95% or greater of the photos I take today, are family photos. Pictures of my wife, daughter and in-laws about our everyday activities. While I was certainly mostly taking family photos before the lockdown, since the pandemic started — and even now with the restrictions mostly lifted here in Poland — it has remained true.
And yet, I don’t post these family photos online — with very rare exceptions which I’ll outline later. Here’s why.
Once something is online, you don’t have control anymore
As part of Facebook’s terms and conditions, you give the global social network the right to use your photos to promote brands on their service. Usually, this is just about photos you upload connected to a location, but the way the policy is currently enforced doesn’t changed the rights.
Even on services where you retain full rights, such as your own blog, you can’t guarantee full control over your photos. Someone may break copyright, copy that photos and then distribute it as they like leaving you to chase them through the legal processes.
And when it comes to family photos, you basically can’t guarantee that you’ll even know where the photos are. Even if you delete a photo off your site, it might still remain on a server somewhere without your knowledge.
Measure like the GDPR in theory are designed to help prevent this but it doesn’t stop a stranger downloading your photo. For my street photography, this has never really bothered me, but for personal photos of my daughter growing up, it does. And that’s because…
I want my daughter to be able to choose her digital presence
Right now if I asked my daughter if she wanted her photo online she’d probably just say “purple” or “busy day” (her two favourite phrases at the moment, thank you super simple songs).
She is not able to make decision about what images she does or doesn’t want online. To force my decision on her now and make her live with them all her life is tough.
It used to be that we just had to worry about our parents taking out the photo album when a new partner visited for the first time, now there’s the risk of your school bully finding an old embarrassing photo and sharing it around the whole school.
I want my daughter to be able to make her own choices when she’s older. She may still not make the best choice, but at least she won’t be upset at me for a harmless decision I made 10 years before but now appears foolish.
We can share photos privately
Having said all of that, my family do use a couple of private online photo sharing services to send photos to each other of our kids growing up. These include an album on Google photos which we have shared and add new photos to regularly.
This allows our family members to see photos of us without needing to place them on the public internet, limiting potential exposure.
I do share some photos
I have posted a few family photos in the past and probably will in the future. They are always photos which are mostly anonymous. There is rarely a face or clear outline of a person, but instead you can see a hand, a toy, or some unidentifiable feature.
This even applies when I share pictures from a trip to the Polish mountains.
Having said all that, it’s still rare that I share any of these photos because…
I take family photos for me
I don’t have any lofty goals with my family photography and I’m certainly not as artistic as Taras Bychko’s two rooms project.
Instead, these are both a way to interact with the moment, and save memories for later. They are enough of a reward in themselves and I don’t need independent validation of that.
What about Street Photography?
This has influenced my increasingly rare ventures in street photography. I’m a lot more selfish with my photos and take them for myself, not to share.
Perhaps that will change at some point in the future, but for now I enjoy it.
I’m not saying you should follow this approach at all, I just wanted to share a piece of my journey and mindset.