How To Stay Afloat In Your Infinite Stream Of Photos

May 23, 2014
Originally published on May 23, 2014 6:22 pm

On average, I make about 1,000 images each month on my iPhone. That's about 33.33333333333 (you get the idea) images a day. And that's just in an average month; if I'm on vacation or on assignment, that number might double or even triple.

It may sound extreme, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Photography is the language I am most comfortable speaking. Why bother describing a moment, when I can capture that feeling and share it instantly?

So how do I avoid getting buried alive in this endless stream of digital information of my own making?

What if I told you there was one word that could ease your digital overload?

Here it is: thoughtfulness.

It's that easy. Being thoughtful in every step of the process — from making, sharing, archiving and printing your images — will ease your digital anxiety.

Here are some tips on how to do it:

1. Making Images

Yes, I say "making images" instead of "taking images." When I'm behind the camera, I'm actively seeing what is in the frame, and what I've edited out. I'm composing, anticipating and sometimes waiting to get the moment right. I make more than one image of the same scene and I'm in the moment. I'm there. Once the camera goes up, I don't shut down — I bring every bit of focus to my frame.

2. Curating And Sharing

I share only the images that I care about. The ones that make me feel something. The ones that communicate a thought, idea or a feeling.

3. Archiving

Every month, I take my images off the camera and save them on two separate hard drives. It doesn't take long if you do it in small doses. And I save every image.

4. Printing

If it's worth sharing, it's worth printing. That's my motto. And it's now easier than ever to turn your digital memories into analog goodies. There are sites that, with a few simple clicks, will print your images on everything from marshmallows to ceramic tiles.

If you want to create something more traditional, make a photo book after every 500 images you post. Make the time to take your cherished memories from your phone and put them on your walls, on your fridge and on your desk. In doing so, you're reviving those memories and solidifying those moments in your life.

5. Take A Frame-Free Day

One last piece of advice comes from renowned photojournalist Ed Kashi. He is a voracious image creator and loves what the digital revolution has to offer. I asked him if he had any tips for avoiding getting overwhelmed.

"No! I have just given in to this constant state of connectedness. It's an addiction. I love what I do. I love making and sharing imagery and stories ... it's 24/7 if you're not careful," he says.

But if you are trying to stop being consumed by your camera, he offers this tip: "Actually, my solution is to sleep," he says. "And find times to break away from the laptop in particular. But breaking away from the phone has become an issue."

And that is important, too: to have some days when you don't make any images — when you just close your eyes and will yourself to remember the moment.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. This week, we've been exploring how we remember, letters, home videos and, of course, the photographs we've taken. Now, here at NPR, few people take or make more photos than Kainaz Amaria. She works with NPR's visuals team. She's a photographer and editor. She joins me in the studio to talk more. Hi, there, Kainaz.


CORNISH: So this series was sparked by a conversation about how technology is taking us away from our memories and we've been talking about the power of images to boost and create our memories in a way, but also that that power is diminished when we don't review the pictures. I spoke with a psychologist, Linda Hinkle about the importance of doing this.

LINDA HINKLE: When you're looking at photos, what you're doing is you're reactivating in your brain those mental experiences that you had. You're thinking about what you thought about, you're looking at the color of the shirt. Oh, my gosh, look at how beautiful that blue is. I remember that shirt. I remember this. You're reactivating the neurons that are involved in creating that memory experience.

And those are all the things that are going to benefit memory.

AMARIA: Yeah. So when I first heard this, I thought, you know, this is a great argument to make our digital life more analog. We are overwhelmed and consume so many digital images. Actually taking the time to print them out is going to solidify that memory.

CORNISH: So let's talk more about this 'cause I feel inundated by all the images I've taken.

AMARIA: It's overwhelming.

CORNISH: What are some of your strategies for processing all these pictures?

AMARIA: So I would say on word. It's thoughtfulness. Be thoughtful and mindful of what you're doing. When we're making images as photographers, we're thinking about what is in the frame and what isn't in the frame. We're living that moment. It's not passive. That's why we say we make images and not take images. So when I'm making an image, I'm looking at the frame and I'm seeing what's in front of me.

I'm editing stuff out that I don't want in the frame and I'm focusing in on what I want to capture. So it's not a snapshot. It's not a burst of images, but I'm there in the moment, actually looking at what I'm capturing. And let me tell you, I then remember it.

CORNISH: Now, in understanding sort of how to be mindful in our approach, you mentioned something that you do, which is to value the images that you share, right? And to print them. How does this help?

AMARIA: Yeah, for me, the rule of thumb is if I share it, it's worth printing. That's my editing process, right? When you look at all your takes or what you've done and you've said, okay, I'm going to show this on Instagram, I'm gonna share this on Facebook, what you're actually doing is you're editing the images and you're saying this is worth putting out there in the world.

So, for me, if I do that, it's then worth printing and putting it in my analog world.

CORNISH: And you've also shared it in other analog ways, right? Like, you're a big fan of the Christmas card, which I have to say I kind of - it feels impersonal getting one of a thousand photos of you and your kids at Christmastime. But you're saying there is a way for this also to be a memory worth building.

AMARIA: Yeah, what I think is awesome about this age is you can really personalize these memories, too. I'll tell you a little secret. I love the selfie. When I meet people that I haven't seen in a long time, I make a photo with them, a selfie with them and this Christmas, I thought of doing something different.

I said, you know what, I'm going to print cards with that selfie of the person I'm sending it to on the card. And within a week of me mailing these cards out, I got paragraph-long text messages of my friends and loved ones saying, I loved that card. It reminded me of us together. It's on my fridge. I'm going to frame it. And so, never have we been able to personalize and customize our really cherished moments.

You can print your images on just about anything now really easily. You can put your Instagram photos on marshmallows and send them out.

CORNISH: Wait. For real?

AMARIA: For real. And actually, the only reason why I know this is because that's what our interns did. They wanted to give us something special when they left. We didn't eat them but we just thought it was amazing. I mean, you can make posters. You can have little prints. Some of my friends, what they do is they have something automated where every 500 Instagrams, they have it automated so they get a book in the mail after they reach that 500 mark.

They don't have to do anything. I remember the days of scrapbooking where I had to buy the corners, buy the tape, buy the ruffled scissors, you know. It took me sometimes six months to create an album. It took a really long time. There are apps out there where you can make an image, hit a button and it'll print it and mail it to you. And it's actually really exciting because everyone's visual language and literacy is being heightened and expanded.

CORNISH: That's Kainaz Amaria. She works as a photographer and editor with NPR's visuals team. You can find Kainaz's tips and tricks for photo-taking and more importantly photo archiving at Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.