Saturday, July 4, 2009

Photo Sharing

Online photo sharing is one of those novelties of modern life I think many of us take for granted. I was just going through pictures from my brother-in-law John's recent trip to Holland and Italy (there are some great shots there, John, by the way) and it got me thinking about my picture taking experiences in Europe back in 2001. I was on the continent for three and a half weeks, starting in Copenhagen, Denmark, making stops in Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, and Seville, ending finally in Grenada, Spain, taking the continent from top to bottom.

Needless to say I took a ton of pictures. I thought. By my standards of the day, using an old film-based SLR. I probably shot 16 or 17 rolls of film, which was all I could afford. At 24 exposures per roll I guess I shot somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 pictures. A gargantuan amount for me at the time, pitiful by digital standards. For comparison, Kate and I recently spent a week in Sedona, Arizona, and we easily shot five times as many pictures in less than a third of the time.

But at the time 400 pictures was a lot. There was the initial film costs to consider and then the developing, which, for 400 pictures was a lot more than I wanted to spend. I bought a couple physical albums as well, and spent days organizing my prints, placing and labeling them in the albums to save from forgetting names and places. That way I'd both have the photos for years and would be able to easily (again, easy by the standards of the day) share my photos with friends and family.

What a lengthy, arduous process! Which is why I say that online photo sharing is a real boon to shutterbugs everywhere. The difference in process is like night and day, and it's fascinating how, in probably less than five or six years, photography has radically shifted.

Now Kate and I, and the rest of the free world, take thousands of free pictures with our digital cameras, no developing required, and with a few simple keystrokes upload them so that everyone we know can see them, share them with other friends, and get prints made for themselves if they wanted. Imagine what I would have had to do eight years ago to get a print made for a friend: Take my albums to them, let them pick out the image they wanted, find the negatives, take them to a photo shop, get the print made, pick it up, and then either mail it or hand deliver the final image. Lots of steps. Lots of time. Needless to say I'm the only one that has copies of my Europe pictures.

But already multiple people have images from our Arizona trip. Most were gifts from us, but one or two ordered them from our online share site. I think that's so cool. Even the gift prints were easier to procure than they've ever been. Log on, pick the shots, order the sizes. Done. What's great about digital photography is the magic of waste. With nearly limitless potential for free shots, you can snap away with abandon. The more pictures you take, the more likely you'll wind up with some really nice shots, some of which you might not have taken if you were rationing film-based pictures, like I did in Europe. And then, unlike with film, at least consumer film, you can "develop" only the images you really want, instead of the entire roll.

And then share them as far and as wide as possible. There can never be too much good photography in the world.

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