Looking Good for the Internet

In the course of updating my website I got to thinking about how people LOOK when their picture is taken.
I say 'when their picture is taken' deliberately- is anyone really aware of how often they are photographed? Think about parties you go to, events you attend...shopping even. Most people realize that cameras are omnipresent in our world - what they don't often consider is the willingness of people to use those cameras. These days it's become trendy to photograph total strangers in department stores and post those images on websites.
This brings me back to my opening sentence; how do you look in your day-to-day ventures into the world outside your home?
If you're like me you probably have days where you just can't bother changing out of the rubber boots, torn jeans and dirty plaid shirt as you head out to the hardware store to replace a trowel that just broke whilst gardening.
Fortunately the hardware store people aren't judgmental about this kind of thing...but would you dress that way in WALMART? I don't mind looking like a grubby gardener because I actually did get grubby in the garden and am going right back into it after shopping...I didn't dress this way for the intent of shopping!
The point of all this is that nowadays people are taking photographs of other people everywhere- and those anonymous photographers focus on people who are somewhat...unkempt. PEOPLE OF WALMART is a website some of you may be familiar with. You won't find too many images of grubby gardeners but you will find plenty of images of people who just don't care about their physical appearance. I would say that 99% of the photographs are of folks who did not need to look like clowns or prostitutes- they chose to. Perhaps these are harsh words for people who are 'simply expressing their individuality and creativity' or who 'may not know better because that's how their peers dress'...or 'who had no idea they were being photographed!'(I might ad here that this isn't just happening in Walmart but in many other places.)
It's time to wake up a little and realize that looking in the mirror before you go out might not be enough these days...it just may be that you need to look at your reflection first and then imagine that image captured in a digital photograph that could be posted all over the internet.
Some may not care about this phenomena...and some may wring their hands and wail that those anonymous photographers are mean and this sort of thing shouldn't be allowed...but don't forget that it's an individual's right in this country to exhibit his or her photographs in whatever venue will host it - gallery, website, bulletin board- even photography whose only merit is to make others laugh. And the legal considerations of private versus public property won't matter much in the face of how swiftly digital images get passed around. Walmart may soon forbid cameras in their stores but that won't stop people who enjoy spying on strangers from taking pictures of them in the store...and since such is the case it probably wouldn't hurt anyone to put just a bit more effort into their appearance- for all our sakes!


A Photograph's Death and Future

I am including a lot of links to Wikipedia that explain terms that may not be well understood. 

We will all pass away some day and what becomes of our photographs...particularly our digital images after we are gone? Before computers and digital cameras- and especially the internet- our shoe boxes, cartons, portfolios, albums and envelopes that contained our original art, prints and negatives would be disassembled, dismantled and dispersed via family members. Unless people made a living from their images very few would have thought to include their photograph collections in a last will and testament. 

Today is probably no different- in fact it's probably worse because our image collections build up much faster than before- so much so that we can't even keep track of them properly and content ourselves to let the images reside in the ephemeral environment of a computer. We can't even be bothered to print out even 'the best shots'...most people if asked wouldn't know how many images they even possess on their computers...I know I don't.This is compounded by how we share our images- via emails and online image galleries and social networking sites. Back in the old days you had to plan on who would receive a copy of any of your photographs and you would have to let the photo processing center know you want 'doubles' or x number of copies of  a particular negative or colour slide. Nowadays it's simply a matter of copy/paste or drag and drop from the jpg file to another computer and from there on potentially into anyone's hands. 

It gets worse still: who actually backs up their images to a safe location? When I talk to people about digital photography and bring the subject up most say "oh, my pictures are on my computer". When I hear that I usually suggest they get a portable/usb drive, copy their photos onto it on a regular basis, and keep the drive stored in a safe place with a label on it that identifies ownership.. 

It's far too complex a subject to say much more but this is what can happen to anyone's photographs (and images from scans) that just live on a computer: they can completely disappear in a computer crash which actually happens a lot. I personally know one person who got a lot of photos back from a crash because of a backup I had made. The sad thing is many of the photos are still retrievable if you know how to find them or have a good computer technician to go to.. 

Likewise I once foolishly allowed someone to keep copies of high resolution files on her computer and one day she literally disappeared from town. Her assets were liquidated and now I occasionally wonder if someone is printing out cards or posters based on the pretty images I had left on that computer...)

In case my point has not become apparent yet: We may own our pictures but it is very easy to lose them to unknown individuals even while we still possess the original files! Also, all pictures have potential value to greater or lesser degree - people reading should remember this.. 

The options for backups are much simpler than they were in previous years...besides using a burning program to transfer the image files to a labeled disc media (which have standardized holding capacities)  we now have portable/usb drives of much greater capacity that just pop into a usb port and it's as simple as copy/pasting to get the images from the computer to the drive. Alternatively you can do what a friend of mine does- she keeps her images on the original memory cards and then buys new memory cards...that's a bit pricy but it certainly is simple! What is most important is labeling the cd, dvd, portable drive, memory card or whatever future storage media that comes up with the photographers name. 

(I do not recommend storing images on an external hard drive because it can- and eventually will- succumb to breakdown. This has happened to me with two top of the line drives - right after the warranty expired! - and recovery was only possible because I had continued to maintain backups on cds. And those offers of online photo storage from various vendors...NO. NO. NO. This should never be considered as the sole option for storing images. I would not even consider it as a secondary backup...it is simply another place that is potentially open to theft from dishonest people and hackers.) . 

I haven't really addressed the perils of sharing photos without any kind of identifying information such as watermarking or manually embedding copyright into them- that is a subject that ties directly into backing up and doing a basic identifying job of the media that contains your images but will have to be dealt with in a separate article.