Family photos are important in that they can help us stay present. According to Keypoint Intelligence, people took 1.4 trillion photographs in 2021. And my guess is that nobody looked at 99.999% of them again, and even fewer printed them out. But we keep taking those pictures for some reason. And we end up watching something that’s actually happening in front of us through a 6.1 inch screen. It could be because we have the delusion that someday we’ll go through them all. Or maybe it’s an attempt to slow down time and preserve memories as time seems to pass by too fast. But in an effort to hold onto moments, it turns out we’re impairing rather than enhancing how we remember things.
Psychological scientist Linda Henkel did a study in 2014 where she had students go through a museum. One group photographed different objects while the other simply looked at them. Her data showed that students had worse recall of object details when they took a picture of them. She calls this the “photo impairment effect.”
“When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves — it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences.”
So in an effort to preserve moments for ourselves we’re actually missing out on them. How can hiring someone to take and print professional family photos help?
With some practice and intention, it can really take the pressure off to capture every second of your family’s life. After a family photo session you’ll not only have images of you all (ones that you’re actually in, by the way,) if they’re done right the images will capture everyone at their very best. Knowing that your photographer has taken care of this, you can just be here now with the ones you love. And I feel there’s no need to espouse the mental health benefits of being fully present with your family!
Psychologist David Krauss coined the term “photo therapy.” He has noticed that displaying photos of your children in the house can reinforce their self-image and self-confidence. Dr. Krauss regularly uses family photos in his family therapy practice. He also recommends going through albums with kids regularly to give them a sense of growing up and change over time.
“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.”
He also encourages the idea of a gallery wall in that it communicates a child’s importance in the family. It also shows meaning and connection between family members. Having photos on display also provides a way for kids to see themselves without using an iPad.
In “The Magic of Encouragement“, child psychotherapist Stephanie Marston suggests putting two pictures of a child near their bed. One should show the child playing happily, and the other should be a portrait showing the whole family together. The images remind them that they are capable and loved before they fall asleep and when they wake up. Even newborns can benefit from seeing an image of themselves and having parents point out ears, nose, etc.
When you hire a talented professional to take family portraits, they’ll create images that show how beautiful your family is. These images can reinforce a critical message in your kids: They are beautiful, are worthy of love, and they belong.
Anyone who has dug through a shoebox of old photos or thumbed through a photo album with their kids knows about the powerful connectivity this activity can create. As the world gets more digital, printed photos become more of a novelty. This sparks an interest that just isn’t there when scrolling through an electronic feed. Having an album that’s hand-constructed with archival materials ensures that not only your kids but their kids will get to have this experience of sitting together and talking about what things were like at different stages of life.
Another way that professional portraits can create connection is that seeing them can provide an anchor to what really matters.
As parents, it’s easy to get lost in our thoughts. Especially when your house is full of people screaming, you haven’t showered in six days, and every school day you have to decide between health/safety and education/sanity. Imagine: You’re scraping off Froot Loops that somehow got stuck to the wall and contemplating buying a one way plane ticket to Guatemala, when something catches your eye. You turn to see one of your favorite images, a portrait of your two boys playing in a wide open field. The look of pure bliss on their faces, the memory of that perfect afternoon, and the gorgeous tones of the photo suddenly give you a warm feeling in your chest.
After confirming this is not because you’re having a stroke, you realize that your heart rate is lower, the cereal on the wall isn’t that big of a deal, and you no longer want to flee the country without telling anyone your whereabouts. Just like that, photography gave you a grounding reminder of what’s important in life, and why you signed up for the world’s hardest job.
There is a debate among researchers as to whether spending money on experiences or on material goods generates more happiness, but there is a consensus that both can create benefits, however temporary. So, while money can’t buy happiness, spending it on something that is both an experience and a precious object, plus that will last forever is certainly worth considering, especially when it can improve your family’s wellbeing.