Do bad photos matter anymore?

Back in the day, before digital cameras and constant high-speed internet connections, we had reason to worry about photos. In those days, just over 10 years ago, an awkward picture might be the only representation people saw of us in coffee table photo albums. But now, with so many tagged photos on Facebook, what’s the real impact of a single bad one?  

My siblings, a friend, and I discussed this over Christmas and recently, a photographer friend posted his own take on it. As someone who carries an SLR with him to social gatherings, he’s often had to duck and take cover after snapping shots. People would swarm him with preview requests and warn him of posting less-than-flattering pics on Facebook.

But I don’t think they matter anymore. Well, let me not say that. Sometimes one photo does matter.

Like when you’re secretly a bigamist.

Or when the “family emergency” you had to miss work for is really a Halloween party

And you definitely don’t want wild party pictures easily accessible when you’re searching for a job or on trial for underage drinking and driving.

But for the vast majority of us it’s not that crucial. Most of us aren’t trying to hide those kind of secrets. Our photo concerns usually come down to one thing, and one thing only: do we look good in them?  

Take a look at a random friend’s photo counts. How many pictures are tagged? Hundreds? Thousands? Now ask yourself this: when was the last time you looked at only one photo of someone on Facebook? If you can look at more than one photo, you probably will. Others do the same when looking at yours. So even if one is slightly off (exhibit A), the rest will still do a great job of giving off a good aesthetic impression (exhibits B, C and D).

Facebook has over 3 billion photos uploaded each month. Chances are, you get tagged in at least one of them. With these kinds of numbers, and with friends being able to see so many of them, do a few bad ones still matter?

6 Comments

  1. Peter Tsai says:

    I think that on Facebook, people do look at a lot of photos so it’s not a big deal if one of them is bad. I would argue that first impressions are usually the most important though – so if your profile picture is bad, then people aren’t likely to click through to the rest of your photos.Same goes for actors headshots, product fan pages… if you don’t have any "good" pictures, people won’t be willing to click through to see the rest.

  2. Aaron Bryson says:

    I do not think it matters. I have a couple thousand photos of me tagged on facebook, and some are good, but most are not. But my profile picture is always a good one for the reasons that Peter stated. Anyone who is searching for me may see my profile picture and that is the first impression so I want it to be good. However, those that are already my friends and can view all my photos, and since they already know me and have seen me, it doesn’t matter if they see some bad photos of me. I like being keeping it real. I put the good, the bad, the ugly out there because I am comfortable and happy with myself. Some people are a bit more high maintenance and only put glamour shots of themselves up, and there is nothing wrong with that.I guess the way I see it is, would you rather have someone say "You look better in person!" or "You look better on Facebook!". Haha,

  3. Anonymous says:

    I gotta side with Aaron here. Though I agree that first impressions matter, Aaron's point about us choosing our best photos for profile pictures and then paying less attention to tagged ones is valid. People searching for us will see our best face and only friends–who typically have already seen us in person anyway–being able to see the tagged means they won't be getting skewed impressions of what we look like. <br> <br>LOL @ &quot;You look better on Facebook&quot;

  4. Twin says:

    We had this conversation a few years ago. After you posted that one picture of me getting a perm. I had some friends take that off of Facebook and use it in a slideshow… EMBARRASSING! haha. But I guess I really didn’t mind. Generally I’m not TOO concerned about whether a picture is flattering or not. But I guess it depends… some pictures are just REALLY bad. But those are few and far between, and I’ve always been irritated when people won’t let me post pictures or try to get me to delete a picture because they don’t think they look very nice. Especially since almost all of the time, they look perfectly fine and are just being picky.

  5. Oliver says:

    I don’t like bad photos of myself, but it’s not such a big deal if everyone sees them. What bothers me more is the action of someone choosing a horrible photo to upload. Personally, as a photographer, I try to pick photos that show my friends in the best light. I think everyone should have the same sense!

  6. Anonymous says:

    ::searching through archives for horrible photos of Oliver::<br><br>But Oliver, isn't a lot of it subjective? Some photos might be obviously horrible but others may look fine to you but bad to others. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? How would you (or those of us who aren't as good at photography :-D ) deal with what Bunmi/Twin said: &quot;…almost all of the time, they look perfectly fine and are just being picky.&quot;?

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