Memory-Making in a Flash

Tamara Golden, Programming and Exhibits Assistant at Chicago Children’s Museum, shares tips on how to get the best photos of memories with your family.

Of all the pictures my parents took when I was growing up, there is one that stands out. My sister and I aren’t smiling in front of the White House or posted at the entrance to Disney World. Rather, weíre shown collecting rocks in a Colorado mountain river. What makes this picture so special is that we’re actually doing something. For that reason, it helps me recall how much fun we had and how intent we were at finding rocks of different colors and sizes. I am not sure if I would still have this wonderful memory if that image didn’t exist.

Creating a photographic record is a great way to trigger and enhance visual memories.Paint with Science As a photographer at Chicago Children’s Museum, I have found that the best pictures capture moments when children are playing naturally. When children engage with materials in our exhibits, they reveal their imaginations and motivations. You can actually see the learning taking place! At CCM, we have discovered that photography is a wonderful tool for making learning visible to our staff and visitors.

Tips for shooting photos that build meaningful memories:

  • Shoot candid photographs, when children are less aware of the camera. Capture them in action, instead of in orchestrated poses. When children are engrossed in an activity, they are less likely to notice the camera and freeze up. An obvious advantage of digital cameras is the ability to take a large quantity of pictures and to review them on the spot.
  • Keep your camera handy. Don’t just bring it out for family vacations,Pritzker Spray Bottle birthdays, graduations, or other milestone occasions. Photo ops happen every day! Some of your best photographs may be in your own backyard, or even at your kitchen table.
  • Don’t be afraid to get in close or to move around while taking pictures. Use the zoom feature on your camera to capture more detail. Focus in on your child’s expressions or actions. Consider a close-up of the artist’s small fist as it grasps a paintbrush to create a colorful, abstract painting.

More tips after the jump!

  • Try shooting a series of photos to document an activity sequence. This is a great way to see the progression of an idea and preserve a more complete visual memory.
  • Photograph kids interacting with their friends and family members. What better way to capture your children’s personalities and their relationships with loved ones!
  • Don’t slack off when it comes to photographing the later arrivals. The youngest children may wonder if they grew up in same household as their older siblings, given the dearth of photographic evidence! Don’t forget how important those pictures can be when children are grown.
  • Photograph a familiar scene or activity year after year to reveal how much your child has grown both physically and developmentally. For example, my family would videotape the plays I staged with my cousins in St. Louis each summer. It’s interesting to see how our performances evolved as we honed our talents in dance and music.
  • Involve children in picture taking at an early age. Kids will photograph scenes that adults completely overlook. Give them the chance to document their birthday party or family vacation. You may be surprised at what they capture.
  • Enlist your children’s help in creating a photo album. Ask them to write or dictate a descriptive caption for each image. And, be sure to date every photo.

Mad Science Goo

Photographs can provide children a window into who they’ve become and how they got thereóby capturing momentous life changes and everyday moments that might otherwise disappear. Make photography a part of your family’s routine, and enjoy the memories you make for years to come. Happy shooting!

Books on Photography
Photographing Children And Babies: How To Take Great Pictures, by Michal Heron
Capture Your Kids in Pictures: Simple Techniques for Taking Great Family Photos with Any Camera, by Jay Forman
Picture-Taking for Moms & Dads, by Ron Nichols
The Art of Photographing Children: Creative Techniques For Taking Amazing Color, Black & White, Handcolored And Digital Pictures, by Cheryl MacHat Dorskind
Taking Pictures, by Greg Lang, Michael Curtain
How to Photograph Children: Secrets for Capturing Childhoodís Magic Moments,by Lisa Jane, Rick Staudt
Professional Secrets for Photographing Children, by Douglas Allen Box
The Best of Children’s Portrait Photography: Techniques and Images from the Pros,by Bill Hurter
Books to Get Children Involved Click! : A Book About Cameras and Taking Pictures, by Gail Gibbons
I Wanna Take Me a Picture : Teaching Photography and Writing to Children, by Wendy Ewald, Alexandra Lightfoot
Picture This: Fun Photography and Crafts (Kids Can Do It), by Debra Friedman Photography Guide For Kids, by Neil L. Johnson
Teaching Your Children Photography: A Step-By-Step Guide, by Don Cyr

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