I remember how the cost of taking pictures used to add up quickly, and how tedious it was to keep track of your film. On my teen tour in Israel in 1993, for example, I was always judicious as my finger hovered over the shutter. I would never have considered snapping a picture of every person on my trip standing in front of the same stack of rocks on Masada. Who had the time, energy, money, and interest in developing all of those pictures? Did I want to load a new roll of film in the middle of a hike?
The advent of the digital camera feels like a curse. Taking pictures is such a regular part of our lives that my 6-year-old asks to see shots immediately and requests I take new ones if she doesn’t like something about the picture. And since I have four kids, it should come as no surprise that I am drowning in digital photos. I expected to have the classic situation of endless pictures of my oldest child and next to nothing for my youngest. Instead, I have an obscene amount of pictures of everyone, and I don’t know how to manage them all.
Recently, when I attempted to put the pictures into folders on my computer, I got half-way through the project before I realized the main problem was not how to organize the pictures (though that is a beast of a task). The real issue here is training myself not to take so many pictures in the first place. It’s a chicken-egg problem. My files wouldn’t be so out of control if I took smarter pictures from the get-go like I did on Masada in 1993.
Based on the many pictures I deleted as I was putting our photos into digital folders, I would like to share some picture-taking wisdom with my fellow Jewish parents.
PICTURES YOU DON’T NEED
1. You don’t need 20 pictures of yourself from every angle during each month of your pregnancy.
The best pictures come from the final weeks when your belly is something to brag about. Use the months before month nine to practice some self-control over your desire to document every moment of your life since this mastery in restraint will come in handy once the baby arrives.
2. You don’t need 20 pictures of yourself in your hospital gown leading up to the main event.
You’ll end up keeping one or two “before” shots, but you’ll prefer the ones that include the baby in your arms.
3. Pictures of the main event?
This is personal preference. My thoughts: just say no.
Someone with good sense does not take a picture of every single guest nor does that person take close-up shots of certain ceremonial procedures and medical instruments. Do you need 15 pictures to represent the balloons and the array of cookie varieties? I think one of each will do.
5. You don’t need pictures of the guests at your kids’ birthday parties.
You think you’ll love seeing candid shots of your son’s adorable best friends stuffing cupcakes into their mouths, but you’ll end up only keeping the pictures of the grandparents, your nieces and nephews, and a few really great group shots that include–no surprise here–your own children. Once you’ve taken a few good pictures, put down the camera and enjoy (or at least survive) the party.
6. You don’t need pictures of your kids’ classmates.
When you visit your kids’ schools, take pictures of your kids in action and nothing else. Similar to my advice regarding birthday parties, you will end up deleting the pictures of random kids as you struggle to remember their names.
7. You don’t need pictures of all eight nights of Hanukkah.
The best pictures come from the last few nights when the menorah is full of candles.
8. You don’t need process shots as the Sukkah gets built.
Every year I take pictures of my husband putting the Sukkah in our yard. Every year I end up only keeping a picture of the kids in the finished product.
9. You don’t need 10 pictures of each child in his/her Purim costume.
One good picture per kid. That’s it. Even better? A group shot.
10. You don’t need close-ups of every pretty table.
Take one general shot of your Passover or Shabbat table if you like to remember a particularly attractive arrangement. But trust me, you will not keep the close up of the centerpiece or the clever napkin rings.
THE MOST IMPORTANT TECHNIQUE TO KEEP YOUR PHOTOS FROM SPIRALING OUT OF CONTROL?
Edit your photos immediately.
All the photography pros suggest casting a wide net to get the best shot. That’s great advice, but don’t forget to erase the 33 mediocre ones you took to get the keeper.