"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst" is a remark often attributed to Henri Cartier-Bresson. It was not meant to be taken literally you nongs**! 10,000 was just a big number plucked out of the air to say basically if you don’t do this thing called photography a lot you will never be any good at it and if you do do it a lot you will find you get better with practice.
How many is 10,000?
The normal roll of 35mm film contains 36 exposures. A screw mount Leica if loaded carefully can usually squeeze 38 and an M can easily get 39 but I am lazy so I am going to assert that 10,000 exposures is 278 rolls of 35mm.
An enthusiastic but not obsessive film shooter (perhaps taking a 52 roll challenge) may shoot 52 rolls per year. Shooting a roll per week one can get through 10,000 exposures in a mere 5.34 years***.
Just how many Instagram selfies and food shots are 5.34 years worth?
I am glad you asked. At the time of writing Instagram claims 200 million monthly active users and 60 million average photos per day. This equates to a little over 9 uploads per active user per day (60m * 365.25 / 12 / 200m). By averaging 9.13125 uploads per day the average Instagrammer will upload 17,816 photos in the same period. OK, so this is quite a lot more than 10,000 but is in the same ballpark. I was actually expecting this to be a lot higher.
Perhaps we film shooters should reclaim the quote but push it up a bit. If you use a digital camera your first 10^10000 photographs are your worst****
* I sometimes get these urges to think aloud but the posts don’t last more than a few hours and should never be taken too seriously.
** nong is an Australian colloquial expression for an idiot, but a rather affectionate name for one. One would call one’s mates or children nongs but probably not the loud mouthed idiot in the pub - he’s just a stupid cunt.
*** some other options: shooting two christmases and a birthday on each roll it would take around 417 years, shooting a more common 1950s “photo dad” load of about a dozen rolls per year would take about 23 years and shooting a typical 1960s-70s news photographer’s 10 rolls per day 21 days per month it would take about 1 1/3 months. I will assume that if you shoot 11x14 you don’t care about how long it would take to get to 10000 because you rule the universe.
**** I used Calculator.app to do the maths for this post and it confidently asserts that 10^10000 is “Infinity”.