The digital age we’re now living in has changed our ideas of ownership and copyright. For better or worse. It’s also changed the way we do various things. In the field of photography moving to digital formats has made a huge difference. Most of it positive. However, there is one aspect of the switch that may not be so positive, and could in fact come back to haunt many of us in years to come.
As you may have guessed from the title I’m referencing the ease with which we delete photographs now that most of us are shooting images with digital cameras or smartphones. Whether we delete them at the time of shooting, immediately dismissing them because they didn’t quite end up as we imagined, or at the end of the process, while reviewing them on a bigger screen and noticing the blemishes, closed eyes, or idiot in the background, it’s in your best interest to consider keeping every single photo you ever take, no matter how tempted you are to click Delete.
From Prints To Digital
Those of us over a certain age will remember a time when taking a photograph required far more work than it does now. For starters there was no such thing as smartphones, obviously, which meant you needed to own a dedicated camera. Secondly, photos were shot on film, so you’d have to load one in to your camera before you even started.
That’s when the fun really began, because films would generally hold between 24 and 36 exposures. This meant you couldn’t click away madly, or you’d soon fill up a film and have to load a new one. Once a film was full of exposures you’d then have to get the photos developed. Then, and only then, would you know how each shot had turned out. Unless you were using a Polaroid.
There was a certain thrill in this whole process that has now been lost thanks to the storage capacity of memory cards and the speed and ease with which we can review the shots that were recently taken. But just because you can delete images without a moment’s hesitation doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Because you never know what hidden gems you may be removing from your personal timeline.
Proof From My Childhood
The following photographs were all taken during my childhood, so we’re talking at least two decades ago. These are just a few examples chosen to demonstrate the point being made, which is that you should never delete dodgy digital photos, however tempting it may be.
My Beloved Cat
I’m not going to lie by trying to convince you that this is the only photo of my old cat in existence. Far from it. But the point here is that cats, and most other pets too, are with us for such short spaces of time that each and every photograph of them is valuable. And should therefore be treasured rather than trashed.
This photograph is truly terrible. It’s shot from a horrible angle, the cat cannot be seen clearly, and both my feet and the camera strap are in the shot. But I remember that day, when I followed the cat around the house taking pictures galore, annoying her in the process. And every single photo taken that day 25 years ago is precious to me.
A Family Day Out
There were several photographs taken on this family day out attended by me, my mum, and various aunts, uncles, and cousins. Some good, some bad. but the ones which I would dismiss as being dull were they being taken now are the ones which I cherish the most looking back.
This photograph is really rather poor. It’s blurry and out of focus, there’s a random person encroaching on the right-hand side of the shot, and I have my tongue sticking out of my mouth as a direct result of demonstrating my obvious athletic prowess. But of the moments from that day captured on film, this is one I remember well. Probably because it’s the last time I did anything remotely physical.
Just Me, Chilling
That’s just me, chilling in my parents’ front room. Because that’s how I roll. I have no point of reference for the timing of this photo, but it stands out because of what’s going on all around me. Seeing the pattern of the armchair brings back a wave of nostalgia, the book shoved down by my leg reminds me how early my love of words developed, and I’d almost entirely forgotten that I used to make up my own songs on the small keyboard you can see behind my bulbous head.
I don’t even know what that horrible streak is obscuring one whole corner of this photograph, but it’s enough to have ensured this shot would have been wiped from existence almost immediately had this been taken in 2005 rather than 1985.
You Call That A Computer?!
Ryan recently posted about why you never forget your first computer, and this photo shows me with what was my first computer. Technically the Atari 800XL pictured belonged to my father, but it was my brothers and I who could usually be found sat staring goggle-eyed at the screen for hours on end. Which is exactly what I still do now, two decades later. Just not with an Atari 800XL.
There are multiple things wrong with this photo: the strange splodge covering the tape deck, the graininess which suggests the camera wasn’t much cop, and the fact that the back half of my head has been sliced off. Taken in the present day this would have ended up in the trash bin, but I’m glad it didn’t. Mainly because it’s further proof of my geek credentials.
There is an obvious upside of digital photography that risks belittling my overarching point. Which is that we can now take hundreds or even thousands of photos of any animal, person, special occasion, family outing, or moment we please. In that context the odd deleted photo doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) hold so much significance.
However, it’s not likely to be the perfect photograph — with the right lighting, subject matter, and split-second timing — that will set you off on a nostalgic trawl through memories of yesteryear when you look back in a decade or two. Instead it’ll be the shots that didn’t quite work out the way you had planned, through blurring or a misplaced thumb. Believe me. Or at least believe the 10-year-old me grinning back at you from the 1980s.
As always the floor is now yours to do with as you please. Whether you agree or disagree with the sentiments expressed above let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. It is just an opinion after all.