Holiday Gripe: Family Picture Digital Camera Paparazzi

Since it’s just a few days before New Years, I thought I’d share my absolute, number one pet peeve from this year (and every year’s) big family party: the family picture digital camera paparazzi.

No, my family isn’t so famous that actual Paparazzi stake out my grandmother’s house and hound the streets and yard for photos.  In my family, we are our own paparazzi.

You see, every year, we have a huge family party, and there is a distinct moment in the party where everyone gathers to take photos.  This family.  That family.  The cousins.  The aunts & uncles.  The kids.  The grandkids.  Etc.  It’s a complex form of set theory.

In any case, instead of there being just one camera (a good one) with a photographer, everyone has to have the shot taken “with their camera”.  Sometimes, you get 10 cameras taking the picture at once, with everyone in the shot looking in a different direction, like some sort of carnival funhouse picture.  Other times, one person has several cameras dangling, saying, “OK, now with this one!”

Ridiculous.  At first, it was just annoying.  Then it became upseting.  Now, I just get pissed off.

You see, digital cameras should have solved this problem.  But they didn’t.

One camera.  Many shots.  Files can be shared for free.  Everyone can get their pictures.  There is absolutely no reason for multiple cameras to be used (especially when you have iPhone cameras without auto-focus competing with full digital SLRs).

Yet there they are, every year.  In fact, every year, it seems to get worse.

One theory is that most people don’t know how to download or get digital photos developed.   So they use their camera because they know how to get those pictures.  Problem is, in my family, I know for a fact that many of the people with cameras have never, ever successfully downloaded or developed their own pictures either.  But maybe it’s a safety net… they know that someday, they’ll figure it out.  And then they’ll have those pictures on their camera.

Historically, the only way to really get a picture was to have the negative.  You couldn’t count on someone else getting the role developed and sending you the shots you were in.  So that could explain why baby boomers express this behavior – it’s an anachronism.

But what explains my Gen Y cousins and siblings doing the same thing?  (Besides the obvious upside of irritating me, of course.)  My guess is that the current social assumption is that everyone has a camera, all the shots are terrible, but all are uploaded and shared.  In this worldview, not having “your photos” to share almost means you don’t have an opinion, a voice, something to contribute.   So, once again, everyone has their camera, even in situations like group still photos, where one camera is a much, much better solution.

I’m probably more irritated than most because, in general, as long as Eric isn’t around, I typically am the one that everyone depends on for “high quality” pictures from these events. And it’s sad to find out later that, because everyone was looking a different direction, there is no good picture of one of the families this year.

When I am not irritated, however, I do think about how, despite all these integrated photo editing and uploading services, we’ve still failed as an industry to really solve the photo sharing problem for families.  They are all too techie, all too hard to really use.  And that’s a piece of why, to this day, everyone insists on getting “one more with my camera!”

I’m thinking of banning any other cameras in 2009.  Too heavy handed?  How do other people solve this problem?

7 thoughts on “Holiday Gripe: Family Picture Digital Camera Paparazzi

  1. I’m not sure how you solve the problem when you’re taking the picture, but I know what to do if you don’t want to be in a lot of pictures. Every time someone takes a picture smile big, I mean huge (Alice Fraasa style) and give them the two six shooters with your fingers (maybe throw in a wink). After a while, nobody takes your picture.
    If your picture gets posted, it’s guaranteed to be a good shot.

  2. I think the problem is there’s no good way to get the originals distributed. A couple decent DSLR pictures and your e-mails will bounce. Most photo-sharing and digital networking sites are low-res only. My card reader doesn’t read my parents’ camera’s card type, and vice-versa. Ad-hoc networking among cameras is almost non-existent.

    Facebook simply can’t afford to host 10MB JPEG’s of everybody’s pictures. This is silly because everybody has a 100GB hard drive or more in their home computers, but the ISP’s have declared that our utopian world-wide peer-to-peer network is to be port 80, 443, and maybe 587 only, and absolutely in only one direction.

    There should be a way to have your family’s photo albums automatically show up in, say, iPhoto, like on a LAN, and all they’d have to do is check a ‘share this’ box on each photo, and maybe youy’d have exchanged some kind of certificate beforehand (with a nice GUI) to establish trust. Perhaps somebody could make a bittorrent iPhoto plugin to do this since that seems to leak all the way through the NAT boxes.

  3. There is still an issue with people using websites to share photos. Here’s the thing–If my friend takes a picture, there is no way for me to “grab” it from shutterfly, for example, and put it on my photo site (Phanfare, which I LOVE by the way, it hosts hi res pictures AND video). The only way is to download each file and then upload. And who has time for that? It’s faster for me to suck into my PC all my pictures and process them up to the website.

    The best solution I’ve found so far is to carry a USB universal flash card reader and to give my parents my flash card to download my pix when I’m home and for me to download their pix onto my laptop. that seems to be fast and easy. But yes, if memory cards were universal that would help.

    here’s the other thing, all the elderly folks are still completely lost about all this. My boyfriend’s elderly parents have literally thousands of mB of photos sitting around on flash memory cards. They don’t have any idea on how to use the internet. In a perfect world they would have a digital photo frame I could “push” content to when I wanted. With memory so cheap, ti would be great.

  4. As far as getting people to look at one camera at a time, you need to have a good traffic cop telling people where to look at. Take charge and use the line, “Okay Everyone! Look HERE! 1-2-3 Snap!”

  5. This setup helps me. I use a tripod and a remote. While, I setup the tripod and do some lighting check test shots (which usually takes a few minutes.) I tell other people to take their pictures first. I will get the last and hopefully the best picture. As least, everyone is looking at my camera.

    I think tripod is the trick, it give the setting a very formal “studio” feel and you a better command of the situation.

  6. How about this for an idea…

    The zune has a wireless sharing feature that lets nearby people share songs and music. Why don’t cameras have a wireless sharing feature? With the push of a button, you could send a photo directly to another nearby camera.

    One person takes a picture, and then presses the share button. All the other cameras in the area get the picture. A feature like this must be possible for camera manufacturers to make.

  7. This is exactly why we created Wedding Snap, to collect everybody’s photos and videos in one place through an app for iPhone and android that instantly upload all the photos to one album. This is huge pain for all special events where people are taking pictures of each other, but more specifically the wedding couple are willing to pay a lot for their photos. And that’s how we have made $150k+ in less than 5months of launch.

    And for your family and other non-wedding events we have made which launches in 2 weeks.

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