Pondering on photography: how to cull photos and whether to take photos at all while travelling

I am sure that there is a glaringly obvious “piece” missing from my blog, photos. There’s no doubt that photos can complete a blog post and really bring more readers to the table but I feel like there’s a lot to be said about photography whilst travelling and sometimes whether it’s worth taking them at all…

Why do we even take photos?

In this modern world where Pinterest and Instagram seem to be the hip things out there, I have never really gotten into the groove of uploading photos on a regular basis. Maybe it’s just because I’m plainly too lazy to upload them or more likely, can’t be bothered sorting through them. I  would not risk using someone else’s photos with all the copyright risks out there (blogging isn’t a free pass to steal photography).

Lots of my friends have mindlessly uploaded travel photos of every finite detail of their trip with hundreds of photos showing everywhere they’ve been and everything they’ve done. Is it to share their experiences with friends and family? Or is it so they can revisit their own photos and reignite memories of the past? Photos really do have the power to evoke so many emotions and reveal memories of times that used to be. But I feel like photos can also alter reality.

For example, imagine yourself at the start of a night out. Dressed in your best, you may feel like when you see a photo of yourself in the future, how amazing that night was. But what happens if all you really did that night was get drunk, throw up and go home feeling pathetic. Photos are a snapshot in time, they don’t show the whole story.

When I see travel photos, especially ones with grand landscapes and pretty buildings, I wonder about the photographer. How can you be truly soaking up the scenery when you have hundreds of photos of the same thing? Why are there so many photos when you should be out there living it? Does taking a photo replace being in the moment or does it enhance the moment, encapsulate it for a later time?

From my own experience, it completely depends on the moment and the motivation behind taking the photo. There have been times where I’m actually not interested in something, perhaps a piece of antique furniture that’s traditionally pretty but doesn’t capture my heart. My hand creeps for the camera button, to take the photo to enjoy later. And then there’s scenes or objects that really take my breath away and I take the photograph to remind me of that time, that place.  More often than not, these days it’s the former.

The problem with digital clutter

Before I came to England, I went through my minimalist phase. I tossed away so many clothes, I gave away books and tossed all my beloved make up came to England with a few too many bags and no suitcase. One thing I found too exhausting to do was to go through the thousands of files on my laptop. Clutter occupies your mind, the sentiment we put on our things is similar to the way we value our files and photos. With the amount of memory we are able to get our hands on, through external hard drives and USB’s, it’s no wonder we accumulate so much digital clutter.

It’s just so easy to take photos of everything, but a lot of the time it can not only detract from an experience at the time but instead create a larger problem when you get home. One of the reasons I haven’t written a lot of blog posts with embedded photos is because I’ve already taken too many photos without thinking them through. Although I’ve now started culling them, I had thousands and thousands of travel photos that were just exhausting to sort through. The other reason is because my camera is a piece of crap that overexposes everything and I have no good photos! Ha!

How to cull photos

1. Gather all the photos from a similar time in one folder if they are in different places. I had photos from England on my camera, in random photos on the laptop plus on the external hard-drive.
2. Sort through one trip, one year, one something or rather at a time. Apart from photos from England, I had photos from Japan, University, interstate trips and random nights out. If I tried to sort EVERYTHING all at once, I would have probably given up.
3. Change your settings so you can view thumbnails of the pictures. If you can view them in large size, they really do give a proper preview of the photos, instead of having to open up each one at a time. If all you can see is an icon and not a photo, try this. Open the folder with the photos then go to Organize —> Folder and Search Options –> View —>Deselect “Always show icons, never thumbnails” and voila, thumbnails!
5. Create New Folders with obvious names as you go (i.e places/towns you’ve been to) and cut and paste photos into the folders. Some useful shortcuts:
Alt + Del (Deletes photos)
Click on a photo + Shift to another photo (Selects all the photos in between)
Ctrl + X (Cuts)
Ctrl + V (Pastes)
I know to most people these are common sense, but it does make it a lot easier than selecting everything with a touch-pad or mouse. Also these may be different on other operating systems. This works for me on Windows 7 + 8.  I don’t know jack shit about Mac’s.
6. Delete duplicates of any photos.
7. Delete blurry photos that you can’t be bothered editing and ones you don’t really like

And most importantly, prevention is better than a cure! Before taking a photo wherever you are, think about it before mindlessly snapping away!

Are taking photos worth it? 

Rather than using photography as a supplement in active, conscious seeing, they used it as an

alternative, paying less attention to the world than they had done previously from

a faith that photography automatically assured them possession of it – pp. 225,  Ruskin cited in Botton, 2003

Photography really can make us pay less attention to the beauty of the world. We stop paying attention to small details and the mood of a place, we snap and we forget almost instantaneously. There’s been a few things that have really helped me “soak up the moment”. Firstly is using film photography. With old-fashioned film being expensive, I feel like I think very carefully before I take a photo. I have to feel like it’s something worth taking a photo of. Secondly, I’ve started to sit down and sketch when I have the time and motivation. This is the absolute best way to enjoy scenery. Even if the sketch is crap, it’s almost etched in your mind. Another way is to sit and stare and be attentive to everything that surrounds you. Most of the time, my mind is too active for that last one to work.

I’m not against digital photography at all and I certainly won’t stop taking digital photos, if only if it’s the ease of being able to share an experience. . However I’ve certainly rethought about the process of taking photos and how it can affect a travel experience.

Much love, Sush xx

Botton, A. (2003), Art of Travel, Penguin/Vintage


One thought on “Pondering on photography: how to cull photos and whether to take photos at all while travelling

  1. Pingback: Lovely Lavender | skin + travel

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