When should you take photographs?

JKottke, a loyal MR reader, asks:

Is taking a photo or video of an event for later viewing worth it, even
if it means more or less missing the event in realtime? What’s better,
a lifetime of mediated viewing of my son’s first steps or a one-time
in-person viewing?

If you take photos you will remember the event more vividly, if only because you have to stop and notice it.  The fact that your memories will in part be "false" or constructed is besides the point; they’ll probably be false anyway.  In other words, there’s no such thing as the "one-time in-person viewing," it is all mediated viewing, one way or the other.  Daniel Gilbert’s book on memory is the key source here.

Furthermore you don’t need the later viewing for the photo or video to be worthwhile.  It’s all about organizing your memories in the form of narratives and that is what cameras help us do, if only by differentiating the flow of events into chunkier blocks of greater discreteness. 

A photo that requires retakes might be more effective than a photo you get right the first time.

Personally, I take pictures of Yana only when she tells me to, which I might add is often.  I’ve never owned a camera, but for most people I recommend the photos. 

By the way here are 21 ways to take better photographs.


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