With phones and digital cameras, taking photographs today is very easy and most people do take photographs nearly every single day. Not every photograph is worth making it to our walls though, and that’s perfectly fine. There are a lot of different reasons why we take photographs and it’s worth thinking about it so that we start photographing with our goal in mind and visualising the end results early on.
Here are the few reasons I believe we take photographs of our children/family. If you think I forgot something, feel free to let me know in the comments.
1. For us to remember a special moment in time
A wedding or the arrival of a new baby are big milestones in people’s lives and a lot of photographs are usually taken (either by family or a professional photographer). The main reason is that those times in our lives are very short, intense and happy. We want to be able to relive them in the future and feel the emotions all over again. We know we are going to forget a lot of it, and it’s something that we fear. We want to capture it, save it from time, lock it in a time capsule. Photographs are a great way to bring back the emotions of that specific moment in time.
Other milestones usually captured and printed are birthdays, graduations, Christmas, holidays.
I believe that the everyday moments should also be photographed for the same reason. They are worth hiring a photographer for, worth being laid out in a beautiful heirloom album.
How? Albums, Photo books, Framed prints, Wall Art, Slideshows/videos.
What? I’ll go first: I always feel emotional looking at photographs of my tiny baby sleeping on my chest. I can nearly smell her and feel the softness of her bald head under my lips. I loved those times where everything stopped and I was “stuck” on the couch. Back then, it felt like this time was going to last forever, but it didn’t. Things were mad and busy and I was extremely tired, but I would still give everything to go back for just a minute.
2. To show our children what their life was like / for them to remember their childhood
Do you have any photographs of your childhood that you really cherish? Or photographs of your childhood you wish you had? What and who do they include? What type of activities?
If providing such keepsakes to your own children (and grandchildren) is important to you, then keep reading.
If you have read my about page, you know about my little story. How I would imagine saving my childhood photographs from an imaginary fire when I was a kid. This is mainly why I take photographs of my daughter today. For her. I want her to be able to see where she lived, the people who cared about her, what we (her parents) looked like. Then, when she is a bit older, she will be able to associate her own memories to those photographs, just like we were talking above. And as an adult, the photographs will help her remember and feel what it was like to be a carefree happy child. If she is anything like me, those photographs will be very precious to her.
How? Small prints, photo books, Slideshows/videos, emails.
What? Individual portraits of her are always nice, but probably not the most valuable for her. Everyday moments of her life including context, location and other people will tell her a lot more about her life. Try to think about happy moments of your own childhood, the people you miss and try to capture those memories for your children: grandparents, pets, new home, messy bedroom, puddles jumping, siblings teasing, holidays, quiet moments, the inspiration is endless!
3. To share with our family and friends
Thinking about the past and the future is natural and creating a legacy for our children is very important. But we live in the present and in a time where images are shared every second on social media / by email. Why?
We all have friends and family who don’t live nearby, who don’t get to see our family regularly. In the past, we would have lost touch or only received/sent a photograph of the family by post once a year. As much as I love prints, albums and wall art, I also embrace the digital age 100%. It shouldn’t replace tangible keepsakes but it is a great way to share (a lot of) photographs in an instant, for free!
I am sure there are a lof of other expats out there with family members waiting for their daily (or weekly) photograph of their grandson or niece. Even if they live close by, they are not necessarily there to see every new milestone, hear every new word or witness their last mischief.
Most grandparents are happy to sit through through 100 photographs of their grandchildren. I know my mother happily watch 30 minutes of video of our daughter doing (almost) nothing, and if I don’t post for a few days, she feels like she is missing too much. It’s amazing that we are able to provide them with those instant peeks into our families life. Those photographs or videos don’t need to be technically perfect, they will probably never make it to print, and that’s ok. They served their purpose and it is a great one.
How? Social media, online galleries, small prints and videos.
What? Opening a present (sent by family member), bath time, wearing a new outfit, eating a messy meal, waking up from a nap (with a messy head of hair), sleeping, and basically anything that we think loved ones will enjoy watching.
4. Create a piece of art from a beautiful portrait
Ok, so this is probably not why most people take photographs of their children :) But I wanted to include it because I feel there is a type of photography which isn’t really falling into any of the above purposes.
Sometimes, we take beautiful portraits of our children (or hire a photographer to do so) because we want a beautiful portrait of our children on our walls. I don’t think they necessarily bring us back to that moment when we look at them, they are not for our children to remember what their life was like, and although we are proud to share them with our family, this is not the main goal either.
Those portraits have their place in our lives. They do capture our children’s features, eyes, smile. It is our way to try and stop time and not let them grow up and change too quickly. When we look at those “perfect” portraits, we feel love and pride and we are amazed at how much they’ve changed.
What I think is important here, is to make sure those “perfect” photographs also capture their personality. Although it seems easier to ask our children to pose and smile at the camera, this might result in a bit of a “fake” version of themselves. I will not dig too much in the different ways to get natural portraits of children, but the great thing is that you can have a professional portrait taken in a candid way.
Can you think of a better piece of art for your house than an enlargement of your child’s face with a natural expression that completely captures his/her personality?
The bigger picture
The purpose of this article was to highlight the fact that to photograph our family with intent, we need to think about why we take photographs. We probably take photographs for each of the four reasons above, at different times. Once we are a bit clearer on our why, we can think a little bit more about what we photograph and how we are going to use them.
In a following article, I will talk more about the what and how, but talking about the why first was important.
A little exercise for you
I’d like you to start thinking about your why the next time you take a photograph. Then, why not find a way to tag them / rate them on your phone or computer so that you know what you intended to do with this photograph in the first place? Once you have those two elements in place, it should be easy to figure out what to do with them.
I know time is an issue and I’ll come to that too very soon, giving you some tips and tools to get your images organised and printed.
I hope this article was helpful and would love to hear what you thought of it and if you have any comments or questions.
Don’t forget to share if you liked it!
20 Photographs Your Children Will Thank You For Twenty years from now
Download this 10 page PDF with prompts and photo examples of what your children will find really meaningful someday.
Some you may have already thought about… and some you may not :)