Are Digital Photographs Too Plentiful to Be Meaningful?

3 min readNov 20, 2020

With the simple act of a click of a button, you can capture the perfect moment in a second that can be stored forever in the safety of your smartphone or cloud storage. But before the convenience of a high-quality camera shoved in your back pocket, people had to make the decision of which moments to capture because film was expensive. They had one shot to capture it, take the time to print them out, and then glue them into their photo album.

Which begs the question of why do these pictures feel so different from those saved on our smartphones? Most would say it’s the physicality and the feel of the photo in your hands that makes them all the more special. It is the memories and emotions attached to each hand-picked photograph that is often stronger than if you were simply swiping through the photo gallery of your phone.

David Bello, a student at Gordon College as well as an avid photographer and videographer stated that physical photos have more of an emotional effect on you.

“It’s much more valuable to have the physical photos in front of me now because we take so many photos they kind of get lost,” said Bello. “When you come across an old photo and physical photos that you haven’t seen in a long time, I feel like it has more of an emotional effect on you. You’re able to not only see the photo, but you’re also able to remember all of the memories that have come with it.”

The process of taking photos used to be much more complex than it is now. The evolution of the camera developed from the Camera Obscura to the Polaroid camera, upgrading to the digital camera, and finally to the smartphone. Consequently, the process of taking a photograph has already begun to lose its essence and value.

When you have so much of one thing, you tend to not appreciate its value as much as you would when you had less.

Bill Franson, a professional photographer, and professor at Gordon College had much to say on this topic involving the meaning attached to the multitude of pictures.

“In many ways, it feels like, because the world is making so many images, it just feels like they lack purpose,” said Franson. “I guess the definition of what is meaningful has changed. We’re just making so many, a lot have drifted to the bottom, and we forget about them.”

Although there are many positives involving digital photos, including the fact that since everyone has these capabilities built into their devices “everyone is a photographer.” As a result, the problem has become that because we have so many pictures, their meaning is becoming less significant to us.

Mark Spooner is a professional photographer, who specializes in events, portraiture, and commercials said in regards to digital photos:

“I think there’s something a little bit less tangible and arguably less special,” said Spooner. “Nothing can really replace the heirloom quality of printed photos that can be physically experienced and passed down through generations.”

As an individual living in the age of technology, the appeal to digital photography is very great and should be encouraged. Whatever you do, try to consider what is worth photographing, whether that be beautiful people, places, and moments in your life. However, while doing so, make sure to immerse yourself within that moment. Because when you look back on that photograph one day, it is that feeling and rich memories tied to that photo that you will want to remember.