Why I love digital photography

I was poking around in my Aperture library after importing the latest batch of game photos from Evan’s U5 soccer team today, and I realized that I’ve kept 2345 photos so far this year (on pace to keep well over 6000 in 2007). At the average ratio of keeps-per-deletes, that means I’ve shot well over 10,000 photos so far this year – and the year’s not even half over yet – I might conceivably shoot over 30K photos in 2007.

Prompted by this realization, I wondered about what trend might be shown in the number of photographs I’ve kept over the last few years. I mined my Aperture library for the numbers, and threw them into Keynote to make a pretty graph. It’s pretty obvious what happened when I switched from film to digital.

Photographs kept per year, as of 2007

As soon as I stopped worrying about film (what ASA is in the camera? how many shots left? how much is this going to cost me?) the number of photos I took shot up exponentially. It’s a little depressing to think of the awesome shots I missed out on from our wedding and honeymoon back in 1997, and the vacations and family stuff before the switch to digital. Even the first digital camera, although very low quality by 2007 standards, was a boon because it meant I could experiment and take more photos.

With that said, I’ve had my Canon EOS XT for almost a year now (got it for Father’s Day 2006) and am still having a blast with it. I’d be willing to bet that this graph will begin to plateau. It’s not feasible to be taking too many more photos while maintaining a day job and still seeing the family…

The last time I got all retrospective about my photographing habits was back in November 2006, when I realized that the number of “starred” images per month was rising dramatically, hinting that I’m becoming more happy with the shots I’m taking, or that I’m perceiving that I’m taking better photos, or that I’m taking so many more photos that I can delete most and be left with only good stuff.

Update: I added an estimated value for photos taken per year, as well as the number of photos “starred” per year and regenerated the graph.

Photographs taken, kept and starred per year, as of 2007

4 thoughts on “Why I love digital photography”

  1. I love this graph. You’re a nut! The folks who spend their time graphing the amount of photos they take over a ten year period, are exactly the people I want to be hanging out with. Particular passions alternatively represented (PPAR). None of this to circumvent the excellent point you are making about digital photography and the rise in experimentation for the “average photographer” (is 10,000 shots a year average?). Moreover, what do such numbers and the ability to experiment do to the amateur/professional divide? Does this divide still exist as sharply? -seems like KK+ at NV was mildly suggesting it as a problematic.

  2. I view the amateur/professional divide as more of an issue of opportunity. Pros get people to pay for them to go places and shoot stuff. Us amateurs get to shoot what we want, when we want.

    I went through a spell where I really wanted to be a pro photographer, but I think in many ways that might be really limiting. You have to shoot what other people tell you to. Unless you’re really lucky (Franz Lanting, etc…) and get funding to shoot what you want.

    I’m not sure what it means for pro/am distinctions, but as an amateur I can take this many photos with little effort, and wind up with a fair number of photos that I’m really happy with – something that wasn’t possible a few years ago.

    What does this imply for other vectors of mass amateurization? Not long ago, you needed to buy a multi-million-dollar printing press to run a newspaper. Now, you just need a Dreamhost account and a copy of MediaWiki or WordPress. You needed to license radio spectrum and buy licenses to broadcast radio shows. Now, you just need WordPress and a Dreamhost account. Heck, you don’t even need your own servers – there are free hosted services that are more than adequate to outreach what was only possible with conventional means less than a decade ago.

  3. I read somewhere that it takes 50,000 photos to get “really good” so maybe that’s why you’re becoming happier with your images. I’ve found with my photography I’ve having to buy more and more external hard drives to hold all the photos I take. I can’t seem to throw any away knowing that as techniques advance, I might be able to salvage some throw away photos down the road.

    It’s crazy!

    cool to graph it out, though. I wonder how many photos I’ve taken over the last several years….

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