How many images do you keep from a portrait session you have just done with your child? Do you go through and cull images that you think aren’t good enough for anything other than your portfolio? I have done it. I would come home from a session and delete anything that didn’t match my vision. Often times, when I was first starting out, that would mean throwing away entire sessions. One day it dawned on me that before I was an aspiring artist, I was a mom with a point and shoot camera. And so was my mother. And so was her mother. Even my great-grandmother shot images of her children and family members. Back when all of those pre-SLR images were taken we didn’t care about the compositions or the color-casts. No one cared if those images were taken with the flash on or if they were underexposed. They/I didn’t even know what underexposure was. I shot film way back when, but my camera did all of the work for me. What if I had thrown all of those away? What if I had culled anything that wasn’t absolutely perfect? I wouldn’t have images of my oldest daughter growing up. What if my grandmother had thrown away her pictures or my great grandmother? I would never know what my Armenian for-bearers looked like. Where I got my hair or my daughter got those dark Armenian eyes. I have since stopped throwing away all but the ones I knew I wouldn’t use. The blurry images that are unrecognizable or those so horribly under/over exposed that I couldn’t save them. I keep everything else because they are memories from my children’s childhood.
Funny moments like the time my daughter had to go potty during a shoot. She will love it when I pull this little gem out when she is going on her first date. Ok…not really but the idea does have a certain appeal.
The images that showcase their personalities.
And images that simply remind me of how little they once were.
Of course not discarding images led to a whole new set of problems. Did I edit them? I don’t shoot in .jpg at all so that would mean a whole lot of editing of images that I didn’t care to spend a whole lot of time editing. I solved this problem by doing very minimal editing or letting actions do the editing for me.
I will do a soft edit, which involves white balance, exposure and a crop/straighten. I don’t worry about color casts because they are going into a scrapbook and no one is going to look at them and think about those issues except for me.
I will sometimes run an action like Leah Cooke’s Pink Haze and add a slight vignette:
Or if they are good enough SOOC do nothing but convert to .jpg.
Whichever method I choose to edit the images, once edit I make sure to get them printed and saved in scrapbooks. None of these are images I would hang on my walls but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep them. I don’t do anything fancy. I usually just use the express proof option. They aren’t the same quality as fine art prints but again, they are going into a scrapbook.
Lastly, I want to talk about the importance of snapshots. I don’t feel like I need to strive to make every image a work of art…although I used to put that pressure on myself. Sometimes the snapshot moments are important and fiddling with settings could mean losing the moment. Just about every female photographer I know got into photography because they wanted to have amazing images of their children growing up. This is just as true for me. I knew I would blink and they would be in school or going on their first date. It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to just capture the image that I started to enjoy taking snaps again. Do I shoot in manual when taking snaps? Sometimes, but I have also been known to shoot in auto. I’m more concerned with just getting the moment and better to capture it than to miss it while fiddling with settings. Give yourself permission to hang up your photographer hat and put back on your mommy one to capture the fun they had growing up. Take the pictures now so you can have them to treasure later.
The images below are not perfect by a long shot but they are perfect to me. They show the love that my daughter has for her siblings and the carefree days of summer. While they were making memories I was recording them.
I hope that one day my children will look back on the pictures from their childhood and relive those moments. I hope that my grandchildren will have a glimpse into what their parents were like as kids. Mostly I hope that some day, when I am old and gray and my children are gone, I will be able to flip those scrapbooks and remember.
Shannon Wilkinson, Utah
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Shan Wilkinson first became interested in photography when her first daughter was born in 1990. It wasn’t until her second daughter was born in 2006 after years of infertility and miscarriage that she became passionate about it. Shan got her first SLR in 2007 and never looked back. She is a hobbyist who shoots both film and digital. Her favorite subjects are her children ages 22, 6, 4 and 2. She also has a love of macro photography and shooting old, mysterious looking trees.