new one, the storage medium and its
    technology would change, old file format would get desupported with nothing
    to read your RAW image files etc etc etc.


    Dragan Cvetkovic,

    To be or not to be is true. G. Boole No it isn't. L. E. J. Brouwer

    !!! Sender/From address is bogus. Use reply-to one !!!
    Dragan Cvetkovic, May 5, 2005
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  3. Too true. I was commenting on this to someone just the other day. I've
    been taking lots of photos and then having trouble culling them down to
    something reasonable. I thought it was just a newbie experience.

    I try to take enough shots to cover my deficiency while I'm learning,
    more so with the candids than with static scenes. I upload them to my
    computer; then, I make several passes. First I pull out the out of focus
    shots or those too badly exposed to recover. I pull out where the
    subject got badly clipped, or is in an unnatural position, etc. That's
    generally the easy part. Once I get to that point I have a lot of
    trouble weeding out the others. I almost feel guilty deleting photos of
    my little nieces & nephews, etc. Even in my best of the best (which
    isn't all that good) gallery, there are some perfect examples of the
    needless duplication that the author mentioned in the article.

    It's hard know what to keep. Some are obvious. A particularly warm smile
    or expression. A humorous pose. A landscape that appeals to you on more
    than a superficial level. It's the others that are hard to let go of.
    I'm not sure I trust my judgment yet on what I might like tomorrow.

    Randy W. Sims, May 5, 2005
  4. Alan Browne

    John Francis Guest

    John Francis, May 5, 2005
  5. Alan Browne

    Paul Furman Guest

    The way I handle it is to keep the best few pics in the top folder &
    make a 'seconds" folder, sometimes a 'thirds' folder. I do this for the
    online galleries too, otherwise it's way too tedious to pour through. I
    think it's very valuable to keep the seconds but essential to sort them!
    Paul Furman, May 5, 2005
  6. When I came back from my first trip with a camera and showed my
    parents about 200 pictures, they made their displeasure quite clear.
    They did me quite a favor; I haven't made that mistake again since.
    (Mom, on showing photos: "Use restraint." Me: "Good idea -- I
    hadn't thought of tying my audience down.")
    I'm a newbie at all this myself, but I have some strategies for
    editing, and maybe you'll find them helpful.

    1. Name your photos. I find that if I can't quickly describe a
    photograph in 1-5 words without thinking too hard, it generally
    lacks coherence and interest, and should be deleted.
    2. Think about what each photograph might be used for. Not every
    picture has to be great to be worth keeping, but if you can't
    even imagine it adding something to a family photo album, maybe
    it's junk.
    3. Review your old photos every so often. For me, as time passes,
    it becomes easier to let go of a picture.
    Ben Rosengart, May 5, 2005
  7. I just distinguish between audiences.

    For *myself* I keep virtually everything. I may toss images that are
    hopelessly out of focus, or unrecoverably mis-exposed, but I keep
    everything else. Storage is cheap. (And I have all of the film
    negatives I've ever shot since high school filed away in binders too).

    On the other hand, when selecting images to show *someone else*, I'll
    pick only a small number that show what I want to show, only one from a
    similar group of images, etc.

    Essentially, stuff to show someone else needs to be selected and
    organized, while what I keep is just a collection that doesn't need to
    be organized.

    Dave Martindale, May 5, 2005
  8. I don't think that is anything new. Most people's pictures are boring.

    Digital pictures that you get over the Internet has advantages and
    disadvantages compared to looking at somebody's photo album:
    - I think the main disadvantage is that there are just pictures without
    any context, whereas when somebody shows you an album, you can talk about
    - The advantage is that you don't have to look. Or you just look briefly
    when you have nothing else to do.
    There are never enough good pictures. Lots of bad pictures can be a problem
    Boxes filled with slides have to same problem.

    It is a nice selection of prints in an album that makes the difference.
    If you do the same thing in B/W and frame it properly, you can call it
    art :)
    Philip Homburg, May 5, 2005
  9. Alan Browne

    Ron Hunter Guest

    The best thing is that you don't have to worry about getting
    fingerprints on them, and the viewers can't get them out of order!

    I have seen pictures in B/W that I considered 'art', but I greatly
    prefer color!
    Ron Hunter, May 6, 2005
  10. Alan Browne

    Mr. Mark Guest

    Yeah, when I'm out with my digital camera, it's 'when in doubt, shoot',
    Yeah, I have noticed the difference in quite a dramatic way recently. I'm
    down to about 3 rolls of film in a day (1 or 2 color, 1 or 2 B&W). When I
    shoot digital it's often 300 to 400 photos a day. It makes digging through
    them a major pain in the butt. Also I see that my good to bad photo ratio
    is much better with film. Forcing me to use my mind more I suppose.


    Photos, Ideas & Opinions

    Mr. Mark, May 6, 2005
  11. Alan Browne

    Paul Rubin Guest

    I tend to shoot a lot of goof-off shots with my digicam (e.g. inside
    my room) that I just delete immediately. But other than that, as for
    snapshots, I use my S-100 about the same way that I used a film P/S
    Paul Rubin, May 6, 2005
  12. Alan Browne

    Patrick Guest

    Yeah, when I'm out with my digital camera, it's 'when in doubt, shoot',
    but when I'm out with my Fuji MF rangefinder, its' 'when I'm certain,

    Nothing in digital beats the excitement of an MF trannie on a light table.

    Still, it's digital for my bread and butter, medium format for personal

    Patrick, May 6, 2005
  13. On Fri, 06 May 2005 00:13:19 -0500, in , Ron Hunter

    This last weekend we were at an event in a hotel. For some reason this
    hotel has some large Avadon prints from _A Portfolio of Portraits_
    displayed. I was so humbled. Such simple photos: just a straight on
    shot of a (usually) well known face. Nothing fancy, but so powerful,
    so dramatic. Yeah, B/W can do wonders.

    Matt Silberstein

    All in all, if I could be any animal, I would want to be
    a duck or a goose. They can fly, walk, and swim. Plus,
    there there is a certain satisfaction knowing that at the
    end of your life you will taste good with an orange sauce
    or, in the case of a goose, a chestnut stuffing.
    Matt Silberstein, May 6, 2005
  14. I have heard the argument seriously made regarding coding tools. When
    you have to wait hours for a compile you make very sure your code is
    right. When you can compile after each change, you do scores a session
    and don't bother to think as deeply. I suspect that one method works
    for some and not others. I find that I get more good pictures when I
    am willing to shoot frequently, but I spend much more time shooting
    and less time enjoying.

    Matt Silberstein

    All in all, if I could be any animal, I would want to be
    a duck or a goose. They can fly, walk, and swim. Plus,
    there there is a certain satisfaction knowing that at the
    end of your life you will taste good with an orange sauce
    or, in the case of a goose, a chestnut stuffing.
    Matt Silberstein, May 6, 2005
  15. ["Followup-To:" header set to]

    Your kink is not my -- oh wait, I get it.
    Ben Rosengart, May 6, 2005
  16. Alan Browne

    Mr. Mark Guest

    I have heard the argument seriously made regarding coding tools. When
    In the second case you tend to let the compiler find your errors. After a
    few years your brain turns to complete mush. In the good ol' days I could
    start the compile, walk over the to coffee machine and fill my cup, walk
    down the hall and take the elevator 9 floors, walk outside, have 2
    cigarettes, and back track to my office. If there was an error in my code I
    could repeat. Frankly the incentive was to leave broken code so more cigs
    and coffee could be consumed. :)


    Photos, Ideas & Opinions

    Mr. Mark, May 6, 2005
  17. Alan Browne

    Alan Browne Guest

    We had a product that went from a legacy machine to an upgraded similar
    architecture. This improved assemble+link time from over 1 hour to 15
    minutes. Then that line of hp minis went "Y2K non-compliant", so we had
    an engineer write a x-asssembler on PC. 70,000 lines assembled and
    linked in 10 seconds.

    No fun anymore. Used to stir coffee by putting it on top of the mini
    and letting the disk drives shake and mix it...
    Alan Browne, May 6, 2005
  18. : Yeah, I have noticed the difference in quite a dramatic way recently. I'm
    : down to about 3 rolls of film in a day (1 or 2 color, 1 or 2 B&W). When I
    : shoot digital it's often 300 to 400 photos a day. It makes digging through
    : them a major pain in the butt. Also I see that my good to bad photo ratio
    : is much better with film. Forcing me to use my mind more I suppose.

    I find that I do take more photos in digi than on film. But I also get
    many more "good" photos because of this. I used to miss many photos
    because I had that internal debate of "is this worth the cost of the film,
    processing, printing just to see if it might turn out". Now with digital,
    I don't have that debate. If there is something that catches my eye I
    shoot it. If the on camera review shows it is useless, it is immediately
    deleted. If a review later on my computer shows it just didn't work,
    delete. But due to being more willing to take chances on a maybe I end up
    with more good images that I would not have attempted before.

    One other concideration. I rarely shoot in multiples of 12 (24, 36, etc)
    and so I was always trying to finish off a roll or trying to decide if it
    is worth loading a new roll for one more shot. But with digital I can
    shoot 1 or 100 shots with equal ease. No more finishing off a roll.


    Randy Berbaum
    Champaign, IL
    Randy Berbaum, May 7, 2005
  19. Alan Browne

    Musty Guest

    Not everyone is doing this ofcourse. My "exposure" to photography started in
    the digital form. From my last overseas trip, I shared 14 shots from a 3
    week period (and I was shooting daily). I think that people will begin to
    slow down (even those that dont take the time to learn how to shoot through
    books and/or classes). If people went and learned the basics of exposure and
    composition, they would take less shots, think about their shots and take
    better shots ofcourse. The best thing we can do is proliferate the idea of
    quality vs quantity (for example, I will often point people to read a book
    or a web-site).
    Musty, May 7, 2005
  20. Alan Browne

    Frank ess Guest

    On the other hand, if you have recorded a unique experience there may
    be details in some of the photos that are of considerable importance
    to one group or another or individual enthusiasts, fans, scientists,
    or hobbyists. What would have happened to many of the pictures in this
    bunch, if the photographer had saved just those of interest to him (as
    a Panavision crewman)? Very rare candid views of John Frankenheimer
    and Maurice Jarré, among who-knows-what-others, lost for eternity ...
    Frank ess, May 7, 2005
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