I like taking pictures. Occasionally, I even take a good one, worthy of adorning a wall of an unlucky relative. I started taking pictures when I was a kid and I went through decades of progressing from completely manual cameras to the completely automatic gadgets with all the bells and whistles - autofocus, exposure, built-in flash and even image stabilization. Taking pictures became easy, although no camera on the market offers automatic composition yet, which is pretty much the most important feature of any photograph. But during all of these years, photography had one thing in common – it was relatively expensive and so we were very deliberate about when to press the shutter.
That changed with the advent of digital photography. All of a sudden, we can take pictures without having to pay for film, film development and prints. With flash cards being dirt cheap, we can keep taking pictures without worrying about the cost. We can take a picture of any scene under any conditions – just try it and when it does not turn out, who cares? Bracketing is no longer something only pros can do and action shots can be taken via a sequence every time. With enough pictures taken, even the greenest of amateurs will occasionally get lucky and score an awesome shot worth mounting on the wall. There is no downside, it seems. Or is there?
Well, as someone who’s been hanging around the enterprise content management industry for years, I see at least three problems - storage, liability, and usability:
1.Storage. Storage is cheap, right? Yes, that’s true, at least when it gets down to the cost of your flash card and the hard drive in your home PC. Enterprise IT departments might have a different view but even if you are not an enterprise, you ought to think about backup and recovery and that’s where storage costs add up quickly. What, you don’t have any backup for your pictures yet? Ouch!
2.Liability. Yes, liability is a big issue in the enterprise but increasingly, we come to realize that liability matters in our private lives too. Yes, those college party shots on Facebook might become a drag when applying for a job at a stodgy company. And how many pictures with previous girlfriends or boyfriends are out there? Embarrassed by your baby pictures? Just wait to hear what your kids will say one day! With the proliferation of recording devices, privacy has to be redefined.
3.Usability. Let’s face it. Having to look through 100 pictures of your relatives on vacation was pretty dreadful back then. Today, when you come back with thousands of pictures, who do you expect to look at them? How will you ever find that special moment when all of them are named IMG00043569.JPG? And how many of those pictures do you adjust using iPhoto or Photoshop? Wasn’t easy post-processing such as color adjustment or horizon straightening supposed to be a key benefit of digital photography?
Don’t get me wrong. Digital photography is absolutely awesome. It has changed my life with unprecedented benefits. But the seemingly free nature of digital photographs should not mislead us to think that snapping thousands of 12 MB shots has no consequences. The vast quantities of images taken contribute to content overflow which is one of our top challenges in the information age. And the low cost should be no excuse for snapping thousands of lame shots.
OK, I need to get going now. I have to cull my vacation pictures to get rid of any photographic garbage.