It was a simple enough equation. The bride and groom-to-be were broke. Wedding photos were expensive. A family member who owned a small photography business offered to shoot the wedding for free, and the couple conceded. But once the honeymoon ended, the bride was crushed when her images didn't compare with the charming wedding photos uploaded by Facebook friends.

She and her husband elected to fly in a photographer to "retake" the wedding pictures on their six-month anniversary. The pictures conveyed everything the wedding photos hadn't: the ease and sweetness of their interactions. The euphoria of being young and in love. The promise of friendship in the years to come. The bride finally had what she wanted: photos she loved and loved to show off. But at what cost?

Now, before anyone accuses this couple of vanity, let's admit we've felt a similar tug of disappointment before, whether for a group photo ruined by a silly facial expression or a close up captured at an unflattering angle. Why do we care deeply about how our photographs turn out? Why do we treat beautiful photos as the ultimate markers of special events?

We live in a culture that values images, immensely. We give images permission to influence our ideas, shape our identities, and saturate our daily routines. The speed with which we share our photos, the social obligation by which we post them ("These are going on Facebook, right?"), and the masses with which we share them signify their value. Each day, we upload more than 5.2 million photos to Instragram and 100 million to Facebook, with no signs of slowing down our snapping and sharing. In an age of camera phones and digital photography, we can all become photojournalists ...

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