Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bentley chapter.

No semester, year, or trip is complete without a photo dump on Instagram highlighting all the best moments. Complete with candid shots, your best outfits, photogenic drinks and meals, and your besties, photo dumps have become the normalized way of sharing a period of your life online. But photo dumps haven’t always been around – they’ve only grown in popularity recently. So where did photo dumps even come from?

The origin of the photo dump can be credited to the notorious coronavirus pandemic. Social media blog Sociality.io explains that during quarantine, people started posting photo dumps because they’re a more casual type of Instagram post that offers an intimate view into the user’s life – something that we were definitely lacking during lockdown. These casual and unfiltered posts greatly contributed to the eventual “make Instagram casual again” movement, which pushed for more of these raw and carefree posts instead of highly posed and edited pictures. This led to a shift in the content that was normalized on Instagram – more pictures of nature, animals, food, and general aesthetics started filling our feeds instead of posts strictly containing ourselves and others.

This uncurated posting style widens the array of pictures that are ‘acceptable’ on social media. A lot of things fly in a photo dump – blurry pictures, embarrassing moments, and even memes. While these types of pictures usually find themselves towards the end of a photo dump, they add a layer of personality to posts that posed and edited pictures usually lack. Coupled with Instagram offering its ‘hide like count’ option and the launch of casual social media platforms like BeReal, photo dumps have become the new norm.

And even celebrities are jumping on the photo dump trend. Elle Magazine praises celebrities like SZA for her stylish pictures that would have been a crime not to post, and W Magazine bows down to Bella Hadid’s photo dump skills for making random pictures seemingly cool. W Magazine went on to describe the power of the photo dump perfectly – “you can provide reading recommendations and a swimsuit photo all in the same post, without seeming weird.”

But celebrities aren’t the only ones digging the dump trend – so are brands! For example, Emma Chamberlain, one of Instagram’s photo dump masters, has promoted her coffee brand by including pictures of her drinking her own products in her posts and tagging her brand’s account. Chamberlain Coffee’s use of this popular Instagram trend has become a gamechanger for brands – consumers don’t want to see heavily edited and filtered posts of products, but rather lifestyle photos that show how brands’ products can be incorporated seamlessly into our daily routines. And the best part about it is that it actually works! Hootsuite reports that carousel posts reach 1.4x more users and get 3.1x more engagement than regular, single-photo posts. The numbers don’t lie – people love the dumps!

Whether you’re a big Instagram user or not, I think the real takeaway from the rise of the photo dump is our desire for more authentic content on social media. I can even see this shift in my own Instagram profile! For example, pre-2020 most of my posts were highly filtered and posed and lacked variety – I would only post pictures of me with my friends. But now, my grid consists of more sunsets, candids, art, and ‘secret posts’ that I want to highlight on my grid without being shown in my followers’ feed. This shift has made my Instagram feel much more natural and authentic, and I don’t get nearly as much anxiety about posting as I used to when posts and likes were taken more seriously.

But I think the best part of the photo dump is what it represents – “We can’t be bothered to post on the grid daily,” as put by Elle Magazine. Instead of having separate posts for every significant event in our life, photo dumps let us pick our favorite moments and organize them into a single post in a way that compliments each other. By limiting the frequency of our posts and focusing instead on the content in our posts, we can spend more time just living in the moment! Gone are the days of stressing about getting the perfect picture on vacation or feeling obligated to post for big events. Instead, we can memorialize the best moments in our lives by throwing together random pictures we love from times we want to cherish without worrying how many likes we’ll get.

So whether you’re a freshman who wants to reminisce on your first semester at college, or you’re a senior preparing for all the photo ops at Commencement Ball, Senior Boat Cruise, the Bahamas, and Graduation, photo dumps are the perfect way to give your followers a glimpse into what makes your life worth posting about. In the meantime, remember to check out our Her Campus at Bentley Instagram account and maybe you’ll see a photo dump from us!

Hi everyone! My name is Banmai Huynh and I am from Chelmsford, MA. I'm a Corporate Finance and Accounting major at Bentley University in Waltham, MA and I’m the President of our Her Campus Chapter. I joined Her Campus because I think it's a great creative outlet for college students. I like writing about my personal experiences, opinions, and recommendations! Thanks for reading!