The digital movement has changed the way the world looks at pictures. It has made storing and sharing photographs effortless, writes APARNA KARTHIKEYAN

Are you the sort that freezes life's precious moments in photographic film or would you rather squirrel it away in a corner of your hard-disk?

It was one of those ‘I-wish-the-earth-would-swallow-me' moments. The brother and his wife were busy auctioning a frayed, B&W picture, and the small knot of interested ‘collectors' around them were pointing and laughing. At me. All because someone had wickedly fished out, from the depths of the family album, a dreadful picture of me as a very fat 5-year-old, with 50ml of coconut oil in my hair, and 50g of talcum powder on my face. That mortifying moment, I decided I would never print another picture of mine or anyone I truly loved; who knows when the memory will come back and haunt them?

When I was growing up though, memories were in short supply. Holidays meant one or sometimes two rolls of Kodak/Konica film, and those 36/72 exposures were made to last the entire holiday. No wonder we posed so carefully, our smiles well rehearsed, face and neck generously powdered! And when we finally handed over the precious film rolls to be developed, we waited restlessly — for a day, sometimes longer — for the glossy pictures and the flimsy ‘free' photo albums. Instant gratification was unheard of (unless somebody in the family owned a Polaroid, though even that involved much waving-in-the-air-until-the-picture-dries!) until, that is, digital cameras stormed the scene.

The digital revolution

The digital movement changed the way the world looked at pictures — instantly, as any wise three-year-old will tell you — and made storing and sharing photographs effortless. With an average SD card weighing less than 2 gm and measuring all of 3 cm (you could easily carry a dozen in your wallet), you could store between them — depending on the capacity — a few to several thousand photographs! And it's entirely thanks to this convenience that we now typically end up with hundreds of holiday photographs, including random close-ups of donuts and dry-fruits, uninspiring sunsets, and signboards in languages we can't decipher, stuff you would never click if you had to pick and choose a paltry 36. Which is why it's hard to believe that there is so little to show for a 1000-picture trip, once the initial enthusiasm of posting ‘look-where-I-went' pictures on Facebook and sending web album links has worn off; for, the pictures then lie forgotten in some unloved corner of the hard-drive, between the music and movies, for a very long time.

Sharada, a working mother and a keen photographer from Chennai, admits that until a few years ago, she diligently printed out all her holiday pictures. But now, she simply makes do with storing them in her laptop, with back-ups on a pen drive, and online (Picasa web folder). ‘Lately, I don't seem to have the enthusiasm to print the photos, even though the technology is improving on a daily basis and I can get the photos printed in 10 minutes flat at the local studio. But the work, she reckons, actually starts only after that. ‘I will be happy if somebody else will actually arrange the pictures in the right order and put them in my ‘dream album' — one big enough to hold lots of photos and yet not requiring much space on the shelf!'

But while it neatly solves this physical space constraint (storing photos as digital images), the seemingly endless digital storage creates another — a glut of pictures. Madhu, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at a university in Melbourne, agrees that it is a chore to select and retain the pictures you actually want, since digital imagery tempts you to click a good deal more than you would, otherwise. Then, there's the job of creating back-ups in hard-drives, mailboxes and websites. And while her husband prefers digital photo frames, Madhu confesses that she still likes to print photos of special occasions as keepsakes, especially to show her grandparents.

“My son too enjoys looking at the photo album rather than browsing pictures on a laptop,” says Sharada. “I guess the best place to enjoy your nostalgic memories is within the covers of a photo album.” And if that calls for a little bit of an effort, well, why not? Just as long as those pictures aren't of your unflattering, five-year-old self, you should be fine.

TAKE PICTURES LIKE A PRO

* Digital photography is very forgiving, in that, it gives you several chances to get a shot right. But even if you did manage to botch up every one of them, you could try cropping, amateur editing, and special effects to make it look nice and pro!

* Now when you're clicking @1-pic-per-second, you need humungous storage. Besides the hard-disk and external devices (pen-drives, SD cards, etc.) you could back-up online, on free and paid sites.

* But nothing comes close to the ‘feel' of a photo album. Old pictures, yellowing with age, curling around the corners, are any day far more romantic than a slide show on a state-of-the-art computer!

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012