You know everyone in the photos you take, but what will happen when your grandchildren are looking at your photos? Will they know anyone? Have you ever had the experience of looking at family heritage photos and not knowing anything about the person, place, or action in the photo? That’s why it is so important to add the story to your pictures. Writing a short narrative about the people and action the photo has captured while it’s fresh in your mind will make it so much easier when you are trying to remember the who, what, when, where, and why years later. Without a written narrative attached to the photo, the thousand words that picture is worth could be a complete fiction, different for each person who looks at it.
Telling the story of your photos isn’t as hard as you might think. You don’t need to write paragraphs with each image, just get the basics with most of them. If you take advantage of the various tags (see my blog post on tagging) you can focus your text on the things that are not obvious in the photo, like the sounds, smells, tastes, textures, or the unseen actions and emotions of the moment. Some photos just need a short caption to help tell the larger story. With others you will want to say more about the people, place, event, or larger narrative.
I like to change the file name on a batch of photos taken at the same event or place. This gives me a base to work from in telling the story. I don’t have to repeat that one bit of information in the text. I can focus more on the why since the when, who, and where are captured in the tags.
Identify people with full names at least once in each group of photos. This is important for those people who you are not tagging because they only appear once or infrequently in your photo collection. You can add the relationship as well – distant relative, good friend or just an acquaintance. This will be really helpful to the second generation looking at your photos once you are gone.
We all think we will remember those cute sayings, or that witty turn of phrase that made everyone laugh or cry. Write them down to save with a photo of the person.
Don’t forget to ask other family members to contribute their memories and stories of the pictures. It will give you a richer, well rounded account of your family’s story. Each person will have a different perspective and you can help capture that for them, especially younger children. Sometimes you won’t get the real story until later as you are looking at the pictures and talking about them. It’s never too late to add that recollection.
Having the story attached to your photos will make it much easier to put them together in a book or album. That is when you can edit and refine the stories. You begin to see the larger story emerge as you look at a longer period of time.
How are you at capturing the story your photos tell? What are your biggest hurdles in getting this part done?