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The Importance of Family Photos - You're Not Taking Enough

The Importance of Family Photos - You're Not Taking Enough

Are you doing enough to ensure that your story is shared beyond your years? Take a few extra steps to ensure that your family photos will be enjoyed by generations to come.

I’ve recently been researching my ancestry in search of images of the Wooddells of the past. While doing so, one thing has become quite clear - There simply aren’t very many photographs of my ancestors floating around anymore. Given the nature of old photo paper, and the fact that it sometimes doesn’t pass the test of time makes any surviving photographs that much more special.

Something else has become quite evident during the course of my research. I’m not doing much to ensure the lack of family photographs doesn’t continue. Truth is, I don’t take enough family photos. Out of the thousands and thousands of photographs I take every year, only a small percentage of those of are of my family or myself.

Minutes before drafting this article I stumbled upon this photograph of my grandfather at age 17.

Our generation generally takes photographs to share with our friends and family, and the idea that images will survive beyond our lifetime typically slips our minds. On top of that, I’d go further to say that the percentage of images actually being printed has drastically decreased with the emergence of social media and as digital storage technology increases and the cost of such storage decreases. Will future generations of your family have your iCloud password? Will your digital storage devices even last that long?

What can we do to share our story with our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and generations beyond them? Well, for starters you can start by taking more family photos, printing them, and backing them up multiple ways. Be sure to include names and dates in either the file names or the image metadata to make it easier to find later on down the road. Scan, photograph, or copy any existing family portraits or pictures you already have. If you have the skills to repair old photographs in Photoshop, all the better.

With all of the advancements in photography, printing, and digital storage, there’s no reason images that have survived up to this point can’t last indefinitely. How do you store your family photos?

Dusty Wooddell's picture

Dusty Wooddell is a professional photographer based in the Southwestern United States. Self-proclaimed thinker, opportunity seeker, picky eater, observer of things.

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One either takes photos for earning money or for the family. A nice landscape photo is certainly of value, but has been taken already by many others and is mostly available somewhere already. The real difference is made once family members are part of such an artistic photo.
A photo-book per year with a glued in SD card containing the printed photos is a good way storing those photos.

I think it's quite possible to shoot for money and your family. In fact, I've used my own family to model products I've been paid to photograph

Agree. I started doing a family photo book each year and it has really motivated me to take more family photos. I normally do a couple of pages per month, plus a couple of pages for special occasions and a page a day for longer family trips. So, if it is mid month and I don't have any good photos for the month then I start taking more around the house.

These days I take about 10K family photos a year which gives me a great selection for the yearly photo book.

A photobook is a great idea. I think I'll work on one of my own

Since we started traveling we put up a private online blog for our family, forcing us to take photographs for them to enjoy. As a result, we have created only over the last 2 1/2 years, a fantastic collection of family shots, easily accessible (website) and so we look at them and it's the best thing we could have done !

In addition to just taking the images and being sure to preserve them, I think it's important to think about your signal/noise ratio as well. My grandfather was an avid landscape photographer. When he passed away in the late 90's he left behind 10's of thousands of negatives. Nobody looks at those. Nobody looks at his contact sheets. They look at his prints. I think many of our digital libraries are destined for the same fate as those negatives.

People aren't going to go through your Lightroom catalog when you're dead to find all your picks and 5-star images. Those images will just be lost in a sea of rejects that nobody has the time to wade through to find the gems. If you want an image to last, if you want to ensure that people actually look at it after you're gone, have it printed.

A year ago a took my collection of family pictures that go back to the 1860's and made good digital copies and sent them to family members. It took me tens of hours to do so. After that I got caught up on my photo books. I really like the digital printed books. Apple projects are really good ones. However, for 100 years from now the only thing left will be prints made using long lasting photo paper. I get really nice albums made by Kolo out of Denmark. Much better quality than the average China made ones. I have been making prints at the Darkroom. They have the standard sizes. The last time I had Apple print them. They offer prints that are a uniform height. But the length is variable depending on how long your photo is using the fixed height. This is great for pano shots and if you crop with custom sizes. Plus the quality of the prints was very good.

I know I don't take enough photos of the family, I'm like the mechanic who never services his own car.

I have to keep on reminding myself to do this, too. Kids grow up so fast, it's important to take photos of them often. Stills and video.

Guilty! Last year, we got a puppy and I haven't taken many photos of her. She'll turn 1 year next month.