We are lucky enough to live in the heart of the Digital Age. Our children will never know the painful sound of AOL dial up let alone what it’s like to not have a television or handheld computer at our fingertips. However, living in this amazing time has made us lazy, disconnected and often forgetting how important certain things are. As a photographer I have an internal struggle between “leave your clients alone and let them do their own thing” and “force them to print their photos!!” My sessions include the digital download of all images so once a client downloads their photos I usually have no idea if they ever make it off the computer. I wish I knew how many of them actually printed and displayed their photos in their home..is it weird to ask them to send me photos once they are hung up? Ya, probably..but I still want to. When I walk into a returning clients home and see photos from previous sessions displayed in their house it warms me to the depths of my soul. Not because it’s “good advertising” or because it means they liked their photos enough to hang them (well, maybe it’s a little of that last one) but it’s because their children get to see them.
I found THIS article a few years ago and have shared it almost yearly since. In the article David Krauss, a licensed psychologist, says, “I think it is really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit. A photographer’s job is to create and make the image look like a safe holding space for kids where they are safe and protected. Kids get it on a really simple level.”
When kids see photos of their family displayed in their house it gives them a sense of security and belonging. Knowing they are part of something bigger and are deeply loved by that group helps boost their self-esteem. Judy Weiser, a Vancouver based psychologist and author, states “It lets children learn who they are and where they fit. They learn their genealogy and the uniqueness of their own family and its story. When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photograph they say to themselves: ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that’s why I belong here. This is where I come from.’”
Way too many of us (myself included) leave our photos on a device. Whether it be a hard-drive, phone, tablet or even Facebook, our children often have to turn on, log-in or ask us in order to see family photos. Dr. Krauss goes on to say “I am very conservative about self-esteem and I think placing a family photo someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child..this sense of reassurance and comfort. They have a certainty about them and a protecting quality that nurtures a child. It let’s them know where they are in the pecking order and that they are loved and cared for.”
I recently faced the very real possibility of losing all of my digitally stored photos. My hard-drive crash during a storm and my back-up system hadn’t been running properly. Knowing I was potentially going to lose thousands of photos was soul crushing. Not only were all of my professional photos on that computer but so were thousands of photos documenting most of my daughters life. I knew if the hard-drive couldn’t be fixed then all of those photos and all of those memories would be gone forever. This was my wake-up call. You would think that, as a photographer, I would have printed tons of photos but I got lazy. My photos lived on my phone and social media. We had lived in our house for over a year before I legitimately got pictures hung on the walls. Thankfully, all of my photos were retrieved ($900 later) and I now have multiple back-up systems AND I’m printing more photos. Thanks to apps like FreePrints I have been able to print tons of photos quickly and for little money (always a plus!) I am crazy indecisive so choosing photos to display is always stressful for me. I want them all or I want to switch them out often and I let this stop me from getting pictures up for so long. I just didn’t know how to meet my needs. I decided to stop waiting for the perfect display option to pop-up on Amazon and I made my own photo clothes line. It may not be the most beautiful thing in the world but it works for me and my daughter loves it (and she loves spotting when a photo has been switched out!)
When choosing photos to display I am conscious to not only use recent images. I want to display little pieces of our lives..not just my favorites from that years family photoshoot. My daughter loves seeing photos from our wedding day, the day she was born, photos of her younger self as well as me as a child. Through these photos she seems to piece together not only her own life but mine and my husbands as well.
We have a responsibility to print our photos…it may sound silly but think about it. Our responsibility to print photos is not for us but for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I lost my Mother when I was 7 and photos of her are all I have to know and remember her with. I recently came across a photo of her and I that I had never seen before. It was a simple, candid photo of us laying on a lounge chair and her hugging me…seeing it brought me to tears. This is a huge part of why I became a photographer. I give people the gift of moments..moments that would’ve otherwise gone by are now documented and, if printed, they are a tangible source of comfort that can be cherished forever. Of course, not every photo we take is a “framer” but albums are a great way to keep photos available for viewing. My daughter loves looking through my childhood photo albums as well the ones I made when she was a baby. Albums are awesome because they can be categorized and chronological but they are also time consuming to make. Sites like Shutterfly make creating albums a little less painful. Often offering to populate the album for you once you load photos to the site…how are we still making excuses when we have it so easy??
We can’t guarantee that Facebook will hold onto our photos for us or that our usb’s & hard-drives wont fail. We need to take advantage of services like FreePrints and Shutterfly. Many photographers wince at the idea of printing images through companies like this but I’m ok with it. To me, a printed photo is a printed photo. The quality and color will not be perfect or what a professional lab would provide but it is a printed photo nonetheless. It is now a tangible item that can be adored for years…earning smudges and sparking storytelling and that is what matters.
Cali DeCaro is a New Jersey based photographer specializing in Maternity, Newborn and Family photography. Cali fell in love with photographing newborns after the birth of her daughter in 2009. Since then she has been traveling all over New Jersey photographing newborns and their families. For more information or to contact Cali please visit www.RamblingPhotography.com