Is social media the new family photo album?

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Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Following from yesterday’s blog about technological changes in how we consume products and media; I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to digital photography.

Photography is a passion of mine and one that I have only recently started to feel like I’m coming to grips with. I love photographing everything from architecture to animals to landscapes and everything in-between! However I am very aware that I owe this hobby to a relatively new technology… digital cameras. Without my dSLR I would be lost. I simply wouldn’t have the time nor patience to be a photographer in the pre-digital world. When I was younger I did like the concept of photography but after a few attempts (and many disappointing trips back from the developers) my passion never fully materialised until digital cameras made an appearance…

…here was a camera that could show me exactly what I had taken, instantly! Not only that but I could take as many photos as I wanted and it didn’t cost me any more! I could also delete my mistakes to free up more space rather than simply running out of film! When I had finished my shoot I could upload my photos to my computer and see them immediately!

I guess this all comes back to the concept I mentioned in yesterday’s blog postconvenience!

In comparison to film cameras, digital cameras are:

  • Cheaper to ‘run’ – no film or developing costs.
  • Instantaneous – no more guessing whether you have successfully captured a shot or waiting impatiently for the photos to be developed.
  • Able to take more photos – no more running out of film on a shoot. Mega size memory cards ensure we can take hundreds of photos without running out of storage space.
  • Convenient – not only in terms of all of the above but also in relation to ease of access. Although dSLRs can be quite bulky, simple point and click cameras can be easily stashed in a pocket and not to forget that many of us now have a smartphone with an inbuilt camera – handy in scenarios where you would not usually have a camera to hand!
  • Less wasteful – no more wasted film and printing on out of focus shots (or that ‘portrait’ of aunty mildred’s feet).

In addition, digital photos are:

  • Easier to process – we can edit and post-process our own photos with ease.
  • Easy to share – as we will upload our photos onto our computer to view them, sharing them with others is a walk in the park!
  • Easier to store and backup – we can easily archive our photo albums on our computers, on hard-drives or in ‘the cloud’ – making storage and safe-keeping a lot easier.
  • Easier to find – when we are looking for a particular photo we can often search via a keyword using the photography software of our choice and locate all relevant photos within seconds. Much easier than looking through a million old photo albums!

Recently I started thinking about the ways that digital photography may be changing how we use and interact with our photographs. What is it about photography which has changed since the pre-digital days?

  • Reduced use of physical photographs: It struck me that we appear to be recording more memories than ever but keeping them locked away on a hard-drive instead of displaying them on our walls. How many of us actually print off our digital photographs (whether we choose to do this ourselves or have the photos professionally printed)? On average, do you tend to display your photographs in a physical non-digital form? I am aware that apart from the occasional photograph, usually something meaningful or a shot that I am particularly proud of, I do not tend to have my photos printed. Perhaps you went for the middle-ground and opted for a digital photoframe? (unfortunately, for me the thought of having my photos displayed on a screen in my home does not have the same appeal as a traditional framed photo).
  • This led me to thinking about changes in the way that we display our photos: if we are not printing and displaying our photos in our homes, what exactly are we doing with them? My initial thoughts are that we have changed to displaying our photos virtually, e.g., on social networking sites such as Facebook or photo-sharing websites such as Flickr. Is social media the new family photo album? The social media wall our new livingroom wall?
  • Following on from the above, is this linked to changes in the audience of our photos? Displaying our photos virtually may indicate changes in the audience and the privacy of our photos. For example, when everyone relied on film cameras, photographs were generally displayed in frames or inside photo albums only to be dragged out when close friends or family came to visit. Such as digging out those embarrassing baby photos when your son brings his new girlfriend for tea. However, now we are displaying our photos on the internet and through social media, the potential audience for our photos is much bigger and more public.
  • Does this suggest that there may be some changes to the purpose of our photographs? If we display our photos on social media for instance, is this for our benefit or for others? Or, as I suspect, a combination of the two?
  • Furthermore, these changes mean that our photos have gone interactive! Social media now allows other users to comment upon or at least ‘like’ the photos that we share. Some may even decide to share them with other people that they know.

These are simply observations that I found interesting and which provide points to ponder over… I have no reason nor ulterior motive for asking these questions, nor am I suggesting which is the best way to display, share or interact with our photographs. I just feel that this is another area where technology has had some profound effects, and as in my previous post, we do not always recognise these changes as they happen!

Everyone has their own opinion on the anti-digital vs pro-digital debate; there are die-hard fans of the film camera, whereas others embrace everything digital with open arms. Then there are those inbetween who are happy to see how things go but do not feel strongly one way or the other. For me personally, I love my digital cameras and the advantages they bring. I love not having to wait on the film being developed before I can see the product of my efforts, and I love being able to do my own post-processing on my images. I love being able to share memories of my days out with friends, add an image to a review (a picture says a thousand words) or share a photograph with likeminded others.

From a social perspective, how nice is it to be talking to someone at work/university/on the train and mid-conversation be able to say “actually I have a photo” and within seconds be able to display the photo on your smartphone? Or to actually have a camera to hand when an unexpected photo opportunity arises? Ok, so my iPhone isn’t the same as my dSLR but I would rather capture a memorable moment on my iPhone than miss it completely!

On that note, it seems fitting to end with some random photos from my digital collection. I would love to see some of your photography – please feel free to share 🙂

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A patriotic meerkat during the Queen’s Jubilee!

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Snowdrops in spring

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The Olympic Torch 2012

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The Circus, Bath UK

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The beautiful Cheddar Gorge

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One of the reflection pools inside the stunning Cheddar Gorge caves

 

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6 responses to “Is social media the new family photo album?

  1. Dawn, I, too, love my dSLR and the convenience of it all, but I must admit I miss browsing through an album or a box of photos. There is something very bonding about sitting with children who have spotted an interesting place or face in a paper photo and want the story that comes with it. Doesn’t feel as cosy with a laptop.
    I must add how amazing you are with your camera!! Congrats!

    • I agree Agnes, there is definitely not the same cosiness about sitting with a laptop on your knee! Good old fashioned printed photos just have a certain charm about them, don’t they?

      Thank you for your compliments, I found the intial learning curve of working a dSLR a steep one, but I feel like I’m finally starting to come out of the other side… although very much still learning every day!

  2. These are truly beautiful pictures Dawn! I have a digital camera, but I only pull it out for events; I don’t take pictures for fun. I do think digital cameras have made it easier and much more fun to take pictures. Most of my pictures are on a hard drive, rather than on my wall, and I didn’t really think about it until you brought it up. I guess I’ll have to change that.

    • Thank you Keri 🙂 I’m only recently learning how to actually work the SLR correctly. Must admit I had it a good few years before I put in the time and effort to get my head around it!

      Nice to hear that I may have motivated you to display some of your photos!

  3. I think in perhaps 10 years or so all that will be left with be the dlsr camera’s. I saw a camera the other day that is a super advanced dlser and uploads straight to email or social media… I think that will be the way forward.. but automation also has it faults.

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