How many photos exist in this world?

I have a smartphone.  I am a self-proclaimed photography enthusiast.  I am an occasional vain pot and I am an Instagram user, an addicted one at that.  All these traits combined, it isn’t a surprise that I occasionally get pop-ups notifying me that my phone is low on memory, and I should perhaps delete some pictures.

Whilst clearing out my phone, I wondered how many percent of the total photos ever taken, am I responsible for? And I mean the accumulated amount of pictures ever taken by the entire humanity, since this first one was shot in 1826.


After some research, I found out that the first picture ever uploaded on the Internet was in 1992.  Assuming that pictures only permanently exist once it is digitalised and immortalised on the Internet, I guessed that the statistics gathered would only start from 1992 onwards.  I was wrong.

Turns out, 1000memories had already investigated this question by looking at the number of digital cameras currently in use, and studying the habitual usage of camera owners.  They also studied the amount of usage and supply by film & analogue companies ever since the 19th century.  After lots of careful calculation and tabulation, they estimated that we have taken over 3.5 trillion pictures, 4 billion of which was taken this year alone.

To be honest, the figure didn’t really surprise me.  With the ease of use of digital cameras which are built into our phones, most of us are guilty of taking photos that we don’t ever want to look at ever again.  It could be a picture of the sky which you thought looked interesting in that very moment, but couldn’t give a shit about the next minute, or a picture of yourself trying to look absolutely gorgeous but ending up looking like a constipated duck.

However, I did a bit more digging and found a gob-smacking statistic.  20% of all images ever taken in the past year, all wind up at the same place – Facebook! It’s crazy to think that such a high percentage of photos are all accumulated into one virtual space.

The thing is though, Facebook is home to over 1billion users.  That’s a huge number of crowd, large enough to be the third biggest country (after China & India) in the world, should Facebook users ever claim independence and build their own nation.  In fact, the amount of deceased Facebook users is at an estimated 30million, which is about 4million more than the current population of Malaysians who are alive.

Then in the midst of all these large figures, there is the ‘Six degree of separation’ theory that states every human being on Earth are connected by six or less friends away.  In essence, you can apparently be connected to any other stranger by a friend of a friend at a maximum of six connections.  Going by this theory, should you be in the background of a total stranger’s picture who then proceeds to upload that said photograph onto his/her Facebook, a mutual friend from the six degree of separation between you and this particular stranger would probably spot you and tag you in this picture which is just one of the 4billion photographs that exist on Earth!  And in fact, this has happened to me before.

Such occurrence makes the world feel so intimate, doesn’t it?

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