'Photo dump' is the easiest trend of the pandemic, and it's kinda fun, too

Just dump out all your photos on social media like a hoarding grandma.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
3 min read

Actress Hilary Duff, like many of us, has some random photos to share.


Some pandemic trends were complicated: Sourdough bread, for one. Now, here's one that requires next to no work, is kind of fun and gives people a glimpse into other's lives, whether they're glamorous and exotic or homey and natural. It's the "photo dump."

What's a photo dump?

A photo dump is simply when someone takes a bunch of usually unrelated photographs and puts them up on social media , likely Instagram , though Facebook would also work. 

It's like dumping a box of random print photos on the floor, remembering this day or that big event, perhaps not sweating if a photo is perfectly framed or filtered. (I say "perhaps" because Kardashians have done photo dumps, and I'll never believe their images aren't filtered to within an inch of their lives.)

Photo dumps aren't a new concept by any means. Facebook has long had photo albums that users stuff with high-school memories, wedding snapshots, cute cat photos and the like. And those of us who predate these internet times still have bookshelves stuffed with poorly curated albums that served as 3-D photo dumps long before most of today's Instagrammers were born. Don't ask me how I know.

Sometimes photo dumps have themes -- a child's third birthday party or a wedding -- but the photos themselves fall kind of randomly. Hey, here's a multi-generation dance at the reception ... and now back to the vows! Here's an Easter basket shot -- and now here we are at Thanksgiving! Usually, the images aren't captioned, so you may have to guess at who's who and what's what -- which often isn't the point, anyway.

Instagram user Harry Hill told Mashable that, to him, a photo dump is "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." He said Instagram users used to call these "carousel posts" and also suggests "image buffet" in an attempt to get away from the more negative meanings attached to the word "dump."

Photo dump examples

Actress Hilary Duff hashtagged a "photo dump" back in May, posting 10 photos to one Instagram post that had little or nothing to do with each other. There were floating swans, a baby wearing sunglasses, a toddler seemingly getting a manicure, men grilling at a very chi-chi outdoor kitchen and more. None of the photos are explained or captioned. I assume they're taken at Duff's own home, that the baby and toddler are her daughters, but I can't attest to any of that. She dumped the photos online but didn't try to explain or offer histories.

Other celebrities have also shared photo dump posts, including Kylie Jenner, whose photo dump includes a gigantic, very Kardashian Christmas tree.

Rapper Megan Thee Stallion has a short photo dump post that includes some wicked fingernails, and includes a guest appearance by the Pink Panther.

I like Katy Perry's photo dump of her trip to Prague, because it reminds me of the kind of random vacation photos I share on social media. Hey, here we are exhausted on a train to somewhere! Hey again! Here's a tacky souvenir we snapped a photo of, but did not buy! And look! Here's a cool food or beverage we tried for the first time! The trip looks like a ton of fun, but there's also an unpolished aspect to it that's enjoyably random.

Singer Rihanna, however, isn't a fan of the photo dump concept. While captioning a single-photo bikini post, she wrote, "phuck a photo dump."

How to find them

Photo dump posts are easy to find. Just search on the hashtag #photodump from the Instagram search bar, where a recent search turned up nearly a half million results. 

You'll see a lot of cute babies and puppies, toned abs, and skimpy outfits. Instagrammers may think they're just dumping photos off their camera roll, but realistically, they still want to put their best look forward.