We’ve all seen “Hoarders“.  Even if you won’t admit it to your friends, there’s a good chance that it’s your dirty little secret.  We all love watching these types of shows.  Some may argue that they make us feel better about our own little quirks.  There’s one kind of hoarding, however, that affects more people than you may realize.  Digital hoarding.  What do I mean?  I’m talking about the obsessive need for “all the digital files”.  Let’s discuss a little more in depth.

One of the most common questions when hiring a wedding photographer (or a family photographer, newborn photographer… basically, well, any kind of photographer) is “Can we have all the files?”

The vast, vast majority of photographers will then explain the culling process.  If you’re not familiar with what photo culling is, it’s when a photographer goes through images and puts aside the ones that are either test shots, blurry, unnecessary duplicates, images that were photobombed, images where the client is making a weird face or that just don’t meet the bar in terms of quality.  These are, essentially, useless images.

“But…. can I have those too?” asks the client.

To which my response is “Why?  They are basically useless images.”

“I just want them.” replies the client.

And there we have it – a classic case of digital hoarding.  People that want digital images that aren’t of any value simply because “they want them”.

There’s no arguing the fact that images are much more readily accessible to people than they were even 10 years ago.  I bet if you looked at your camera roll right now there are several thousand photos (and if you’re anything like me, they’re mostly of your cat)… but have you ever thought about how much time it takes to look at even a thousand photos?  Do you ever actually go through those photos?  When’s the last time you sat down to look at your 3,000+ camera roll photos?

You probably never have.  That’s because we have a tendency to collect pictures now, rather than making them a part of our lives.

Even if you looked at a photo for only 2 seconds, it would still take over 30 minutes to look at 1,000 photos.

You’d be speeding through them; not taking anything in, not allowing the photograph to bring you back to that place and time, not giving yourself the opportunity to recall stories about that image or to reflect on that day.  You’d just be looking through images like a robot.  NEXT! *look* NEXT! *look* NEXT!!!

Why do we feel the need to have a certain quantity of photos rather than appreciating the quality of photos?  Is it because photography (in all shapes and forms) is to readily available now?  As the ability to capture a memory has become more accessible, has the value of said memory decreased?

Digital Horading: My take on wedding photos

I believe that quality trumps quantity.  I think 1 carefully crafted and expertly executed photograph can tell a better story than 30 images shot without intention.  We provide a significant amount of images to our clients (a good average is about 700-800 for a full day wedding at the time of writing this article) and our clients often report back to us that it took them hours to go through their gallery because each images meant something special to them and had a unique story attached to it.  Yes, I’ve been asked during consults why I won’t provide 2,000 photos or “all the ones that aren’t good enough” and the answer is simple: my personal belief is that you don’t need an image that doesn’t tell a story and that doesn’t create at least a small amount of emotion in you.  Wedding photos are not Pokémon; you don’t need to collect them all.  It’s not a game.

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Digital Hoarding: My take on every-day life photos

I’m a photographer… but I also put down my camera.  I put down my phone.  I enjoy my life and participate in the making of my memories and not just documenting a life that I’m not a truly active participant in.  Yes, my kid will grow up with some pretty cute professional pictures of him but he’s also going to grow up with a mom who was actively engaging with him and not observing his life through a viewfinder.  He’s only 6 months old at the time of writing this article and I know there are moment I “missed” because I didn’t have my camera – but I was there to participate in those moments and I’ll have those memories forever.  I’d much rather have a handful of great pics then to have thousands of mediocre ones and not be participating in his life because I’m too busy taking pictures.  I want my photos to remind me of moment, to remind me of stories.

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So what’s your take on the concept of digital hoarding?  Do you think there’s more value in having a couple hundred beautifully created images or thousands of images shot without intention?  If you’re a photographer, what’s your approach in your personal life?  Do you shoot and store thousands on your camera roll and not do anything with them?  Or do you print albums of your faves?  I’d love to see who shared my opinion but I’d love to learn about what others think too!  Leave a comment below – let’s have a conversation!