Remember when phones were used to make phone calls and cameras were worthless without film?
Back then, there was a cost associated with every click of the shutter. Film had to be purchased, and exposures had to be processed. Back then, I budgeted one 24-roll of film for every day I was on vacation. I might well take 350 photos on an exotic two-week trips, and since few of the photos were dupes — maybe only if it was a group shot or very, very important — I’d throw out the bad ones and voila! That would be my photo collection. And as serendipity would have it, 50 sheets in an album (100 pages) with three photos per page meant that I could keep around 300 photos in the album.
I purchased my first digital camera in 2005, just before our first trip to Guatemala. At first, like everyone else, I took pix similarly to the way I had with a film camera. Then slowly, the realization that snapping the shutter was “free” changed my habits: Photos could be reshot, two, three, four times to get just the right expression or as many times as needed until no one had stepped into the frame. Even so, I typically deleted the extra photos from the memory card. After all — shutter-snapping might be free, but it still cost to process the results.
And as a result, I pretty much kept to my previous, two-dozen-photos a day limit. When I planned to spend a month in the Philippines, I thought about the limits of my memory card, then about 1100 photos. No problem! I thought, 30 days times 24 or so photos a day is well within my limit. Besides, I could still only get approximately 300 photos in an album, so why overdue it?
Then in 2013, I began making my albums on Shutterfly.
Now, I’m certainly not here to promote a commercial website. But Shutterfly provides the freedom to get rid of that static, 4×6 size frame for every photo. I find creating albums on the site both more satisfying and the results more creative than the old photo albums. Meanwhile, memory cards have greatly expanded; my current one can hold a basically unlimited number of still shots.
As a result, I want it all. I find myself completely unfettered from the old 24-photo budget. There’s no cost to take photos, there’s no storage limit; the world is in my shutter! Take the pix, take it again with Frank, take it again as a vertical instead of a horizontal. And why delete the extras? After all, it might be better to wait to edit the results on the computer screen instead of relying on the camera’s small finder. Plus, with Shutterfly, you never know, Best to take a picture of a design or mosaic or a shadow — might be a good background photo to use in the album. And so it goes.
The result is that on our recent two-week trip to Southeast Asia, I snapped the shutter about 1500 times (an average of over 100 photos per day, or four times what I was taking just a few years ago) and brought home more than 900 pix on the memory stick.
But one thing has remained static: The number of photos I can put in an album. Interestingly, the largest Shutterfly albums have 110 pages, and I have counted: I still get just around 300 photos per album. True, I can now run a single photo across the spread, but invariably, I will also create pages with numerous small photos. Based on the past six or so photo albums I have created on the site, 300 seems to be my upper limit.
Now, all this suggests that the photos in photo albums should be getting better. With more opportunity to retake and retake and edit out the bad photos, overall results should improve. We should be drastically purging — but based on too many online albums, I think we are not.
So here’s the deal: The next time you plan to put six photos on FB, select the best three instead. The next time you share your album, cut your photos by about one-half before you hit the “send” key. Yes, it will hurt to leave out the photo with that special expression on Aunt Matilda’s face, but you know what? your online friends don’t know Aunt Matilda, so it won’t make any difference to them whatsoever. And the more ruthlessly you edit, the more people will complement you on the quality of the photos that remain.