Taking More Photographs

I was catching up on Lance’s blog this morning, and saw his New Year’s resolution to “to take and share a picture every day.” Good advice. Now that we’re all carrying cellphones with better cameras than our point-and-shoots of only a few years ago, there’s no excuse to not take more photographs.

But what are you going to photograph? A few months ago, we started the painful task of sorting through tens of thousands of slides and prints and Polaroids saved by my Mom and Dad. We’re not talking a couple of shoeboxes… we’re talking six footlockers of photographs. Way too much to work through in a single sitting or a single weekend, but I’m slowly separating out the ones to be scanned and cataloged versus the ones to just be deleted.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that the only photographs I’m saving are the ones with people in them. I don’t care how good your shot of the Eiffel Tower is, I can find a better one on Flickr. I don’t care how good your shot of a sunset is, National Geographic has a better one. But Flickr doesn’t help me find photos of my family and friends and people we’ve met in our travels. So those are the ones that I’m saving and scanning.

A couple of more lessons learned:

  • Polaroids fade. Badly. If you have a box full of your father’s Polaroids, they’re not going to get any better than they are right now.
  • Metadata is important. Just a few pencilled scribbles on the back (name, date, location) make a huge difference. If you have someone in your life who is getting older, sitting them down in front of thousands of photos is just too intimidating. So do it in steps:

    1. First, sort through and extract the best photos that include people.
    2. Take another pass. Be ruthless in whittling this stack down to manageable proportions.
    3. Then show just that subset to your loved one, and note the names of the people you don’t recognize.

    I wish we’d done that when Mom and Dad were still with us.

  • As you can see from the photo of my Dad taken 60 years ago, I inherited my innate sense of style from him. Sorry, Mom!