How to bottle up your memories with meaningful photography
Do you ever wish your photos had a little something… more? Something that would make you feel the way you felt when they were taken and allow you to relive the moment? The following story will teach you how to be more intentional when you photograph your family and give you tips to bottle up your memories with meaningful photography.
Imagine yourself on a lazy Saturday morning. The birds are chirping and the sun is filtering through the blinds. You woke up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. You can hear your husband humming a happy melody in the kitchen. Lucky you, he’s decided to give you some quiet time with your little one while he prepares a hearty breakfast!
Your baby is lying with you, his warm little body curled up next to yours. You brought him to your room at 4 a.m. to nurse him and he’s still fast asleep.
You gently stroke his soft hair, inhale his sweet baby aroma, and look at him with adoration. He slowly starts to wiggle and open his eyes. The moment he sees you, a big smile highlights his angelic features and he begins cooing. Oh, how you love your life! This little person sure knows how to fill your heart with love.
Right this moment, you wish you could stop time to enjoy the feeling as long as possible.
‘If only there could be an invention,’ I said impulsively, ‘that bottled up a memory, like a scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.’
Du Maurier, Daphne, Lady Browning (1907-1989)
Sadly, that invention hasn’t seen the light yet, but I can give you a little guidance to help you remember this stage and relive it with meaningful imagery.
Moments like the one I described are hard to photograph by yourself. You almost need to have a photographer with you all the time—which is quite impossible—or a partner who’s willing to take on that role. With a little preparation, the two of you can come up with a good plan. Let me guide you in the process.
Plan your story
To be intentional and add meaning to your photos, it’s a good idea to do a little thinking first. You don’t want to document everything in your life or you’ll end up with way too many photos and you won’t know what to do with them.
Reflect on what’s important to you about this stage of your life. What stories and details make you feel the way you do? What do you want to remember the most? Take notes if you’d like. And then get ready to take action!
Get your camera out and start photographing
Keep in mind that you and your partner need to take turns to photograph each scene in this story, so do a little preparation beforehand. To help you visualize how to photograph the story, just pretend you’ve hired me for a photo session and imagine me in action.
I begin by taking a few outdoor shots of the house, the sunlight shining on it, the birds (if I see any), or the tree they hang out in.
Then I quickly and quietly put on my ninja suit and enter your home without being noticed. Just joking! Of course I’ve made arrangements before showing up and your husband greeted me at an agreed upon time!
After chit chatting with him, I start photographing him in the kitchen. I include the entire environment to add some context and use the light to set the tone. Is it dark and moody? Light and airy?
I slowly get closer and photograph the details. The coffee machine, your husband’s hands pouring coffee in the cups, the steam coming through the light (I know, I make it sound perfect, right?). I snap a few portraits of your husband in action and focus on time references like his pajama pants, bare feet, messed up hair and unshaved beard.
Then I discreetly move on to your room and photograph the big picture there as well. I look at the light, the room at large, and make sure to include you and your little one lying in bed. I get closer, photograph the way you snuggle together. I focus on your hands, how you stroke his hair, your loving gaze, his delicate features. And the moment he wakes up, I look for his and your reactions, and the way you interact with each other.
You’re probably wondering how to do this yourselves
From my own experience, I could not have left my baby lying in bed to go photograph my husband in the kitchen. I’m pretty sure the baby would have woken up. So, you can photograph the first scene one day and your partner can photograph you and your baby another day. It doesn’t matter if it’s done in a chronological order because you want to remember the feelings, not the technicalities!
To sum it all up, pay attention to the following elements when you photograph a story:
- Environment (Where is the story happening?)
- Light (to set the mood)
- Time references (if you feel they are important and add meaning to the story)
- Details (What is important to notice? What adds to the context and helps tell the story?)
- People (Who is involved?)
- Actions (What are your subjects doing?)
- Reactions (How do they react? What emotions can you feel? Why do they react a certain way?)
- Interaction (How do your subjects interact with each other?)
The questions who, what, when, where, why and how are good pointers. If you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll have enough variety and every image should tell a new part of the story with little to no repetition.
A guide to help you look for meaningful moments in your life
A lot can be photographed to ‘freeze time’ and relive this stage of your life. Because I understand it can be hard to know what to look for and where to begin, I’ve created a guide that will help you plan your stories and be more intentional with your photography.
Check it out here
I'm Marie-Pierre, an easygoing mother of two and a documentary family photographer. I believe we can all learn and grow from other people's experiences. Real life stories help us relate to each other, open our minds and feel better about ourselves.
this blog is a collection of featured client stories, tips, and articles on various family related topics. I hope you will find some inspiration!