Capturing Family Memories in Photos

Capturing Memories in Photos
My girls, practicing their photography

I’ve always said that I would sacrifice a lot of things to replace my camera if something happened to it because taking lots and lots (and lots!) of pictures of my kids is that important to me. The good news is these days you can get a decent digital camera for as low as $50 if you watch for a good deal, and while it’s not the same as a digital SLR, it’s still a great way to capture and preserve memories.

I’m guessing, though, that most people reading this right now already have a digital camera. They’re pretty much standard equipment for the American family these days, but too often we leave them packed away in drawers rather than actually taking pictures with them.

And despite my earlier assertion about the importance of family photos, I do find myself neglecting my camera during especially busy days and weeks, and I always regret the missed opportunities!

This fall, I want to get back to basics and make sure I’m taking pictures regularly again rather than always putting it off until tomorrow. We all know how quickly kids change and grow, and I don’t want to look back and realized I’ve missed the moments along the way.

As I’m thinking about this myself, here are my best tips for preserving your family’s memories in photo:

Keep Your Camera Accessible

Life is busy, and time goes by in the blink of an eye. If your camera is kept in a drawer or cabinet, or even out in the open in a room you never use, you are less likely to get it out and actually take pictures. And even if you’re willing to go get it, you will miss a lot of opportunities to capture the unplanned snuggles and wrestling matches when the moment ends before you get back with your camera.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you carry your camera around your neck all day every day. However, I do recommend finding a home for it that’s easily accessible in the main living area of your home. I used to keep mine on a corner of our breakfast bar, where I could easily grab it while cooking, cleaning, doing a craft with the girls, etc. These days, it’s on my desk, where I can reach it whenever I hop up to try to snap a picture.

I don’t know if this is considered a big no-no, but I don’t even keep my camera in a case unless we’re leaving the house because I know that I’ll avoid taking pictures if I have to get it out of the case every time.

Where is your camera right now?

Coloring
Our little artist

Capture the Posed Shots and the Everyday Moments

Too often, we get caught up in trying to capture the perfect photo, and we miss tons of opportunities for beautiful photos. I mentioned earlier this summer that I took the Finding the Joy e-journey from Kelly Willette of Willette Designs, and what I loved most was that she showed us how to capture those moments so they look good. If you’re not comfortable with your camera and how to do that, I highly recommend subscribing to blogs, looking at other people’s photos and/or taking a course to help you get comfortable.

My photos aren’t perfect or professional quality, but here are some of my best tips as a mom who’s learning as I go:

  • Get close. Don’t try to capture the whole scene in one photo. Instead, get close and let your subjects fill up a large portion of your screen. Or crop your pictures afterward so that there is less background and more of your child!
  • Don’t try to center the photo. For the first 2 or 3 years after I had kids, I worked really hard to center them in every picture I took. And then I realized that none of the beautiful pictures I was oohing and ahhing over did this, and those pictures look so much more natural because of it. This is actually called “the rule of thirds,” although I’ll admit I still don’t do this perfectly, as the picture at the top shows!
  • It’s all about perspective. Often when we take pictures of our kids, we do it while standing up looking down at them. While I happen to love photos taken from above — if they’re done that way on purpose — it’s important to kneel down and get on the same level as your subject to really capture the moment.
Snack
Eating a snack

Give Up Perfect

There are lots of “rules” and guidelines for taking great photos, but don’t get so caught up in them that you stop taking pictures in the meantime. Some friends of ours had their first son about three-and-a-half years ago, and when I started looking through their photos, I realized that I really wanted to capture my kids in this more artistic way,  but I had no idea where to start. If you look at my photos since then, you’ll notice a slow progression as I started to learn and try new things. I’m so glad I didn’t give into my perfectionist tendencies and just stop taking pictures altogether at the beginning!

Does perfectionism keep you from taking photos?

Join a Group

At the beginning of the summer, I also participated in Ali Edwards’ “Week in the Life” series, taking pictures of everything for a whole week to document a typical week in our home. Between that and the Finding the Joy e-journey, I was really motivated to start capturing more photos of the things and places around us rather than just focusing on “typical” photos of the girls doing something cute.

Whether you take a course, join a Flickr group,  participate in a bloggy carnival or just make a pact with a group of friends, having support and encouragement along the way — and a built-in audience for your photos! — is a great way to get motivated to take more pictures.

Reading
Reading some books

Have a Plan for Your Photos

It’s not enough to take lots of photos if they never make it off your camera! Decide how you’ll organize, archive, backup and share your photos so that’ll have a plan for them as you start taking more. I organize my photos in folders by date — i.e., August ’10 — on both my computer and Flickr, and I also back them up on DVDs that are stored in a fire safe. I’d really like to do better about tagging the people and events in each photo so I can search for them that way because I’m sure it’s going to get harder to remember when such-and-such occurred as time goes by!

Right now, I don’t print many of my photos at all, so that’s something I’d like to get better at. I love the idea of just keeping a couple baskets around the house where we can keep prints to flip through, since they’re so inexpensive. My mom creates photo books for each of the girls first birthdays, and I also like the idea of creating a “year book” with the highlights from each year or a “week in the life” book from each year’s project. And I’d also like to print my own postcards to send to our grandparents from time to time.

What do you do with your photos?

Just Do It

The most important part of capturing family memories in photos is just doing it. Don’t let perfectionism or procrastination hold you back. Just start taking photos and learn how to do it better as you go!

This post is brought to you by Willette Designs, home of the Finding the Joy and Finding YOUR Joy e-journeys. My next goal as a photographer is to do better about getting taking photos of myself as well, and I’m really looking forward to the Finding YOUR Joy course to learn all of Kelly’s tips and tricks for doing that!

Mandi Ehman at Organizing Your Way

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