Archive: ‘Inspiration and Tips’

Storytelling Photos: What is the SQ?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

"A picture is worth a thousand words"… what a great quote! But if I had to change it, I would say: "A picture is worth a wonderful story."

Once you grasp that quote,  you will fall in love with your photo-taking hobby in a way that you have never known!  A great photo should tell a great story…or at the least be a ‘story starter.’  It should make you want to either tell the rest of the story or want to know the rest of the story…the happy ending, and the meaning of the life around you.

Some photos are just perfectly wonderful portraits of the people we love…all smiles and happy.  I Love-Love-Love These:

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And then there are some that give you a little more information and make you laugh!  clip_image004Boy, I remember this day! What a mess it was to clean baby powder up from all over the house! These twins of mine keep me on my toes, and it started early as you can see here. This one of the boys’ room sure prompts me to tell a story! Can you see Evan in this picture?  His brother buried him that day in his room!


Then there are the ones that create emotion, you can actually feel the feelings that the people in the photo may be feeling,  They leave you wanting to know more. These are just priceless to me. In the photo below, it looks like the coach is telling the player something really important, perhaps the secret to baseball that every little boy wants to know! Don’t you want to know what he is saying? This photo has a high Storytelling Quality!


Here is another great storytelling shot:


Can’t you just feel the love here? I believe that the best photos are not just the best exposures, they are so much more than that….they are the ones that have the extra intangible feature that can’t really be explained. It is the feeling you get when you open an unexpected gift that you love. It brings up good emotions and makes us feel something. This is wonderful when this happens with a photo. I call it the Photo ‘SQ": the Storytelling Quality. (kind of like IQ!) I mentally assign an SQ value when I am putting my albums together. I know that I can’t possibly put every photo in my album, so the ones with the highest SQ make the cut.

How do you know you have a storytelling shot?  They are your favorites. Your favorite photos are easy to pick out because they are the ones that make you laugh or maybe even bring a tear to your eye. They may also prompt you to start telling the story behind the photo. Or, if you are looking at your friend’s photos,  they make you want more details.  You begin to wonder and ask questions in your head and you are impressed with something …the photo speaks to you.

Every man that sees this shot below feels the need to tell me stories of their BB gun days! It is so funny — this definitely has a high SQ!


It has a little higher SQ than the one below even though I love this one too:img_0114S

Storytelling pictures are more than snapshots;  they are a reflection of an emotion. They are so valuable because generally they are harder to get which makes them more rare. They take an awareness of a spontaneous moment and a ‘mom’s heart to spot those moments when they are happening. But when you get that shot, the feeling is wonderful and so worth the patience and effort it took!

Look through your lens in a new way: ask ‘what story am I trying to tell?’ and figure out how to do that in your photos.  A good photo journalist has to learn how to tell a whole story with one photo.  Move past the ‘what am I trying to document’ stage to ‘what do I want the viewer to feel’ or ‘what emotion do I want my photo to bring’.  You will be amazed at what you come up with! Don’t worry so much about having your kids smile at the camera all the time; try to get the photo to tell a story instead.

Stories are happening all around you every day so get your camera out and start telling them….they will become your favorite ‘gifts’ to  yourself and your family!

Hidden Photo Treasures

Monday, January 10th, 2011

What is a photo treasure? It is a photo that you find within an older photo that you didn’t know you had!

Andrew bw Evan wtih Donna Cropped and sepia

I love these pictures. You may not think they are that great, but to me, the mom, I see my sweet babies.  I have them included in a  small arrangement of frames around my house and keep some at my bedside. When the boys were babies I was still using film and I unfortunately did not know much about what I was doing with my camera.  As I get more experience with my photography I am sad that I don’t have the shots of my babies that I know I would get today.  I have very few close up shots and so many of my shots were out of focus. So what is a camera mom to do? Go on a treasure hunt of course!

Look through your old photos with a new eye. Look for the photo within the photo and see what you can find.  You want to look for clear sharp images and believe it or not the ones from a basic point and shoot camera work well. Once you find some good candidates then scan them into your editing software. The next step is to crop it close. Crop it, change it to sepia or black and white lighten it up a good bit and see what you come up with.

You won’t believe where I found my treasures.

the photos on the left were cropped out of the photos on the right.

Andrew bw 4 x 6 landscape blank pages - Page 001

Evan wtih Donna Cropped and sepia 4 x 6 landscape blank pages - Page 002

Sometime it doesn’t work if the resolution is not good; but if you have a good scanner you will get pretty good results.

Here is another treasure:

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Go on a photo treasure hunt! Have fun, crop in close and do a little editing. You will be SO excited over what you discover… these may just become your favorite photos! Let me know what treasures you find on your hunt!!

The Power of a Photo

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever. It remembers the little things long after you have forgotten everything. Aaron Siskind

Why do you love photos?

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Photos show us little moments in time that will never happen again,  moments that will forever be part of the ‘big picture’ of our life. They remind us of where we came from and help define who we are today. They document strong human emotions and the relationships that all those emotions represent. Photos remind us what and who is meaningful and important in our life. They help us celebrate life as it happens and after it happens.

But are photos just fun to look at or do they really have power?

I know of nothing that brings a group of people together quite like sharing a photo.  A single photo can break language barriers, cause people to smile or cry and melt hearts. That seems pretty powerful.

The next time you are with a group of people, pull out some photos and watch what happens. Everyone wants to see them. Everyone wants to comment. If that photo is of them it is even more special.  If you put that photo in an album with other photos and show it, you have on your hands a collection of memories and one of the most powerful tools to share and experience life and all that is important to you.

I often see the power, the ‘magical connective-ness’ that a photo brings, not only with my family but with perfect strangers. When I take photos of my kids sporting events, we generally start with a group of parents that don’t know each other at all. There are no developed friendships;  there is no history. We all show up to the first practice and sit and wonder: Is she friendly?  Is her kid that one over there who looks like he is 5 years older than the rest of our kids? Or 2 years younger? Is he the dad? Is that the brother? What am I going to make for dinner tonight and why am I here? We are not connected to the group. Yet.

The games start and the weeks click by, and I begin to capture photos of these kids. I usually start with mine first as it seems a bit invasive to intrude on the others I don’t know yet. I feel I haven’t earned the privilege and honor of capturing their special moments yet. But gradually, I begin to get to know the parents a bit and the kids. We know who is trying so hard and who hasn’t had a hit yet for the season, and we learn their names and cheer for them. I eventually get out of my ‘box’ and start documenting the personalities of these kids. It is my way of cheering for them.  My photography goals include getting that first hit documented well of the little boy who is trying so hard  but hasn’t had a hit yet and capturing the relationships as they all sit with arms around each other on the bench. I share some of the photos with the parents and the walls begin to come down. It happens every season.

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They are so grateful for the photos, and we become friends. They love the photos because every parent knows that in a few short years their little kids will grow up and even though they may be picking daises in the outfield and needing us to tie their cleats now, they soon will be tying their own shoes and hitting home runs with the big kids.


They will long for these simple memories of today when the highlight of the game is the snack at the end and the uniform is more important than the score. I see how powerful these photos are as a mom tells me how thankful she is that I got the shot of her son hitting the ball. She explains that it made her cry when she saw it as it had not been a good week for their family and she needed the reminder of how precious these days really are. She gets teary eyed again just explaining this to me while we sit watching the game. A dad walks over and thanks me for the photos of his son, I finally got  ‘the hit’ after waiting almost the whole season!  He comments that he wishes he had even one photo of himself on the field when he was a kid playing ball.

Photos make us feel special; and that fact alone, makes them powerful.

As the season ends, parents thank me for the photos posted on the gallery I use to share them. They give me big warm smiles and are truly grateful for the effort. They open up and share more of their lives with me. They feel a little more special, a little more important, and perhaps a little more loved.

These photos remind us that our work as parents is really important, that our time on these ball fields is well spent, and that it is certain now: we have the cutest kids on earth! We share a common bond, one short sports season and a group of photo stories later, that will forever remind us that it really was all worth getting up early and driving all over town. We know each other better as we have shared a short season of life together on the ball field…but do we know each other better because of the games or because of the photos that we have now to help us always remember the season and the important lessons we all learned?   I wonder if many people really understand this power and I wonder what the world would be like if more people did.

Photos have power to lure you back into a burning house to rescue them. They have power to connect people together, power to build relationships, power to heal relationships, power to bond people together,  power to remember,  and power to honor the history of who we are and where we have been on this journey called life.

You bet a photo has power. Don’t forget to use it. Make it a resolution to use your ‘powerful’ photos to bring your friends and family closer together this year.  Take more photos, share them, and enjoy them.  When your memory fades, and it will, your heart will be blessed to have them.

Happy New Year to all of you; I am looking forward to a fun year full of learning and getting more confident with our cameras…. so glad you are here!



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