To Snap or Not to Snap?

There are 25,766 photos in my digital photo library. On seeing that number recently, I longed for the days of film cameras with 24- and 36-roll clips of film. Back then, if you wanted to take a picture, you needed to make sure it was worth one of those 24 exposures. Now, it seems, I often have dozens of shots of the same scene, each taken milliseconds after the one before it, so similar that only a computer could detect the differences. And why bother deleting them? It’s not like they are taking up space in album somewhere, accumulating dust and wrinkling at the corners.

For the last several years, I have deliberately cut back on the pictures I take. Having a digital camera (as part of my phone) everywhere I go was a novelty at first, but I realized after the first ten or fifteen thousand photos that I could either be an observer or a participant. Others may balance these roles better than I can. I found when I took photos, I didn’t feel like a participant in the event. I didn’t remember the event as well. I wasn’t present in the moment, or to use the phrase of the day, I wasn’t mindful.

Back when photos came in batches of 24 or 36, it was was relatively easy to curate them. I took no time to flip through 24 photos and pick out the ones that were worth keeping, or sticking in a photo album. With nearly 26,000 photos that is nearly impossible. I did the math–that number averages out to about 6 photos a day, every day for the last 13 years.

The cost of the film alone would have made me much more selective about my photos. I checked and a 4-pack of 24-exposure film costs about $35. That’s about $0.36 per photo. It costs around $5 to develop a roll of that film, so call it another $0.21/photo. That’s $0.57 per photo. Looking at the 25,766 photos in my library, it would have cost me around $15,256 if those photos had been on film instead of digital. There’s no way I would have taken even a tenth of those photos if it cost me that much money.

Also, I’m not big a photo browser. I generally don’t go back and look at old photos unprompted. I’ll do it if the kids ask me to show them something, or if a specific need comes up, or if I am reminded of something. But with so many photos in such disorganized jumble of bits and bytes, it can be hard to find the specific photo I am looking for.

Thinking about all of this, I think I made the right decision to cut back on how many photos I take. I’d rather enjoy the moment and remember it (and maybe write about it later) than have a hundred photos that I won’t likely look at again. Also, there are usually half a dozen other people taking the same photo, so it’s around somewhere if I wanted it

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the snaps and flashes of outrageous snapchatters, or take pen in hand and scribble what I remember and enjoy the moment, I think I’ll enjoy the moment.


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