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?