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September 28, 2011

What is the “findability” of your photos?


Another nice find from does a great job of estimating how many photos have ever been taken, both analog and digital. Their analog estimation is astonishing with 85 billion photos being taken in the year 2000. As we shift in to the digital age, the initial uptake was slow but it’s not estimated that 2.5 billion people in the world today have a digital camera and assuming every person snaps 150 photos per year that equates to 375 billion photos per year. Put another way, every 2 minutes today we snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s. Mind boggling.

The post continues by exploring where these photos get stored, with an estimated 70 billion heading towards Facebook this year – adding to the current 140 billion photos they have. It’s going to make Facebook’s recently introduced timeline feature all the more visually compelling.

As the 1000memories post mentions, the potential for all of these photos, when brought together, is amazing. Technology like Photosynth can create some remarkable moments that would have been almost impossible with analog photography - “The Moment stands as a great example.

The post finishes by imploring us to cherish the “lost photos” in shoe boxes and there is something quite magical about finding a creased, old, black and white photograph and enjoying that sensory experience.

Despite all of these advances in photography, there is another reason that digital photos languish in much the same way analog photos do – I’ll call it findability. Most of my digital photos are seen once or twice at best as the lack of meta data makes them too hard to find. I want to just speak to my computer (or TV, or room) and say “show me all the photos of me and the family in the last 18 months”. That’s a relatively obvious query but it shows how far we have to go as today, that would involve lots of sorting and searching in my folders. Facial recognition and batch tagging of the kind found in Windows Live Photo Gallery, Picasa and recently Facebook, will certainly help but it’s just one part of the puzzle to solve that relatively simple sounding query.

As you may have heard me say before on this blog, we’re really just scratching the surface with technology at the moment – there is so much more to come. 

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