Are You Overdoing It With Your Vacation Photos?

Last week I was looking through my phone for a specific photo and was surprised to find that over the past five years, I’ve amassed over 14,000 photos! Many of these are from life and family events, but for the most part they consist of vacation photos. From my 2011 trip to Afghanistan alone, I had over 1,500 photos. The following year, I came back from the same trip with over 2,000 new shots. The number of photos from subsequent trips has dwindled, but I was really shocked by the large number of photos and more importantly, that many of them were duplicates, blurry shots, or just random photos of places and things that didn’t matter. This got me thinking – how many vacation photos is too many?

Vacation photos

As someone who doesn’t like acquiring souvenirs and other material things to remember a trip, I do value my photos and enjoy sifting through them. However, I realized that about half of my photos could be deleted because they’re completely insignificant. So I began sifting through the ones from my 2013 trip to Maui and Sydney and I was able to delete over 600 of them. That’s just from two trips. I’ve decided to dedicate some time this week to cleaning up the rest of my photo albums to really pare it down to the best pictures, because these extra photos are cluttering up my albums, using up data and making it difficult to find the photos I do want. My criteria for eliminating photos is as follows:

  • If it’s not a photo I would print out and hang on a wall, I’m deleting it.
  • If it’s a duplicate, I only keep the best shot and delete the rest.
  • If it’s blurry and I can’t fix it, it goes.

Years ago, I used to think every photo mattered. I think that was especially true during my trip to Afghanistan, because it was such a special experience and I wanted to capture every moment of it (literally). Never mind that I probably spent more time taking photos than actually experiencing things in real time. Those photos were also taken during my packrat period, when I refused to throw away old movie ticket stubs. I’ve become much better at detaching myself from possessions and reducing the number of things I own – both material and digital.

I think my use of Instagram has probably influenced my new philosophy. On the platform, you only publish your best photos and before you do, you clean them up to make them look their absolute best. Something about that has really stuck with me and made me realize I don’t need to take thousands of photos on every trip. Not every shot is precious, just as not every souvenir you bring back with you needs to have sentimental value. So going forward, I’ve vowed to take fewer photos and to really enjoy the experience of traveling, rather than just the memories.

I’d love your thoughts on this: Are you taking excessive photos during your travels that prevent you from experiencing things in real time What do you bring home from your travels and how do you decide how much of it to hold onto?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. Like you mentioned in your post I think the key is to make sure the picture taking doesn’t take away from your experience.

    I took 1,000s of pictures during our trip to Greece but I’d be ok with keeping just 100 of them. I’ve had trips dampened by excessive family picture taking so I’m always trying to protect the experience.

  2. I only buy one souvenir when I travel. it has to be one small thing that I need and will use every day for the rest of my life.

    years ago I was in Vezelay and my ten year old, anne klein, red leather change purse finally almost fell apart. I bought a tapestry change purse, put my coins in it, and have carried it ever since. every day, when I put the change from my 85¢ cup of coffee in that purse I remember the days I was in Vezelay.

    that’s the sort of impact travel should have in your life. one small, seemingly insignificant, thing that in fact is very important.

  3. Hi Arianna,

    I average about 600 photos a trip. I have them organized by year and then by month on my hard drive. Some time ago, I changed my Mac hard drive to 1 TB so I have plenty of space.

    Friends always ask me, “so, where was your last trip?” I generally select about 100 pictures for a slide show to give the audience a flavor of where I was. More than that takes long and people don’t have the patience to sit through them.

    I have folders on my desktop all the way from the year 1999 when digital pictures just started. A lot of those photos and movies are very precious to me as they have my wife in them. She passed away 5 years ago and those photos bring nostalgic memories.

    Will you be coming to the Chicago Miles conference this October. If you are maybe we can meet up because I plan to go.

    Talk to you later.


    • That’s another reason to narrow it down – when people would ask me for photos, I’d have to sift through a bunch of them and pic the best ones. Yes, I will be at the Chicago Seminars this year. See you there!

  4. When my partner and I travel we both take lots of pictures of the same things, I’ve learned that we shouldn’t combine our files. Also, he’s a digital artist and loves to take pictures of things like bricks and peeling paint or moss on stones for texture reference. When I was looking at pictures from a trip I was thinking “when did I do that?”.

  5. I think a lot of it depends on how you’re using your photos. I take tons because I’m not a great photographer and will end up with the blurry or off-kilter photos so I improve my chances of a good one by taking more. On my “big trips” I take a laptop and copy my friends’ photos to my hard drive and then create a Shutterfly book using the best photos of all of us. It can be challenging to determine which is the “best” photo of some icon when you’ve got photos from 10 different people but it’s amazing how many will be very similar and yet someone will find a unique angle and it will look quite different.

    Though I will zap the totally unusable photos, that’s what external hard drives are for – storing all those excess photos!

  6. What a great reminder that it is time to do this! They do build up. I like your criteria, too. So, while I am waiting to take another stab at ms at WM, I can get some photos culled out. Thanks!!

  7. Hi Ariana. Off-topic from this post but do you ever have an issue getting and MO and finding that the $$$ amount is printed in extremely faded/light ink? If so, is there anything to do about it? I mostly use mobile deposit and I’m worried the MO I bought this AM will not be accepted by bank. I mentioned the faded ink to the employee at the store and she seemed dismissive and just said “thats how they always look.”

    • They do tend to be a bit faded, but I haven’t had one I’ve been concerned about. I could be wrong but I feel like the bank can verify the amount based on the number sequence. I would hold onto the receipt in case the bank rejects it.

  8. My wife definitely gives me a hard time for being on my phone too much when traveling…or just around town at home. I take a lot of pictures too, but nowhere in the 1000s like you are doing. We collect a magnet and a Christmas ornament from most places we visit.

    • I was without my phone for about two weeks recently and it was the most peaceful two weeks I’ve ever had. I’m now making a conscious effort to put it down – whether I’m around other people or traveling on my own. It’s just becoming too much of a waste of time.

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