Every so often your camera roll needs to take a dump. That sounds gross, I know. But it’s actually quite beautiful.
When I was bored out of my mind in quarantine, mindlessly scrolling Instagram for hours a day, I found unexpected joy in photo dumps posted by friends and celebrities.
What the heck is a photo dump? Glad you asked. My dear friend and Instagram expert, Harry Hill, defines a photo dump as “a series of five or more photos that are seemingly unrelated, plucked from an overabundant camera roll in an attempt to share multiple vibes at once.”
Photo dumps can include anything your heart desires. They allow you to post a selfie showing off your new haircut, a photo of a Chipwich you stress-ate over your laptop, a shot of your TV paused on a scene from Ted Lasso, the Louvre-worthy breakfast sandwich you ate two weeks ago, and a screenshot of a meme all at once. You can use dumps to illustrate a single event — such as a party or get-together with friends — but you can also use them to sum up entire days, weeks, months, or years of your life. I did the latter by posting a 2020 throwback photo dump to ring in the new year. It featured a post-cry Election Day selfie, my best quarantine meal, and a Cameo from Connie Britton. A real haul.
During quarantine — when no one had any Instagram-worthy events to attend or dress up for — photo dumps became especially popular. They were also a great equalizer.
None of us had anything good to post, so we all silently agreed that it was acceptable to share random and raw behind-the-scenes looks at our lives.
Odds are that you or someone you know has posted a photo dump at one point, even if you haven’t used the “photo dump” caption. Sophie Turner once posted a photo dump with the caption, “Felt like we needed some content on this page… enjoy these throwbacks,” Bella Hadid posted one captioned “Random !,” and Ariana Grande posted a few caption-less photo dumps. The presentation is up to you, but the content is generally consistent.
Images included in photo dumps are often unremarkable and unworthy of solo posts, which is exactly why I love them so much. Dumps say “fuck it” to pre-pandemic Instagram standards and replace the overly thought out, heavily filtered, near-perfect posts we’re used to seeing on social media with shitty, boring, random albums. Photo dumps are low-effort, low-stakes, and, crucially, relatable. They ground us. They keep us humble. And I want them to stick around long after quarantine ends.
As you can see, Harry Hill, aforementioned Instagram influencer, has absolutely mastered the art of the photo dump. But he wasn’t always a fan of the style.
“I was actually anti-carousel posts at first. That’s what we called them in the olden days,” Hill explained in a DM. “I thought they were lazy and unimaginative. Why not just choose the best photo so we don’t have to waste our time?”
A large part of his reluctance to embrace photo dumps was the word “dump,” which appears a disgusting number of times in this article. (Harry if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.) After a quick brainstorm, however, he came up with a far more appealing term for photo dumps: image buffets.
Since he dumped the word “dump,” Hill’s thoughts on photo du— sorry, IMAGE BUFFETS — has changed.
“Now that everyone’s camera roll is bursting at the seams with constant photos and videos, we NEED image buffets, otherwise we’d get buried under our own content,” he explained. “Image buffets are utilitarian and cute. They’re kind of like new-age Facebook albums. After a party or event we post the best 10 pictures that capture the overall vibe. MAYBE a video or two if something happened that couldn’t be contained in a still photo… Ah, Instagram: the millennial scrapbook.”
As we return to our solo post-worthy post-quarantine social lives, please remember to stay hungry for image buffets.