How You Can Use Your Phone to Record Your Family Memories
When my mom was a girl in the 1940’s and 50’s, she spent Sunday afternoons at her grandmother’s, along with a plethora of aunts, uncles and cousins. In college, she lived just a few minutes from her grandmother and three aunts. Like most other people at that time, she grew up surrounded by family. She was around the extended family so much that she knew all the family stories – tales of an aunt who traveled around the world as a nurse, and always brought back exotic souvenirs; stories of a great-great-uncle who had married a Cherokee Indian woman and who was the source of some disapproval; an uncle who came back from World War II without physical injury, but with major PTSD. When did she hear these stories? Playing in the backyard with her cousins, having Sunday dinner with the whole family, helping out when her grandmother got old- just being around the family week in and week out. But in our fast-paced, modern culture, it’s normal for families to be scattered- across the country or around the globe. If your family is like mine, you wonder how you can make sure those family stories will stay alive. But over the winter holidays, families are more likely to be together. It’s a perfect opportunity to record some of those stories and moments while you have the chance. How To Record With the technology we have at our literal fingertips, there’s no reason not to record family stories. The most obvious tool to use is your phone. Just make sure that you have plenty of memory available, and that your phone can record more than a clip at a time. (If it can’t, there are apps for both video and audio recording in long format.) And remember to back up your recordings as soon as possible. Of course, for higher-quality video, a separate digital camera with video is ideal – the file sizes will probably be bigger, and better for viewing on a larger screen. Sometimes older people are self-conscious or uncomfortable being videoed, so a small digital audio recorder might come in handy. But in the end, the technology you use doesn’t really matter; you won’t be submitting anything for an Oscar, after all. The most important thing is to preserve all of the precious stories, anecdotes, and voices you’ll hear at your next family gathering. How To Get the Ball Rolling I don’t know what happens at your family’s gatherings, but at mine, it seems the topic always comes back around to a story that involved someone who’s no longer with us. The conversation naturally flows to people or things we all have in common. But if it doesn’t, one of the best ways to get people talking is to pass around some family photos. Visual images trigger those neural pathways, jogging subdued or nearly-forgotten memories. Even for older people whose memory may have dimmed, some surprising things may come up when you start talking about the who, what, where and when in family pictures. Use Physical Objects Too Mementos and other objects can spark conversation too. Especially if you’re gathering at an older relative’s home, you might be able to ask about antiques, family heirlooms, pieces of art, old records (the...read more
How Can You Find Time to do Meaningful Family Portraits?
How Can You Find Time to do Meaningful Family Portraits? Time- it’s the one thing that everyone has the same amount of. It’s a luxury, not a commodity, and most of us never seem to have enough! Have you ever had this happen to you? You get in bed, exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep. But as soon as your head hits the pillow, your mind starts to race. Suddenly, your thoughts are filled with all the things you want or need to do. Your heart starts to race as you remember that for this particular “to do,” you’re running out of time to do it. Or worse, you’ve already run out of time. Either way, all you can do at this hour is scribble a quick note to yourself, and try to put it out of mind until the next day. It goes on the list. Or maybe not, because in the light of day, normal life takes over, and it doesn’t SEEM to be as much of an emergency. Is it a want or a need, and does it have to be taken care of TODAY? Do you find that your list of “emergency” activities, your “right-nows,” move your wants even further down the list? If you’re like me, sometimes it seems like the things that I actually WANT to do, kind of drop off the list altogether. Family portraits can fall into this category for most of us – including me! The idea is great- it might even seem urgent, when you lie awake at night and think about how fast your children are growing up. Or if your parents are getting a little older, you wonder how much longer they’ll be active and up for a portrait session. You’d actually love to have a new portrait of your children or the whole family. But realistically, it’s not an emergency. On any given day, you have children to dress and feed and take to school and pick up from soccer and dance; clients or patients to see and take care of; a household to run; and while you’re at it, you need to sleep, eat well, exercise, and have a few minutes to yourself! Finding the time to schedule a portrait- let alone plan for one- is usually not making the top of that long list. Yes, you know the kids are changing, but unless there is some major milestone approaching, portraits don’t seem to be a necessity- they can be done later. When your schedule calms down, when summer comes, when Mom gets past her knee surgery, when the holidays are over, etc. Because, if you’ve had portraits made before, you know that first of all, you’ve got to find a time that works for the whole family. That task alone can be a major feat. Then there are all these decisions to make – what clothes everyone should wear, where the portraits should be, what kind of photographs you want. Wow! No wonder you keep putting portraits on the back burner! Fact: having portraits done well DOES take some time. So how can you fit them in to your already-overstuffed schedule? The first thing to do is to find someone who doesn’t just show up and take your pictures. The busier you...read more
Moments We Can Hold On To
Flipping through an old photo album recently, I came across some snapshots taken with my old 110 camera. (Anybody remember those?) The pictures immediately took me back to the summer I was 8, when we took a family road trip to Florida. The main event of the trip was my uncle’s wedding, although I have only vague memories of it. More significant things, at least in my 8-year-old mind, happened on that trip. My parents had a 2-door Cutlass at that time- the car was pretty cool for its day. But getting out of the back seat required flipping the front seat forward. My sister hopped out first. But instead of getting out on the other side, I followed her. I had a loose tooth that was barely hanging in there. You can guess what happened next- as I was climbing out, the front seat flipped back, knocking me and my tooth for a loop! It was a memorable stop at Burger King. The more infamous incident – never to be forgotten by anyone in the family- was the day of my uncle’s wedding. My sister and I were allowed to bring one doll with us to the wedding, so naturally the dolls had new dresses. And the dresses needed to be ironed, so out came the iron. To this day, I still don’t know exactly how it happened, but as my sister was ironing her doll’s dress, the iron suddenly landed on top of her arm. Face down. I can still see it. We screamed. Adults came running. Adults screamed. First aid was administered, and a trip to the ER followed. Needless to say, it was a long time before we were allowed to use the iron again. The iron incident, in my memory, eclipsed anything else that happened that day. So the only way I really have to remember the wedding is via photographs. I wish I could remember taking the ones I took with my own little camera. (I do know that in every single photo anyone has from the wedding, my sister’s arm is missing- she hid it behind her back all night because she didn’t want anyone to see the bandage!) At any rate, I’m grateful for those silly out-of-focus photos, because they jog my memory of that day. We all have days like that from our past. The next time you have a few minutes, take a few of your old photos out and look, I mean really look, at them. And if all you’ve got recently are 4” photos on your phone? Send them off and have some prints made. Hold those moments in your hands. You’ll enjoy them now, and they’ll be something to laugh about later...read more
Are Your Family Photos Safe?
Are your family photos safe? I hope this question stopped you in your tracks for just a minute. Photographs of your family’s recent trip to see family. Or a ski trip. Your little girl’s ballet recital, your son’s basketball game, your friend’s party, that adorable video of your dog- the list of photos and videos goes on and on. We’re recording our lives on these little things called smartphones. But when was the last time you did something to make sure all these memories stay safe? If it was longer than a month or so ago or you can’t remember? Please keep reading- this is for you! Technology is pretty amazing, but none of it is foolproof. Without any warning whatsoever, your phone could die, and trap all those photos in microchip limbo. Yes, most of the time, there’s no problem, or the information can be rescued. But do you really want to take that chance? (Not to mention the hassle- ask me how I know why it’s a hassle.) I am by no means a technical guru, but out of necessity we’re all learning all this stuff, right? And in just a few fairly painless steps, you can have all your photos protected and safe from the technology gremlins. 1. Download Get those photos off of that mobile device- phone, tablet, whatever –and onto a real computer. On your laptop or desktop, keep your photos organized. One of the best ways I’ve found to do that? Just create a folder on your desktop for this year, and sub-folders for each month. Then at the beginning of each month, just transfer the photos from the previous month from your device into that folder. I also usually make sub-folders for specific events- say, a vacation, or a wedding or party, where I have a lot of photographs at once. That makes it easy if you want to find a picture a year from now. 2. Back up The other very important thing to do is to back up all your pictures onto a separate drive. Some experts recommend two separate locations, maybe one cloud storage site for ease of use, and one external hard drive. External drives are relatively inexpensive, and you can pick one up at places like Best Buy or Staples. A couple of reliable brands are LaCie and Western Digital. I have a hard drive that I use specifically for my photos so there’s always room on it when it’s time to back up. This may not be necessary for every picture you take, but you probably want to do it for special times. For me it’s easier to just back up everything, instead of trying to sort it all out. Once you copy your photos onto your extra drive and/or a cloud system, you now have at least 2 copies of everything. If you have a fireproof safe in your home, that’s a good place to store that hard drive. What about photos from an actual camera? If you’re unusual, you might still actually use a camera that uses an SD card. Great! But SD cards can flunk out too, so you’ll want to do the same thing with them. Download and back up. One great thing about SD cards is that they’re not that expensive....read more
Confession: I’m a travel-aholic. When I’m not actually traveling, I’m thinking about traveling. In fact, I’ve been known to plan trips on the way back from the trip I’ve just taken! So the last time Tim and I were in Los Angeles, we definitely planned to return. And now we have a great reason to go back there. In late September, we’ll be heading to Ojai- north of LA towards wine country- to attend a charity golf weekend. My work will be featured in the auction for the event, which benefits the American Diabetes Association and the ALS Association’s Golden West Chapter. Last year, the golf tournament and auction combined raised over $50,000. The main draw in the golf tournament is the celebrity players- mainly actors from the tv shows “NCIS” and “NCIS:LA.” I don’t know who will be playing in it this year, but last year, Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, and Rocky Carroll, as well as big-time producer Frank Marshall, were there. I’m really excited to get back to LA, and even more excited to be staying in Ojai, since I’ve never been to that part of the state. I can’t wait to explore Santa Barbara and the gorgeous coastline. Ojai itself is nestled into a valley, so one thing I’m looking forward to doing is some hiking. And, it’s a citrus-growing area, so I can’t wait to taste their local tangerines, called Pixies. While I’m there, I’ll be doing some portraits, on the beaches around Santa Barbara and in Ojai. Closer to LA, Laguna Beach will be a great backdrop for a family portrait. So it’ll be everything I love about traveling, rolled into one trip- new places, beautiful scenery, and portraits on...read more