We Are Both Right

Preserving Memories – What’s Your Style?

old family photos

What are your family's memories made of? ©Jean Scheijen/stock.xchng

The other night, while I was rearranging the game closet (because it was about time) my daughter came up behind me and asked for her special pink book. “The one that’s all about me,” she said.

I reached up two shelves and handed over a fuzzy covered photo album that contains about two hundred pictures of her first two weeks of life. Yes, I take a lot of pictures. And my kids love me for it. ;-)

Actually, I have archived so many pictures that my husband jokes around that when we’re both gone someday, our son and daughter will be sitting in our house, looking at a room full of photo albums and portable hard drives, saying: “What are we supposed to do with all of this?”

But hey, it’s my memory-preserving style of choice.

Kids grow up so fast. There are so many special moments that I’m always thinking, I wish I could bottle this up and take it out down the road. The color of my daughter’s hair as I put it into pigtails for the first time. My son as a toddler digging into his favorite vegetable — corn on the cob. The looks on their faces the first time each of them rode a pony. Family gardening days out in the yard. Trips to the beach. Visits with great-grandma.

All of the random stuff that makes our family’s world go ’round. And so I take pictures. Lots of them.

There are so many other ways to capture a memory:

Keeping a baby book (although most moms feel a slight tinge of guilt when they think about their unfulfilled wishes for their baby book).

Blogging. I’ve gone so far as to print out most of the blogs I’ve written about my children, but somehow I don’t see them paging through these as much as they will our photo albums.

Scrapbooking, whether digitally or traditionally.

Logging highlights on Facebook–which our kids will probably hate us for someday when their potty training progress (and hang-ups) is still on full display for their prom date’s reading pleasure.

Videos–which are probably the best way to go back in time, if we could just settle on a format that’s going to last a lifetime!

What’s your memory-keeping style of choice?

Let’s Play Pretend. Mommy Will Be Ansel Adams.

Do-it-yourself family photos -- smart or short-sighted? ©Harrison Keely/stock.xchng

No disrespect to our guest blogger this week (who also happens to be an amazing professional photographer whose work we adore), but Amanda and I both are admittedly indifferent to having professional photos taken of our children.

Don’t get us wrong — we think our kids are as cute and photo worthy as the next. And there are lots of photos of them around our homes (well maybe just not in frames). It’s just that there are few that we paid to have taken.

Slackers, maybe. On a good day, you could be more generous and say we’re do-it-yourselfers.

We’ve managed to convince ourselves that there’s no need to make an appointment, go to a studio, cross our fingers and toes that our children will be cooperative for the length of the shoot, and then pay for someone else to do the honors. I mean, we have cameras. There are pretty trees outside in the front yard. And when the toddler wakes up in a good mood, we figure it’s a good time to take a picture.

Purely amateur. And now I’m speaking just for myself. Because I couldn’t tell you the difference between a shutter speed and the velocity of a space shuttle.

That didn’t stop me though. After having three-month and one-year professional portraits done for my son, I took it in-house. With sites like Snapfish and Shutterfly, I figured why pay a professional in the triple digits for a package when I could order up 79 cent 5x7s and a sheet of wallet-sized prints for all the grandparents? And I had my nice SLR camera (which I knew how to set on auto). So we took to the backyard and had fun doing our homegrown photo shoot in his “natural” setting.

When he turned four, we got fancy and took him to a local golf course for his birthday pictures. Why? Because I couldn’t help amusing myself with the connection between shouting “fore” on a golf course and him turning four.  I know, the absolute cheesiest of ideas. See why they shouldn’t put cameras in the hands of amateurs?

Then again, do you ever groan when you get back your child’s school photos? Like when the carefully plaited braids your daughter left the house with were captured as a tangled mess because someone behind the camera decided to take one of those black men’s combs and “smooth” out the top.  Not all professionals are created equal.

Which brings up another issue with professional photos — when you can’t say no. Even if the picture shows a lopsided frown, or the gum on the bottom of your cross-legged preschooler’s shoe, it can be hard to send those outtakes back. At least it is if you’re like my husband or Amanda. (Funny enough, they tend to order the same thing off the menu when we go out together — must be coded on the same gene).

Because every time we get the packet of pre-printed pictures back from school for the purpose of making a selection that’s within our budget, there’s hesitation (on their part) about saying no to any of them for fear of these beautiful images of their children ending up in a shredder somewhere. (Good thing my husband is not married to Amanda — they’d be up to their shoulders in school photos, Little League baseball cards and all those nifty magnets and pins that come in the photo fun-packs.)

So you see, it can get complicated. Which is why we’ve tried to take shortcuts in getting those milestone photos and family portraits done, without the formalities of hiring a professional photographer.

Except that it’s really not the same if you just do it yourself. I know — I’m supposed to be making the case for why I prefer not to go the professional photography route. But it is kind of hard to argue the point, especially after hearing Officerswife33 make her case. And you know what? I just might take her advice — sooner rather than later.

What’s your take on having professional family photos? And how often would you go?

There’s No Time Like Now for Professional Family Photos

A little birdie whispered in my ear and told me that two of our favorite bloggers (ahem, Suzanne and Amanda) have not had professional family portraits taken in a good five years time. Part of me wants to give them a stern talking to, but the other part of me hangs my head sheepishly because I too have committed the same sin — avoiding professional family photos.

It was a long time coming, but after getting a professional photographer to take this family portrait, this mom wishes she hadn't waited so long. © Calhoun Ink / www.calhounink.com

This is probably a bad thing to be admitting to, especially since for the last several years, I was living out my dream of owning and operating my very own photography studio. It was a lot of hard work, but I loved (almost!) every minute of it.

Part of being a professional photographer included shouting from the rooftops the importance of professional family photos.

“Life is short, moments are fleeting… capture them on camera to remember forever.” That was my cry. And luckily, photography has made so many advances in recent years and digital photography has made getting professional family photos much more affordable. Yet, many people still don’t take the leap.

Isn’t it horrible that my livelihood depended on other people having professional family photos taken, yet I never made the time for my sweet family to step in front of the camera. It was not for lack of wanting… life just got busy and hectic and that was always the thing to get put off.

Often, my reason for not getting a session scheduled for our professional family photos was because I was busy photographing everyone else! Then I was pregnant, or losing baby weight, or we decided to do it after my brother-in-law got married, But then my sister-in-law got pregnant so we wanted to wait for her baby to arrive.

After years of discussing having professional family photos taken, my hubby and I finally decided to bite the bullet and purchase a gift certificate for family photos as our Christmas gift to his parents. But we missed our window of opportunity.

On October 5th of 2010, my sweet mother-in-law passed away very unexpectedly. We were set to leave that morning, with my in-laws, for a family trip to Disneyland and instead we began planning a funeral. In those early days following her passing, all I could think was: “We never had family photos done.” I posted on my photography blog, urging everyone I knew to stop making excuses and get those professional family photos taken, because now I realized just how short life was, just how fleeting those moments could be.

We have lots of pictures of my mother-in-law with my girls, but we have no pictures of our entire family together. My heart hurts when I think about that, because to me, pictures are a very important part of life. Pictures are all my girls will have to remember their grandmother by, and I don’t have any of our entire family together.

Aside from preserving memories, I feel that there are many other benefits of professional family photos. A true professional photographer is well trained and talented in their field. This means that they will know how to work with lighting and scenery, how to pose and crop in order to get a truly beautiful image that is several steps up from the typical snapshot. They will know their way around Photoshop and be able to touch up the photo to remove that pesky zit that showed up on family picture day or to brighten everyone’s eyes or make the colors really pop.

The time and talent of a professional photographer should give you a piece of art that features your most prized possession, something to hang on your wall and take pride in showing.

Within a month of my mother-in-law’s passing, I had made arrangements for my husband and our girls to have professional family photos taken and I invited my father-in-law to come along as well. I knew I could not risk the chance of missing out again. Those photos were taken just last November, and already I am looking at the calendar, figuring out when we can schedule another session, one that will hopefully include my brother-in-law and his family.

I am no longer working as a professional photographer — my mother-in-law was the one who watched my girls and made it possible for me to live out my dream. I am actually enjoying my status of full-time stay at home mom though, but my shouting from the roof tops has just gotten louder.

Have professional family portraits done — even just once (but hopefully on a somewhat regular basis)! Preserve those memories for the future. Spend an afternoon hanging out with the people you love and let a professional photographer capture your relationship on film. I honestly believe that you will not regret it.

Guest blogger Officerswife33 is a mommy and an amazing photographer who writes I’m a Mommy. What’s Your Superpower? She has two of the cutest little girls in the world and is married to her own crime fighting super hero.  Check out Facebook for their latest adventures.

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Fitting a professional photography session into the budget is usually the biggest reason for not doing it, but as Suzanne is beginning to realize, you get what you pay for.

And if you want to get more ideas for great family portraits, check out Calhoun Ink at www.calhounink.com.