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Is social media destroying our photos?

16 Aug 2016

My friend and I were getting ready for a night out on the town. Being millennials, it wasn’t enough for us to go out without taking a photo to document the moment. In proper photo-taking form, she whipped out her phone, clicked on the app and positioned her arm above her head, slightly askew, and took the photo. When I went to view the photo, I noticed that the picture was not in her Photos gallery. Instead, she had already shared the photo on her Snapchat My Story.  

Snapchat isn’t the first place most people think to take quality photos. For one, Snapchat pictures can appear grainy if the lighting is poor or the angle isn’t right. While the photo quality can be remedied with one of four of the filters on the app, Snapchat photos aren’t intended for posterity. In fact, the very nature of Snapchat is meant to be fleeting - a snap of a time that will disappear in a matter of seconds or hours.

But with popular photo sharing apps like Instagram and Snapchat, the relationship that we have with our photographs is no longer determined by the preservation of a moment - at least it’s no longer the primary function. These days, photo worth is determined by another sort of criteria: its sharing capability.

In order for a photo to be something worthy of sharing on a social media platform, it has to fit a certain model. Instagram pictures have to be captivating enough to catch the eye of a follower as they quickly scroll through a feed. Snapchat photos have to be straightforward, succinct, interesting. The addition of geofilters, stickers, and animated lenses has given users more options to decorate their Snapchat creations. Now a user can simply swipe on the filter to use a geofilter to show their location, they can record a video as a bee to their friends with the lens feature or place emojis in a picture with their best friend. With a photo sharing app, pictures are not just images, they are crafted and deliberate creations.

What’s more are the advances in aesthetic quality that has made the most recent smartphones comparable to the quality and look of some of the top cameras. According to data published by the Camera & Imaging Products Association, digital camera sales dropped 20% at the beginning of the year. Consumers are less inclined to purchase quality cameras when their own phones can manage the same look for less money and weigh less.

Traditional cameras just can’t do the work of a photo sharing app. You can’t add text to a picture of you and your friends hiking KiteKite falls on a traditional picture and send it in real time. Traditional cameras are limited, whereas smartphones and the apps they offer can give users a myriad of photo creating options.  

But there comes a price with the transiency that is expected of photos now. Photos are expected to live up to a certain amount of entertainment. And the cameras that take the photos need to compete with the expectations of the consumers. Snaps taken on cheaper phones may not be able to live up to the expectations of an Instagram post. Or maybe the pictures or video on a Snap video is mediocre and lags.

When consumers rely on social media to connect with friends or build their business, being able to manage an artful creation of their lives means that their phones have a lot of work to do. The growing surge of social media platforms means that consumers count on their photos. They are works of art to share with the world - one snap at a time.                               

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