The Mother of All Memory Books

I consider moms to be the “keepers” of their families. If you’re like me, you’re the keeper of the schedule, tracking school programs, extracurricular activities and doctor visits. You keep order in the home and lists of to-dos. You keep important documents. You are also the historian of your family keeping memories. This is perhaps one of the most important roles we can play. How are you preserving your memories?

In high school, I used to cut out words from magazines and carefully paste them among 4 x 6 photos, ticket stubs and other mementos. As I got older, I’d put stacks of prints into photo boxes. I’ve since started creating and ordering digital photo books online. I made it a goal to create two each year, but I’ve been slacking.

A former scrap booking company client taught me that photographs are one of the first things everyone would save from their home in a fire (after family members and pets, of course). Each photo tells a story and sparks memories. Photography is even used in the medical and long-term care communities for its therapeutic benefits.

With the holidays approaching, I’ve been planning our greeting cards and thinking more about my own need to capture and organize family memories. So, I sat down with Sarah Edelman and Amy Laing Nahra, the owners of Thomas & Thomas Photography in Avon Lake (formerly of Bay Village), to explore this topic further. As professional photographers with more 20 years of combined experience (and five kids – including triplets – between them), these #bossmoms know photos. Here’s what I learned:

  • See the forest through the trees. Moms are busy. We’re so caught up in the day-to-day, we can easily overlook the long-term need to capture moments and memories. In this Insta-ready world of digital cameras and smart phones we’re taking more photos, but have less time to do anything with them. Sure, we can look back at Facebook posts (for now), but when is the last time you printed your pictures?
  • Print them! I used to keep floppy disks thinking I’d someday go back and reference old school essays. Now such disks are obsolete and flash drives are following suit. Technology changes. Whether you visit a drug store kiosk or use one of the many photo ordering apps and printing services available now, print them in a format you can hold onto forever. I send away for high quality frame-worthy prints from Mpix and mail-order photobooks using Blurb. AlbumStomp is a professional album design software you can purchase, and image publishing services like Shutterfly turn your pics into everything from greetings cards to mugs. Specialty businesses such as My Heart Wall even create custom wallpaper for your home.
  • Don’t regret the pictures never taken. At each family function my dad’s photographic attempts are met with eye rolls and sighs. You’ll hear him say, “No one wants to be in them, but everyone wants to look at them.” It’s so true! Sarah and Amy hear from families in panic mode too often following the loss of a family member or computer malfunction. Hard drives and backups fail. For these reasons, every client package they offer now includes digital files for social sharing (and future preservation), prints for framing or giving, and wall art for display.
  • Get behind the camera. Women often take pictures but aren’t in them for one reason or another. Remember, your kids don’t care about your highlights or weight. They love and want to see YOU.
  • Invest in professional photos. No amount of filters or amateur editing can compare to a shoot by a trained professional with scores of tricks and tools like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Look at what you spend on nice coffee or shoes, then prioritize your memories in the mix.

  • Find the right photographer. Do you want candid, posed or editorial-style photos? Indoor or outdoor? At your home or out in the community? Review pics of real people on photographer blogs and Instagram, and be weary of model shoots used to lure you in. In photography, like so many other fields, you get what you pay for. Consider package options or find someone flexible enough to customize one for your needs. Many photographers offer themed “mini sessions” staged at a set location with a fixed backdrop and props. These are generally more cost- and time-effective, but you have a limited time slot as part of a bigger group of clients and only receive a set number of images. For more individual attention, schedule a personalized session, and work with the photographer to choose and style the location.
  • Plan your attire. I’ve helped style photo shoots for my family and friends, and moms are often the last to know what they’re going to wear. The key is to plan ahead, determine what kind of “look” you desire (dressy, casual, seasonal theme, etc.) and coordinate colors and styles without being too matchy (think mall glamour shots). For my family of four, I often find a special dress for my daughter then use that as the focal point to tie the rest of our outfits together, drawing colors from a specific pattern palette, for instance. As TLC’s What Not to Wear used to emphasize, use color, pattern, texture and shine to add visual interest to an ensemble.
  • Capture milestones. Times in our lives most deserving of professional photos include newborn, six-month and one-year-old moments and every year following. Birthdays and weddings are obvious, but what about anniversaries, family reunions or new homes? Capture moments special to you.
  • Trendy or classic, make them your own. Growing in popularity are more editorial style shoots on location with high-fashion Rent the Runway looks and destination shoots planned around vacations or other trips. Video is being incorporated into more photo shoots as well. Posed shots of families at the beach or park, for example, never go out of style, but don’t be afraid to show off a place or item important to your family, like where your grandparents met or your dad’s classic car.

What if we could share our memory-keeping tips and support one another to get it done in a fun new way, like a photo booking party? Think of it as a modern-day group scrapbooking session – BYO laptop and wine, then design! Would you join me? How do you organize your photos and memories? What tools do you use?

For background, Sarah and Amy of Thomas & Thomas have been my family’s photographers for five years. You can view their work and learn about their new studio location on their blog and follow them on Instagram @tandtphoto.

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Lindsey Geiss

Lindsey Geiss is a public relations and crisis communications planning professional turned stay-at-home mom and writer. When she’s not handling local early childhood PTA publicity, she’s getting crafty with the kids, researching allergy-friendly toddler snacks, or finding and wrapping that perfect gift. Lindsey is a shoe-lover, jump rope enthusiast and recovering perfectionist. She lives on the West side of Cleveland with her husband and two young children.

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