A Cure for Camera Guilt

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Recently I was running to my son’s call of a “Baby Alert”, and my phone slipped out of my pocket, shattering the screen. While researching the best, least expensive replacement solution, I considered giving up my smart phone. I’ve evaluated this several times, and my husband and I always decide the convenience of having a quality camera on our phones is worth the extra price tag to capture our little ones. 

Occasionally, though, this privilege feels like a burden to me. I call it “camera guilt”: I have a camera, thus I should be taking great pictures of my kids at every activity they do! We go to the park, and I have fun playing with the boys, but I feel a little twinge in the back of my mind “You should be capturing this.” We enjoy sticky popsicles and a hot summer day, and I feel like I need to find my phone. We are bundled up in snowsuits, and I’m trying to unzip my thick pockets to get out the camera. Often I’ll pull out my phone and snap a few pictures. And you know what? Most of them turn out blurry because my kids are having too much fun to slow down, and several others just aren’t that great. When I upload the photos to my computer, there are sooo many to sort through, and my camera storage fills up quickly. It’s a lot to keep up with! Sometimes a blurry shot is like gold to me because I remember the day joyfully! Other times, I wish I could enjoy the moment more and forget that little rectangle in my pocket.

 Really, I’m not telling you what to do; I’m recommending you evaluate why you do it. Take 100 pictures a day if you like, if it brings you joy and you are still enjoying your children’s childhood. However, if you have felt the obligation to memorialize every day of their lives, be released! Here are a few alternatives for you to consider: 

  1. A Must-Have List: At some point I came across a list of photos to capture during your baby’s first year. It was a list of 10 or so milestones or important events. Instantly, I thought what a great idea it would be to have a list of photos you want to capture for each child. For example, this year I want a fantastic picture of Lincoln…

1.     At the zoo

2.     Playing in the backyard

3.     Playing in the snow

4.     With his birthday cake

5.     With his birthday presents

6.     In the bathtub

7.     Helping his dad

8.     Building with legos

9.     Reading to his brother

10.  Doing an art project

11.  On the first day of school

12.  On the last day of school

13.  With his teacher

14.  With his Sunday School teacher

15.  At his extracurricular event

16.  Swimming in Grandma’s pool

17.  At Easter

18.  At Christmas

19.  Summer Family Photo

20.  Winter Family Photo

21.  With each of his grandmas

22.  With his best friends

23.  Another best friend pic

24.  With his dad

25.  With his brothers

26.  With his youngest brother

27.  With his middle brother

28.  With his cousins

29.  With me

30.  Baking something

Now this may seem like a long list, but when you realize you have a year to capture each of them well, it is really simple! This list works out to be less than 3 photos per child a month, but it is something to keep track of. Of course other moments will pop up that you want to memorialize—get that camera out and snap joyfully! The freedom is that you are pulling out the camera because you want this memory, not because you feel like you should capture everything. (Sidenote: Can you imagine how easy it would be to make a photo book of your child if you already had the best photos sorted and organized?)

2. Monthly Sort: If that idea seems too complicated and burdensome, try this next one: Take as many photos as you like, but at the end of each month, sort them on your phone or computer and make sure you got a great shot of each child. If you didn’t, focus a little time that next day to capture your son or daughter at this moment in time. Save the best photo of each kiddo to a separate folder. Hopefully this will make it easier to delete photos that didn’t turn out well or don’t represent anything too important. After a few times, I would think it will become easier to sort through the mundane.

 3. Begin a “Photo a Day” routine. This would be for someone who really does want each day memorialized, but wants to focus on quality. This can be a fun, creative outlet to enjoy the process—not a source of guilt. If you embark on this challenge, try it for a month and ask yourself if it brought fun or stress to your life. If the answer is fun, continue it! If this sounds fun to you, but too much of a task, try “Photo a Week.” You could focus on capturing a great photo of each kid, each week. Once you’ve got it, sit back and relax until the next week rolls around! I also know someone who does a “Photo An Hour” challenge on special holidays to record the day. This method is definitely not recommended for long-term use! :)

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(Also, I’m not referring to those who photograph as a hobby. One of my great friends is a talented photographer. I’m guessing she gets a lot of excellent shots of her kiddos, and I bet she has a great time doing it! If this is your gifting, spend as much time as you like using your talent! You are probably not the one spending hours deleting subpar footage from your phone. :) )

Isn’t it fun to visit the home you grew up in and look back at childhood pictures? Sharing them with your spouse and children is a special event. Part of the reason I think they are so cherished is because they are few. Sometimes I wish I had enough energy and money to make a photo book of each kid, each year… But really, how long is their future spouse going to spend looking through these photos? “Hi Sweetie, so nice to have you here! Did you want to see Everett’s Zoo Journal 1, 2, or 3 of his first year? I’d also recommend the Snow Days book from his fourth year of life!” We moms can get caught up in what we “should” be doing or what another mother has done, without always evaluating the long-term fruit. I wonder what baby photos will mean to this generation. They have videos of themselves crushing milestones, and perhaps an avid social media following from the time of toddlerhood… so will these beautiful keepsakes ever be cherished? Will they be valued? I don’t know the answer to that question; only time will tell. I can say that I don’t want to miss out on playing with them and enjoying their childhood because I was too busy trying to capture every memory.

 I’ve been trying to simplify my life for the past year. It’s been a very freeing process, and I’ve loved it! Our family photos are the most challenging area for me to declutter…. And they have been at the bottom of the list for some time. It’s because these moments are so precious! I love looking back at them and thanking God for the time He has given me with each child. Last week I was feeling pretty discouraged. I spent some time watching videos of my kids when they were babies, and it really lifted my heart. This ability to have photos at our fingertips is a gift. However you use it, I hope you see it that way and don’t feel burdened to adopt anyone else’s method. Be the mom you were created to be, dear sister!

Posted on July 6, 2016 and filed under Building Your Home.