Hannah Jantos
September 7, 2022

Gen Z and The Rise of the Photo Dump

Photo dumps – purposefully blurry photos, pictures so closely zoomed in the subject disappears into obscurity...

Gen Z girl posing on the street, out of focus camera, motion blur

Photo dumps – purposefully blurry photos, pictures so closely zoomed in the subject disappears into obscurity, and photos of half-eaten pastries. Gen Z has turned the social media landscape on its head in recent years, challenging the idea that every post has to be perfectly edited and face-tuned, with the perfect filter to accompany it.

Gen Z is the cohort of people born between 1997 and 2012, considered the first generation of digital natives – they have grown up surrounded by technologies for their whole lives. Fluent in the language of the digital sphere, this is the first generation that hasn’t had to learn how to use technology at a later age, and as a result, they are changing the way that social media is used.

Social Media – Unfiltered

While Gen Z has grown up surrounded by technology, Millennials were the ones who populated early social media platforms while they were in their early teens. Popularising face-changing filters, perfectly curated Instagram feeds, and photoshopping and face-tuning to perfection, the online space that Millennials created was one delicately curated to edit out any imperfections or signifiers of realness.

Flash forward a few years, and Gen Z has reached the age where they can push back against social trends and start their own.

Enter, the photo dump.

Born out of a COVID-ridden and locked-down world, the photo dump entered the Instagram milieu during a time when the only pictures people were taking were of their morning coffee, the elaborate salad they made for lunch, and their cat looking cute laying in the sun. Posted in a carousel and tied together with an air of nonchalance and an effortless, “I don’t care” attitude.

The photo dump has evolved as the world has shifted to a post-pandemic lifestyle. Adopted by celebrities and influential figures such as Emma Chamberlain, Bella Hadid, and Gracie Abrams, the photo dump has become a carefully curated selection of photos, with perfect-looking photo shoot candids next to half-eaten slices of cake. The combination of objectively beautiful and cool photos paired with objectively pointless ones gives off an “effortlessly cool” vibe. And while some may argue that the photo dump is still a heavily curated selection of photos that paint the user exactly as they want to be perceived, the key premise of the photo dump is that the photos are unedited, real, and raw; bringing a breath of authenticity back into the way that people share their lives online.

The photo dump is an attempt by Gen Z to return Instagram to its original roots as a digital scrapbook, despite the head of Instagram, Mosseri, constantly reiterating the app’s shift away from being a photo-sharing platform.

So, how are photo dumps relevant for you?

Well, assuming you’re here because you either:

  1. Want to learn more about trends for your own purposes
  2. Own a business and want to know what’s “trendy”
  3. Want to know how to target younger generations in your marketing strategy

No matter which one of these options fits you, understanding trends and the trajectory of social media is one of the best ways to stay ahead of the curve and speak the language of the dominant online demographic.

40% of all online users are Gen Z, making this an influential demographic to tap into – but it’s not easy.

Gen Z directed marketing: a how-to list

As we explored above, Gen Z values authenticity, messiness, effortlessness, and coolness, all packaged up in an “I don’t really care” mentality. Now, what does this mean for you?

Here are a few ways that you can embrace the messy Gen Z aesthetic:

  1. Take close-up photos for posting or Instagram Stories. Think zoomed-in photos, both intentionally boring and unintentionally cool.
  2. Take photos of everything. Your half-eaten brunch, a picture of your dog, as long as you’re snapping away you’re doing it right.
  3. Let go of the idea of perfection. Take a photo because it makes you happy. But at the end of the day, keep it as unedited and unfiltered as possible.

Targeting Gen Z without being Gen Z

While completely embracing the Gen Z aesthetic might work for some people and their brands, we understand that it’s not for everyone. But fear not, there are still ways to make your social media speak to the younger generation, even without pretending to be one of them.

Here’s how:

  1. Adapt the photo dump trend to work for you – i.e. Posting unfiltered snaps throughout the day on Stories, posting your business’ photos in a carousel to emulate the photo dump, reposting content that you’ve been tagged in through a carousel – the more diverse each photo is the better!
  2. Embrace the “I don’t care” mentality in your captions. You can still use professional photography for your business and keep your captions relaxed and much less formal. Mixing nice photography with relaxed and informal text will help you balance the message you’re putting out and help you target Gen Z in the process.
  3. Keep it real. The core of the photo dump trend is an attempt to bring social media back into the realm of real and authentic content sharing. So as long as you’re being yourself online and keeping it real with your community, you’re on the right track.

So, now that you have all of this information, the next step is to start creating and learning how to be unapologetically real, raw, and yourself when posting online. We promise you, people will love you for it!

This article was written by one of our Social Media Co-ordinators and blog writers, Hannah Jantos.