Telling the story of a photo isn’t always about Who, What, Where, When and Why. When you take a picture, there’s more going on than “just the facts”. The emotions of the moment are often the best part of the picture. Obviously, journaling about a photo sooner than later helps ensure you’ll get the facts down accurately and encourages the most detail possible. If you’re like most people though, you’re working on photos taken months, years, or even decades ago. Sometimes these photos weren’t taken by you or even in your lifetime. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do justice to the story behind the photo. We’ll delve into telling the really old stories later. For now, let’s focus on the ones within your lifetime.
If you’re working in a scrapbook that doesn’t have much space for writing and you know there’s a lot to share, consider using a separate sheet of archival quality paper and attach it to the scrapbook page so that it can be unfolded and enjoyed along with the picture. If you’re working on a digital image in a storage solutions program like Linea, you can write the story in the adjacent box and it will be kept with your image in the cloud. Either way, set aside some time, get your favorite beverage and your favorite writing utensils and find a cozy spot where you can let your mind focus and enjoy reliving the events of the photographs.
If you took the photograph, ask yourself some basic questions to get your mind back to that place in time. Why did you take the picture? What was going on? Who was involved? Where were you and why were you there? Okay, I know, I said it wasn’t all about the 5-Ws, but this will get you started…sometimes the hardest part of writing is getting started.
Once you have the facts, think about why you took the picture. What were you feeling? Was there a celebration? If so, was there a little-known pre-celebration story that can be shared? Was something said to you, that day, that touched you or was especially funny? For my second grade class picture, I told a story of how I’d gotten into trouble with my teacher. I remember the event vividly and my children have loved reading the story and laughing with me about my anxiety over getting into trouble and facing the consequences. (I’m sure that turned into a parenting moment for me with my kids!)
Sometimes the photograph isn’t about anything in particular. Being an avid photographer, I have lots of candid shots of my friends and loved ones. These are always my favorite pictures. These pictures capture the true essence of personalities and allow you to share much more than the 5-Ws. For these pictures, pour your heart out! What about the person in the picture inspires you, makes you smile, always makes you feel comfortable? Do you have a favorite memory of that person? Or a story of when you got into trouble together or pulled off an amazing stunt? If so, use that as the story for the photo. These stories and candid shots will affirm your love and encourage your children when they doubt themselves.
As always, especially with the written word, remember to be positive and encouraging. If you’re addressing what was a difficult day or situation…we all know these are part of life too…write about the silver lining. Or follow that age-old maternal advice, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Most importantly, take pictures every day and record the story behind the picture!
Stacy Cochrane is the founder of Managing Memory Lane and a member of Appo, the Association of Personal Photo Organizers. She specializes in establishing and maintaining photo storage and sharing systems that give her clients the freedom of sharing their photos as they choose while providing secure backup and privacy protection. You can contact Stacy via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.