Everyone’s a photographer these days… just not a very good one

Cameraphones have made it all too easy to snap away. But, says Marc McLaren, have we lost sight of why we’re bothering?

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean there’s an enormous ball of plastic known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s been there for years, proof of humankind’s ability to ruin beauty through lack of care.

Another one is forming right now on the internet. And it’s made of pointless photos. Alright, so obviously there’s not really a ball of photos floating somewhere in cyberspace. But it’s undeniable that we take too many pictures these days.

Here are some figures: more than 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook each day; Instagram gets 27,800 pictures a minute; in total, one analyst reckons, we now upload and share 1.8 billion images each day.

Just think about those numbers for a minute. Nearly 2 billion photos. A day. Every day.

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Here are some more figures I have made up to illustrate my point: in the time it’s taken you to read this sentence, the average person has taken six photos of their cat and three of their breakfast. Eleven of those nine photos have retro filters that do nothing to improve the value of the shot. Four of them are too dark for anyone to see what’s going on, one has a finger half over the lens, eight are a bit blurry and 108 of them will later be uploaded to various social media channels where all, except those people who feel the need to comment on everything even if they have nothing to say, will roundly ignore them.

It’s all too easy

Then digital came along and made us lazy. The ability to review and delete unwanted pictures meant we all started hammering the shutter button with crazy abandon with the attitude that for every 10 shots at least one would probably be half decent. On its own, that’s not a problem – reviewing and filtering your photos does leave you with a good quality crop overall.

But combine it with a) the internet b) the exponential growth in storage space (and associated fall in its cost) and c) social media and you have a recipe for if not disaster then… a lot of rubbish.

Smartphones have obviously brought all of this to a head. It’s now so easy to both take photos and share them that we all do it without thinking. It’s as if we’ve collectively decided that the world only becomes real when preserved for ever in a 4MP JPEG. OK, so quantum mechanics dictates that everything exists in a fuzzy, undefined state until viewed by an observer but there’s no reason for us to behave as if any of that makes sense in the real world.