What Are My Digital Photos Like? (Part 1 of 6)

Photos-iconWhat follows here is a summary of some lengthy work I went into, because I wanted to write a post about digital photos that we’ve all been taking, some of us for over a decade. I’ll be breaking it up into multiple parts to ease the digestion of it all.  Quick jumps:



When Apple came out with their latest iOS and OSX releases, they created a new application for managing photos, called simply enough, “Photos”. They have touted this as re-thinking digital photography and library management from the ground up, replacing iPhoto, photos on the iPhone, and the cloud sharing aspect “My Photo Stream” and “Shared Photo Streams”.

Apple has done this with applications before, specifically iMovie and most recently the professional video editor Final Cut Pro. In every case, the new app has less features than what came before it, and has caused headaches for some people. With Photos, Apple claims the changes in the new architecture will allow them to add in 3rd party plug-ins and all sorts of other advanced features. I tend to believe them here, because this is exactly what happened with iMovie and Final Cut Pro.

One of the newest features added is “ICloud Photo Library”. Unlike before, with “My Photo Stream”, this uploads all your photos into the cloud, has the cloud manage them (an optional feature to make it such that your originals aren’t clogging up space on your hard drive), and makes all photos you’ve ever taken anywhere accessible on any Apple device (Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Macs) at any time. You can make changes to a photo on any device, and that change is reflected everywhere. The cloud library is non-destructive, so you can revert a change. There are natural concerns with this (I don’t have my photos – they are on the cloud?!?!?!), but it certainly is appealing. The idea that you don’t have to manually synchronize your iDevices with your Mac and thus never have to delete a photo to free up space is awesome.

I’ve been debating whether to go the Apple Photos route, which meant looking at all my photo libraries, which I have already divided up in order to better organize and to save space. In doing so, it really got me thinking about how my digital photo libraries. iCloud Photo Library isn’t free – anything over 5GB costs money. So, how big is my library?  How many photos have I taken?  What did I take them with?. How much storage space am I using?  Finally, how have things changed over time?

This last one is of special interest to my autistic-leaning brain. I wasn’t quite a first generation adopter of digital photography, but I latched onto it in 2000 when our first child was about to be born. I liked the idea of taking tons of photos and not having to develop them. I wouldn’t have to worry about a bunch of missed opportunities because I snapped the shutter at just the wrong time. I could take them over and over and over and just keep the best ones.

I know that the digital photos I took in 2001 pale in comparison to the ones I take now. Moore’s Law has meant I’m taking bigger and bigger photos, with more megapixels and much more granularity, than I was back then.

So, I decided to dig in and see what I’ve done and share with you. You’re welcome. J

My Digital Photography History

I bought a digital camera in 2000 as we were getting ready for the birth of our first child. It was a Canon PowerShot S100. It was a 2.1 megapixel camera, but I hardly ever used it at that resolution, as you would barely be able to fit any pictures on the CF (CompactFlash) card (I initially had an 8MB card, and later upgraded it to a 48MB card, which surprisingly I still happen to have). Most of my pictures were 0.3 megapixels (I’ll dig into megapixels more later).

The 48MB CF Card from my first digital camera

The 48MB CF Card from my first digital camera

Over time, this camera was replaced with various other point and shoot cameras. There were some other PowerShot models, one or two Kodak EasyShares, a Samsung or two, and a couple of Sonys. Eventually, I moved totally over to using my phone as my camera, and in the last couple of years I have started getting more interested in photography, and own a Nikon D5200 DSLR.

Organizing My Photos

I was and still am a HUGE stickler for making sure the date and time are correct on the camera. This is not a problem for the iPhone camera, but was a big deal for my old point and shoots, and I constantly make sure my DSLR is correct. I want to know when, exactly, I took a photo. I’m so autistic about this that I have gone into photos my wife took with one of her point and shoots where the date and time was off (no, this was not taken in 1990 at 12:01am), and compared it to photos I may have taken, or pestered her into finding the exact date and rough times, and then manually edited the EXIF data on the photo to fix the date and time. I simply cannot stand not knowing when something was taken.

I would like to extend this to “where”, but that is much harder. The old point and shoots didn’t have GPS on them, so the “where” on most my old photos are lost to history. And it pisses me off… to no end… that Nikon doesn’t just build GPS into their damned DSLR cameras. The extrenal GPS module for it is an unwieldy, ugly beast that is ridiculously expensive and I’m just not going to buy it. I’ve had a minor argument with a couple of photog friends about this, who see no reason that a GPS should be added, (some don’t care much for having the date and time). To which I reply (silently in my head) that these people are dinosaurs. It makes searching for photos so much easier, and I would think as a photog you would want to have an idea of when and where you maybe took a photo, in case you want to try to reproduce it. This technology is cheap. Just do it already. Ugh.

Anyway, because my photos are really well organized for date and time, I am able to gather a lot of data, and it made it much easier to create the charts that follow. As a computer nerd, I wrote a lot of scripts (in Perl, using ImageTool::Exif) to pull relevant information from the photos, imported the results into Excel, did a little formatting, and wala.

How I Organized the Data

I went through a lot of revisions of pulling data. At first I wanted to know each individual camera (data stored in the EXIF), but that turned out to be way too much granularity. The sheer number of point and shoots we owned prior to having the iPhone camera really surprised me. Knowing the difference between a D3200 and D5200 DSLR wasn’t informative, and after really looking at all this data, breaking out the different iPhone models wasn’t informative. So, for the purposes of making the data easy to review, I collapsed all my point and shoots into one bucket, all the DSLRs into another, and all the iPhones into a third.

OK, now… show me the data!

(Part 2: How Many Photos Have I Taken)


5 thoughts on “What Are My Digital Photos Like? (Part 1 of 6)

  1. Pingback: Thoughts of a Raving Geek | What Are My Digital Photos Like? (Part 2 of 6)

  2. Pingback: Thoughts of a Raving Geek | What Are My Digital Photos Like? (Part 3 of 6)

  3. Pingback: Thoughts of a Raving Geek | What Are My Digital Photos Like? (Part 4 of 6)

  4. Pingback: Thoughts of a Raving Geek | What Are My Digital Photos Like? (Part 5 of 6)

  5. Pingback: Thoughts of a Raving Geek | What Are My Digital Photos Like? (Part 6 of 6)

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