Facebook Pixel The Problems With (Nearly) Unlimited Photos

The Problems With (Nearly) Unlimited Photos

Let me start by stating I do not hate the fact that digital photography has made nearly limitless photo taking possible. There are many positive aspect of digital photography, as compared to film photography, not the least of which is the ability to quickly see results and thus learn from our own mistakes while experimenting with the medium.

What I want to warn new and old photographers about today is the pitfalls that come with seemingly cheap, nearly limitless storage that digital photography affords. What is often looked at as a boon for the medium has a downside not often discussed or appreciated.


The first problem is storage. Those 250 shots you took while trying to catch the dolphins jumping, just right, off the coast of Hawaii last summer? Yeah, they’re still sitting there on your harddrive(s) a year later, aren’t they? You might even have bought more drives to store all those extra photos you said you “…will go through when I get home.”

The fact is storage is cheap, monetarily speaking. One terabyte for $100US? That’s cheap compared to just a year ago. So we tend to fill and fill and fill, thus requiring a few more drives. Oh yeah, don’t forget the need to backup all those photos, preferably to a spot off-site. You’ll need double the drives, by the way.

Storage also becomes and issue as drives become more fragmented (although this can be avoided with certain techniques) and file access times slow. You also need to consider storage while traveling. All those little costs, from one extra harddrive, to needing a large backup device, to needing three extra memory cards for a month long trip, start to add up but because they are all small and incremental while they occur, they seem innocuous.


This is really the big sink for ‘endless’ shooting. Time. Most of us complain about not having enough of it and then we go and drink it all up by shooting more than we need to. Time plays into many parts of endless shooting.

First, there is simply the added time it takes to review all those photos. I have 900 images from a rodeo I shot last week that I need to review. With being a bit more gentle on the shutter release, and anticipating the action better (it was my first rodeo, so to speak), I could cut that in half. If it takes me 3 seconds to review a shot and decide if it stays or goes, 900 images will be 2,700 seconds or 45 minutes of review. I could knock out 20 minutes of that by not using the ‘endless’ feature on my camera.

Second, time comes into play while transferring images to a home computer. Most of us can think of other things to do while transfers are happening but for a lot of people, they slow down computer speed as the harddrive is constantly being accessed.

Lastly, there’s that backup issue again. Extra photos means extra time backing up. Compound my extra rodeo photo issue by 30-40 such events over the course of a year and I’ve added hours to my backup schedule (and additional cost if those backups are sent to a remote service online).

Lack Of Learning

This final subject is a bit harder to quantify. I started learning photography on film and I’m not saying it is the end all, be all. Film did have one big advantage over digital; I either started learning to take better photos or I stopped shooting because of the cost of film and developing. That’s not the case today.

Consumers can now take thousands of really bad photos because there is no cost barrier once the camera and cards are purchased. If a consumer doesn’t have a desire to learn to improve, they are more likely to continue shooting than in the days of film. Maybe the proliferation is what is more visible, so I may be totally wrong on this one. I’ve been wrong before.

On the whole there are more positive benefits to nearly limitless shooting in digital photography than there are negative. Can you think of any other aspects new shooters should be aware of when they are just starting out?

Read more from our category

Peter West Carey
Peter West Carey

leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

I need help with...

Some Older Comments