When Digital Snapshots Are Not Enough

The iPhone is the most popular camera on Flickr. I don’t just mean the most popular smartphone camera, but the most popular camera, and has been for some time. It is a testimony to how far we have come with optics and processing in miniature components for tiny devices primarily intended for something else besides taking photos. It also tells us how much our standards have changed when it comes to photography. No matter how good a smartphone’s camera is, it is still seriously lacking when held against the standard of a dedicated camera. But instead of getting dad a new camera for Christmas, we get him an iPad instead.

The result is that we are taking a lot more pictures. Unfortunately, we are taking fewer pictures worth saving and cherishing. There was a time when every picture was worth saving and cherishing. That is because it was a difficult, involved, and expensive process requiring unwieldy, specialized equipment. Getting a nice picture was something that the average person could not do by themselves. They had to hire someone to do it for them. The only way to experience that photo was to have it printed out and preserved in a frame suitable for hanging.

Eventually, cameras got a lot less expensive, and we were able to take decent photos, albeit, missing dad half the time. Polaroid gave us a way to print snapshots almost instantly. We were making so many pictures, we had to offload them into photo books, scrap books, and shoe boxes. The consumer-grade photo printer allowed us to capture photos at a much higher quality than what we could with a Polaroid. For a while, we printed everything. We needed even more shoe boxes.

At some point, we grew weary of buying expensive ink and specialty paper to print mediocre snapshots. So we just stopped printing photos altogether. Not long after that, the cameraphone, then the smartphone started replacing the snapshot camera. We started off-loading our snapshots onto web-based services like Flickr. We took to sharing our photos with friends and family via email attachments and social networks. The era of taking quality pictures that we carefully preserved had pretty much come to an end.

But then we were faced with another cold reality. Families were growing more distant. It was a lot harder for everyone to come together for special occasions. Selfies on Facebook does not equal a family portrait. With whole family gatherings more rare, a good portrait becomes even more important than it once was.

Fortunately, there are still photo studios around to take the really important pictures like family Christmas portraits. Holiday pictures are important because they are the times when more of the family is together, and everyone is having a good time. Those happy memories are the ones we want to keep. Beyond holiday photos, here are a few others you might want to hang on the wall:


It seems obvious that wedding photos are important, and should be taken seriously. But I am surprised at how few wedding photos I see displayed in homes of the people I visit. Marriage is serious business. It is not just the uniting of two individuals, but the joining of two families, and two communities. Marriage is the cornerstone of the nuclear family. At least one good wedding photo should have pride of place on the wall rather than than imitation Rembrandt. In fact, your wedding photo should probably take pride of place over a real Rembrandt.


Vacation photos have become something that we share with family and friends online. But if that is all we do with them, then we may be missing the bigger point of taking them in the first place. It is not about boasting to our friends about where we’ve been, but about hanging onto a precious memory. Maybe the picture is not as important if it is to a place you frequently visit. But for many, vacations are rare, and exotic ones even more so. You might not get back to the Bahamas for a long time. That four-star cruise might be a once in a lifetime affair. Those are the ones you should treat seriously. Use the best techniques you can. And if possible, bring along a decent camera. These photos are for you.


Graduating from anything is a big deal. For many people, it is their greatest achievement. High-school is the last graduation most of us will have. Only about 30% graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. The numbers drop precipitously for post-graduate degrees. We often display the diploma, but seldom the moment of graduation. Often, those pictures are taken in poorly lit rooms with all the action taking place on a distant stage that is lit in a challenging fashion. smartphone cameras just don’t cut it. This moment happens only once. It is worth taking the extra time and expense to get it right, and making sure the moment can be preserved and framed. In the likely even you cannot get a good photo at that moment, consider going into a studio for a professional graduation portrait. It is worth doing it right.

This is not to say that cameraphones are bad. It is just to remind us that the special moments of life deserve more than the digital disposables they tend to become. Don’t let the special moments of your life become a casualty of this throw-away society.

Thanks to Sara Stringer for providing this post

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