Why the photos you threw away might really be keepers.
That posed shot of your family sitting in front of the Christmas tree? Lovely, perhaps even frame-worthy. The one of your 3-year-old son looking wide-eyed and contrite after dropping a delicate ornament? Priceless.
Many a Facebook and Instagram feed boasts one near perfect shot after another—online, anyway, we’re living the life of our dreams. But putting aside “friend” envy and FOMO concerns, take note of what pictures you really respond to when browsing your social media feeds: You might LIKE the formal wedding portrait, but you smiled and laughed at the groom’s own boisterous snapshots from the reception. You probably LIKED your sister’s latest (professionally taken) profile picture, but you loved her imperfectly perfect #TT picture shot in your parents’ dark basement 10 years ago.
“Online, anyway, we’re living the life of our dreams.
When we sit down to consider what images to include in a photo book, it’s common to gravitate first to all those perfect shots. We want our family albums to be beautiful—hell, we want to look beautiful in all our pictures, right? And those shots just might make up the backbone of your book. Just don’t discount the outtakes. Here’s why.
1. It’s often the moments right before and after the “big moments” that matter.
Here’s an obvious example: After the wedding vows comes the kiss—a moment no wedding photographer worth her salt would miss. But how about after a graduation? The pensive times your graduate is reflecting on the imminent changes in his life—did you snap him looking a little lost? He might not think so now, but that picture is one he’ll want in later years, reminding him of the magnitude of the moment (and it’ll mean a little more to him upon reflection…and well past the time of worry!). So don’t post that one on Facebook now, but do hold onto it for a book he’ll cherish down the road.
2. Tears are part of life.
When your kid fell off his bike after taking off the training wheels, he cried; you captured the moment because you were snapping away. Include it in your book. Learning to ride a bicycle is a process, and the sense of accomplishment is best felt in light of that fall. You may consider a triumphant picture after he’s mastered his two-wheeler—make it big. Then complement that with a few smaller shots—like stills from a movie—adding color and detail: his tears, his dad removing the training wheels, your child adjusting his helmet.
And speaking of tears: Have you ever been to a wedding where the bride’s parents cried? Tears of joy, well worth recounting. A newborn? Come on—if your child’s baby book doesn’t include some wailing shots, something’s not right!
3. Creative cropping can bring a scene into focus.
And “bad” photos can be transformed into artistic images. With digital imaging so accessible these days—from Instagram filters and collage makers to PhotoShop Elements—everyone’s able to alter their pictures for the better. But so much of this post-processing is about making an already good picture stronger with light or subtle retouching effects. Never underestimate the power of good old cropping.
By cropping a picture, we redraw its borders and change the scale of its elements in relation to the overall picture. You can close in on a detail, crop out extraneous people or distracting signs, or just crop a touch from the edges to redirect the eyes. So even if Aunt Sally is smirking in the corner of the picture or a little imp photo-bombed your family shot, crop out what offends and hone in on an otherwise meaningful moment!
4. Everyone has a sense of humor.
Bloopers are a perennial TV hit for a reason. And you are familiar with Awkward Family Photos, are you not?! If a picture makes you laugh uncontrollably, smile knowingly, or blush with memory, chances are it’s a winner.
Like the baby who peed during his newborn session. The muddy dog who jumped on your pristine dress (animals can make for some of the most fun bloopers!). A trip-and-fall at a big moment, a dropped birthday cake, a twisted face as if she just tasted sour grapes…you get the idea!
These inopportune pictures might not make it onto your Christmas cards (though I’m willing to bet your friends and family would hang them front and center!) but they should have a place in your books and albums, for sure.
5. Stars: They’re just like us. Well, so are we.
Us magazine tapped into just how much we all love to see celebrities doing everyday things—they get coffee, ride the subway, pump their own gas! I admit, I could flip through those photo pages for days.
No, I’m not advocating having someone photograph you at the gas pump. But remember that pictures that offer a glimpse into our everyday lives might be cherished in years to come. They’re revealing. They provide the truest sense of time.
Some of my favorite shots from my family’s archives are of the everyday variety—my grandmother cooking a roast in her housecoat (a “housecoat”!), seeing my father put together a bike in the driveway. These shots offer a glimpse into what their lives were like. It’s not as if our parents came of age in “the olden days,” as we used to say—but let’s face it, the ’60s and ’70s were a very different time! Just imagine what our ’80s hair will seem like to our kids in 20 years! (Oh, and phones had those long, twisty cords!)
When we had to pay to get film developed, every shot counted, so those everyday snapshots made their way into our albums and drawers. These days we can snap away forever, and deleting a shot that seems unremarkable is easier. Just remember to keep a few of them. Like the one of your kid doing the dishes—that’s a keeper, and will seem like a relic when he gets married.
6. Remember that there are some shots that should be off-limits.
Respect your subjects’ dignity and privacy. It’s one thing for J. Lo’s wardrobe malfunction to go viral, it’s another entirely for your girlfriend’s see-through blouse or your sister's Marilyn-dress moment to be shared. Don’t save or share pictures that would embarrass or humiliate anyone. It’s that essential “do unto others” rule: Would you want a picture of you like THAT shared? Didn’t think so.
What are your favorite outtakes and photo bloopers? Do share!!
Tweet at us and use hashtag #photoblooper.
We’ll compile the best into an updated blog post!