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Living a 35mm Life in a Digital World

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Living a 35mm Life in a Digital World

I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed recently and saw a picture that someone took of a sunset with the caption “unedited”. It struck me that in our media-driven, selfie-taking, “never let ’em see you sweat” culture that we automatically assume everything has been edited. So much so that we have to state when it’s not with a #nofilter or #unedited. Is this caption an apology of sorts for it not being “perfect” or is this admission that it’s perfect just as it is? Interesting thought.

Genesis 1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him…

This is one of my images that I put together as an example. If I posted the edited version on Facebook, you would probably have thought, “Wow!” You may appreciate the unedited version too but you have to admit it doesn’t elicit the “wow” factor. With just a few tweaks we can go from pretty to amazing!

An Unedited Life

I often think that maybe digital photography and the editing software that came with it is what has caused the paradigm shift in our culture. Maybe Facebook doesn’t get to take credit for that.

camera film photopin

Photo Credit for Camera/Film Image: Agfa Ambi Silette and Pro Max film via photopin (license)

Do you remember using cameras with doors for a roll of film instead of doors for SD cards? Do you remember only being able to take 24 pics per roll? I do. It still makes me anxious to think about wasting an exposure because I wasn’t careful enough or someone moved and it was blurry. Each picture would cost money. For the film and the printing.

As I was putting this article together, I asked my 16 yr old if she knew what 35mm was and she simply said “no”. I asked my 24 year old and she said, “35 millimeters?”. Someone commented on a Facebook post poll that she was 28 and remembered. So somewhere between the ages of 24-28 is when digital photography took over and we began the editing extravaganza.

I remember how I used to agonize over what picture to take so I wouldn’t use up my roll of film too quickly. I knew that the printed version would be what it was and often, no matter how much I agonized, it could still turn out terrible if the printer had a poorly calibrated photo processing machine. Once the picture was taken, what’s done is done. Move on. When we shared the pictures with others we would share the imperfections knowing that this was the best we could do with what we had. And it was accepted that we didn’t have ultimate control over the outcome. Oh, and we totally kept all the blurry ones. They at least documented the event. They were not perfect but they would do.

When I was in high school, I worked at a photo printing shop. At one point the shop was a video rental store combined with a photo processing store. My friend/co-worker and I would feed negatives through the machine while we watched Footloose. It was pretty much a dream job for a teenager. At the beginning of the day the machine would have to power up. We waited for what seemed like an eternity for it to calibrate. We would then run some test prints to compare the colors to what the manufacturer color sample deemed as perfection. The proper calibration of the machine made all the difference in the photo quality and thus the customer’s happiness. Occasionally we could adjust the colors in the machines and try to reprint some from the negatives but a bad photo was almost always due to a mediocre camera, wrong film, exposed negatives or user error. With 35mm film, there wasn’t much editing we could do. We simply had to work with what we had.

Enter the age of digital…

35mm life

I recently took pictures at a church event and snapped over 400 images. I did not for one second agonize over the shots I took. I used my digital camera with a 64GB SD card with ample space to click away. I knew that once I got home I would upload them to my computer and have full control over each photo. I knew I could delete or edit. Enhance the colors a little bit or straighten up the lines or crop it a little to make it like I wanted. I could even take out a zit or a wrinkle if I wanted to. After I deleted the rejects I ended up with just over 200 pictures to hand over to the event coordinator. Not 24 or even 48 but 200… Imperfections were eliminated. Cropping was done. Straightening and color enhancements were executed. There was nothing to apologize for. I’m not a professional but a good camera and some editing software would do the trick. I handed over only the best shots. Edited. Of course.

Don’t get me wrong, I love editing! As a writer, I have a tight relationship with my editing functions and my delete and backspace keys. I love having the ability to control and manipulate my words.

I had a “friend” once who knew I was going through something painful. She told me she couldn’t be my friend if I didn’t tell her everything. Needless to say, that friendship ended right there in that little coffee shop. I hadn’t known her for very long. Even though I really liked her and thought our friendship had huge potential, I wasn’t at the place yet where I could trust her heart with the unedited version of me. I realize we have to edit sometimes. Be it for self-preservation or protection.

We need to protect our hearts but we can’t live in isolation.

I realize we can’t/shouldn’t always share everything that is going on with everyone. But I do think we should have a few trusted souls in our corner that can handle our unedited lives even when our machine wasn’t calibrated properly. Because they know there is always more to the story. Hang around those people more. If we hang around with people who expect the edited version of us, guess what, they are likely giving you their edited version too.

I wonder how much of my life I edit. How much of my heart do I edit? Along my journey of self-discovery, I wonder if my controlled and edited life has been beneficial or harmful. I think we know the answer to that. I’ve become proficient in using my life editing software. I need to figure out how to  track down that 35mm version of myself.

I need to find the image that has been carefully calibrated and measured up only to the image of her Manufacturer.

Today, instead of accepting something the way it is, we simply edit it. We edit our thoughts, we edit our actions, we edit our hair, our nails, our size, our features, our beliefs, our commitments. We edit our lives. Sometimes those edits are necessary but we have the control and the tools to make ourselves into whatever we want to be. We create an edited life as we compare our image to others instead of comparing it to our Creator.

We should be careful to note that sometimes editing can be taken too far and actually distort the image to the point where the original masterpiece is unrecognizable.

~Andrea, the 35mm, unedited wannabe

P.S. I’m posting this. But I’m sure I’ll revisit it and make some edits. Hey, I’m a work in progress. 🙂

Photo Credit for Camera/Film Image:  Agfa Ambi Silette and Pro Max film via photopin (license)

About Andrea

Writer+Proofreader+Traveler+Foodie+Dreamer. Let's walk and work together.

13 responses »

  1. I love it, title and all. My favorite: “I wasn’t at the place yet where I could trust her heart with the unedited version of me.” I don’t want to edit myself for others, but it is so easy to do. I may pull out the old 35mm and practice being real.


  2. Love it, friend. I am trying to live the unedited life… yet imam learning many people don’t actually want unedited me. It’s a balance trying to know when to live unedited and when and where to edit.


    • I hear you! I’m not good at living the unedited life. I love being around others who do though. I’m taking notes from them constantly. I think it’s a matter of only pleasing Jesus. The wise words of Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is so true. I think it also ,lends to our “throw away” culture. It’s like we try to edit people, marriages, furniture, casserole dishes
    etc…. If you don’t like it – toss it – then get a new and improved ( edited) version.


  4. This is an AMAZING post. I am so captivated by all the analogies and thoughts you’ve now made me think!

    The “unedited” version of me. Girl. That phrase will go forth and preach on its own!

    All of it. So good. So well said. Thanks for writing this so we could read it!


  5. This reminds me of wearing masks. It’s so easy to want to be liked. Who wants to be rejected, after all? But it’s not about me; it’s about God. Sometimes, especially in the church, we need to take off the masks so people don’t feel so intimidated by their own imperfections, feeling like they are the only one with problems. Didn’t Casting Crowns do a song about this topic?


  6. I’m probably a bit more #unfiltered than i should be, but there is much value in knowing the original version of me.


    • I must admit I’m a bit jealous of you #unfiltered ones. I gravitate to your kind because it’s a longing of mine to be like you. Oh wait, not like you. Like me. But like you. haha! Carry on with your unfiltered self! You make a great you!


  7. I love this! I have been really trying to live a more unedited life. I know I crave realness, just like other people. I agree that we have to selectively edit. I love how you put it, “I realize we can’t/shouldn’t always share everything that is going on with everyone. But I do think we should have a few trusted souls in our corner that can handle our unedited lives even when our machine wasn’t calibrated properly.”



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