The Growth of My Digital Photography

Over at Wired, Rhett has a post providing mathematical proof that he takes too many photos. As is traditional, he includes homework at the end of the post, specifically:

Now it is your turn. Find the number of photos you have taken each year. Is it possible for you to detect changes in your life by significant changes in the image rate? Maybe you purchased a new phone or had a new addition to your family which resulted in an increase in images. That would be cool if you could see that in your data.

Well, I can't really resist a challenge like that, so I went looking at my own photo collection. The problem is, though, that most of my older digital photos exist only in an off-site backup, as it were-- I was running short of disk space, so I deleted the local copies, keeping backups on an online service that Kate uses. Re-downloading all those pictures just to count files would be tedious and also stupid, so I'll do this using a proxy measure, namely the size of the folder containing each year's photos. Since this is in response to Rhett, I'll use Plotly to display the resulting graph:

Saved Photos (GB) vs Year-2003

As you can see, there's a clear break point in the graph at around 2009. There's a very good reason for that, namely that in 2009 I upgraded my camera from a Canon A93 point-and-shoot to a Canon Rebel XSi DSLR model. This brought a big jump up in the size of the files, and also an increase in the rate of picture taking, since the DSLR has a continuous shooting mode. I split the data into two series, and color-coded them by the camera type for the graph above, to make that clearer.

Lacking a local copy, I don't have a very good way to convert this to number-of-pictures. A ballpark estimate of the file sizes for the two cameras produces results that I know are wrong-- the average file size for the A93 camera is about 1.6MB, but using that suggests that I took only 530-odd photos in 2007, when I know I took over 1500 on our trip to Japan that year, so something is screwy. Maybe the Japan photos aren't in the backup 2007 folder? In that case, though, the 2007 number would jump way up, changing the trend in that plot...

The big take-away from this, though, is that these data don't look anywhere near as cleanly exponential as Rhett's did. It looks much more like two different linear trends, but with a lot of noise. I did attempt to fit an exponential curve to this, but Plotly insists on giving it a negative constant offset, which is nonsensical, and I don't care enough to crank this into SigmaPlot.

I am a little surprised that you can't see the point where I took over as department chair (August of 2012), though, because my vague sense is that I've been doing much less photography since then, due to lack of time. That's not really reflected in the data, though. I also would've expected 2014 to involve more pictures than 2013, what with our trip to London last year. But that's also not in the data in any obvious way. Go figure.

More like this

Today, I officially stopped being department chair, and started my sabbatical leave. I also acquired a new toy: My new camera, taken with the old camera. My old DSLR camera, a Canon Rebel XSi that I got mumble years ago, has been very good for over 20,000 pictures, but a few things about it were…
I've been playing around with the spiffy sales rank tracker Matthew Beckler wrote, because I'm a great big dork, and enjoy playing with graphs. Here's a graph of the sales rank vs. time through 2pm EST today (plotted in Excel from the data table at the bottom of the page): As I noted in my…
I would wager that you don't know where many of your most important files are. If you are into music, and use iTunes, you can't find a particular song file using your file manager. You would need to locate it using iTunes. iTunes would then give you limited access to that file. It does not let…
One of my current thesis students has been plugging away for a while at the project described in the A Week in the Lab series last year, and he's recently been getting some pretty good data. I've spent a little time analyzing the preliminary results (to determine the best method for him to use on…

You may want to consider that the backup service compressed your .jpg files. Download a few pictures and check the file size. I have been enjoying your blog for awhile and thoroughly enjoy your adventures.

By Phil Seymour (not verified) on 31 May 2015 #permalink

I still have local copies of the years since 2010, and the sizes of those match the size I got from the backup service, so I don't think that's an issue. I got the size from the "restore" window, so I think it's telling me the space it would take up on disk if I copied it down.

The ability to create and store photos has been increasing at a near exponential rate, as has the maximum resolution, so it is only natural to take and store more. I wouldn't consider it to be a problem unless the storage issue actually becomes a problem.

Now, if you are doing photography as a serious art form, you could rightfully rue the fact that taking pictures is too easy too cheap. I can remember taking color 4x5 (10cm by 12.5cm film size), at a dollar fifty per click, so one paid careful attention to framing, lighting composition etc. before clicking a shutter. So today's technology encourages taking a zillion pictures, and selecting the very few that are good, and we might have lost some of the creative discipline. But for the vast bulk of people, they should just do what they want, and not feel guilty about it.

By Omega Centauri (not verified) on 31 May 2015 #permalink

I am a little surprised that you can’t see the point where I took over as department chair (August of 2012), though, because my vague sense is that I’ve been doing much less photography since then, due to lack of time.

Wasn't it about then, give or take a few months, that the Pip started walking? It's plausible that you still are taking lots of pictures, but you aren't really conscious of it because they are pictures of your kids. IOW, your photography time is more "family time" than photography time per se.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Jun 2015 #permalink