/ Technology

Point, shoot, share – vanity photos are ruining photography

Two women posing for a photo

Are we so busy imagining the “likes”, “thumbs-ups” and comments our pictures will receive online that our priorities are changing when we actually take a photo? Are you taking photos for you – or for the crowd?

Gone are the days of boring your friends and relatives stiff over a slideshow of your holiday snaps.

Today’s cameras and phones make it easier than ever to share your photos online, and easier for your friends to view them any time. But are we now forever framing our shots with one eye on who will end up seeing them?

Personally, I reckon the modern preoccupation with sharing our images online is completely changing the way we behave when we hold a camera in our hands.

Great to shoot, even better to share?

It never fails to amaze me how short the gap can be between people taking photos on a night out and them appearing on Facebook.

And while I won’t name names, I know people who’ve uploaded holiday photos from their honeymoon before they’ve even returned home. If ever there’s a situation where you’ve got better things to focus on than your Facebook account, surely this is it!

What I find really interesting is the sea change in mentality about how we’re taking photos – and perhaps more tellingly, why we’re taking them in the first place. Are we shooting snaps now because these are moments we genuinely want to preserve? Or because we can’t wait to get the stream of kudos that comes from sharing them with a ready-made audience of friends?

The vanity snap

If we’re now taking photos first and foremost for the reason of sharing them online, things can so easily descend into needless narcissism.

I’m not just talking about friends immediately vetting your photos as soon as they’re taken so they can insist on deleting any they wouldn’t want to see online (‘I look ugly in that one!’), though this certainly happens.

But beyond this, the photographers themselves should be wary that if they’re taking a shot primarily to hoover up the online approval of others, then it changes the reasoning behind taking that photo in the first place.

It’s undoubtedly satisfying to have your creative handiwork approved by others, but when this becomes the core reason for taking a photo, something changes. Ask yourself next time you’re framing a shot – is this one for you, or for the crowd?


Whilst I agree that taking photographs merely to garner ‘likes’ on Facebook seems narcissistic I have to take issue about why we take photographs.
There are many reasons, I take some to sell, when taking these I do think about who is going to see it. If I didn’t it probably wouldn’t sell. When I take a snap of a social occasion I take it for myself, maybe some members of the family might like it too.
Taking photographs is a great way of expressing yourself and of recording social history – look at the archives we see today of social events of which we would have otherwise no record.
I believe that the increase in photography should be welcomed. It’s true much of it may be pointless, poor and uninteresting but there will always be a few gems that may be invaluable in later years.
So, please, don’t be so sanctimonious and allow others their expression.

This Convo made me laugh – I have to agree with Rich on many points. I’ve got certain friends who know how to pose for photos (my boyfriend thinks it’s because they’re all married and had to pose for official photos). As soon as a camera comes out they arrange their hair and turn their heads to a certain angle. They always look amazing, but always look the same!

My other observation on this is how things are changing with children growing up with digital technology. My 3-year-old is such a poser and never has a picture taken without immediately looking at it. It makes me laugh, but also a little depressed that children today are growing up more image-conscious than ever.

Enteeen says:
10 August 2011

I don’t post any photos on line. The value of comments from members of the public is questionable if constructive criticism is desired – better to enter the best ones in photo comps. where they can be judged by experts.
Cameras have been very accessible for many years, long before the digital age. It’s an interesting question as to reasons why they are now so widely popular, as are all the latest electonic gadgets.