The excitement of a new baby brings out cameras faster than any other time until that child's graduation. Almost everyone can access their baby photos that show their drooling smiles. It's as though having your existence in the world documented is a birthright. Up until the day after your child's first birthday party, the shutter doesn't stop clicking. After that, there may be a drastic decline in photos until the first day of kindergarten. Life gets busy, the camera is put on a shelf, sans the occasional iPhone photo, and the rush is over. To ensure your child doesn't end up in therapy due to a lack of photos documenting their upbringing, take note of these ideas:
After the first year, the decline of photos can be staggering. In many ways, we don't realize how few pictures we take of our kids after the first year, almost until kindergarten when school starts. The occasional trip to the park to feed the ducks, birthday parties, and maybe a few other events in between are documented. It's fine to not put pressure on yourself to take as many pictures each year as you did the first. There's a reason there's more excitement during the first year of childhood. The key is knowing that it's okay if you capture fewer pictures as long as they're really great and interesting.
During elementary and middle school, a lot of the picture frames in our homes hold school photos that the local photographer came in on "picture day" and snapped. With any luck your kid has a nice smile and wore a clean shirt that day. Still, the blue background is the same year after year and creativity is lost. However, I do give credit to a purpose of these photos; when sequentially viewed they're great for documenting the growth of your child year after year sitting in essentially the same position. And that's really their primary purpose. Embrace them for what they are, but realize that they can't replace the candid, creative photos throughout the other 364 days of the year.
The famous family holiday card that many of us send out every December is often another annual photo that gains popularity. Unlike school photos, Christmas card photos are taken in a natural environment. Some people use pictures from their family vacations, some hire a photographer in October to come and photograph the family together (like this example), and some photos are from an event such as a wedding or graduation. Whatever the image, holiday cards are a great part of documenting your child's growth each year. As the kids grow and you share these images with your friends, and view theirs in return, it's a good time to reflect on the year and all that occurred.
It can be a challenge to pick the one image to represent the entire year, and in other cases it's a no-brainer for which one to use. I've heard, "That's a Christmas card photo right there!" countless times. So, certainly there's often that one photo that stands out and wins for the year.
When graduations come, whether it's kindergarten or college, the cameras come out in full force again. These are events that draw crowds and it's often easy to snag someone to take your family photo. Just be aware of all the lighting concerns in outdoor, group photos. Make sure the sun isn't shining just on everyone's noses or that there isn't a diaper delivery truck behind everyone. (Do they even still have diaper delivery trucks?) A great family photo at a big event can be ruined by a stand-in photographer just wanting to snap and run. Before they snap, step out of the picture and make sure everything looks great before you step back in and let them capture your smiling faces. There's nothing worse than a fabulous photo where everyone looks great, but because of some unforeseen obstacle, the photo is ruined. Photoshop can only remove so much.
Keeping an Album
Even though photo albums tend to be passé, they're still a good idea for this purpose. Prints are so reasonably priced and easy to get, even if you don't have a printer and photo paper. Whether you order them online from a company like Snapfish or take your thumb drive to the pharmacy and print out some 4x6 images, it's worth printing the great photos and collecting them in a book. Just like Kindle versus a print book, photos look and feel different on paper. Allow yourself and your child the opportunity for this keepsake. In fact, it would make a great 18th birthday present. Just don't give it to them in front of their friends.
You Count, Too!
No matter how many photos you capture of your children each year, be sure you get enough with you and your child together. I know too many people who don't have pictures of themselves with their parents. Not to be a downer, but someday when you're gone, they'll be glad to have those photos. And, even for you, as they grow up and move away, you'll be happy to have the reflection.
Keywords: Childhood, events, birthdays, photo albums
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