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My phone is filled with a ridiculous amount of “accidental photos”

by Brandon Russell | April 18, 2015April 18, 2015 12:00 pm PDT

I was looking through my camera roll the other day, when I realized that I take an obscene amount of pictures. Thousands upon thousands, and more pile up every day.

Smartphones have made it easy to mindlessly shoot anything and everything, and that’s a good thing, because it means more people are sharing incredible imagers all the time. It shouldn’t be more complicated than that—just press a button and you’ve created an image. But that ease of use has also lead to a funny—and very unexpected—nuisance.

Have you ever looked through your camera roll and said, “What is that a photo of, and when did I take it?”

I never realized how full my phone was of pictures I don’t recall taking, but I’ve apparently taken a lot. Enough for me to question if my device secretly snaps photos when I’m not paying attention. I was never really aware these “accidental photographs” existed until today; it was like stumbling across images shot by someone else, which is a bit unsettling. But there they are, sitting in my phone—fascinating half-glimpses that don’t quite tell a full story.

I can pretty much pinpoint where I was and what I was doing in every photo in my camera roll. Most are of my dog, Ellis. But these other pictures are lost memories, beginnings without ends. What was I doing? Who was I with? A few of them provide clues: OK, I was outside of my apartment, or in the studio here at work. But, otherwise, they’re just there, inexplicably created and immediately forgotten.

Now I know what Guy Pearce felt like in 2000’s Memento. But it doesn’t take a detective to figure out how, or why, these photos were snapped. Smartphone camera apps have become so impressively simplified that mistakenly pressing the shutter button is easier than you think. Apparently I do it all the time, creating unintended photos that are captured and quietly filed away. Who knows how long they would have gone unnoticed if I didn’t stumble across them today.

Some of the most popular smartphone apps have incredibly straightforward UIs; my iPhone 6 is essentially just a viewfinder and shutter button. Other camera apps are triggered by simply touching the screen, making these Oops moments an accidental tap away. I don’t really know how or when the above pictures happened—I suppose I was fumbling around with my phone like a fool and pressed the shutter without noticing, like a modern day butt-dial.

I’m not complaining; I’m glad the process of taking photos is so easy. The process is so much more streamlined than it used to be—you just point, shoot, and you’re done. There are apps out there that give you more granular controls, but it appears sometimes our touchscreen pocket computers make it almost too simple, making for plenty of confusing and amusing accidents.

I don’t expect many others to have a camera roll filled with unintended photos. Maybe my hands are just clumsy and uncoordinated. I was never very good at piano. But I thought it was funny that something like this seemingly happens so often. It kind of makes me excited to see what might show up in my camera roll in the future.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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