So you remembered to record your baby’s first yawn. And her first flip. And her sitting up. And the time she walked. And her first words. Chances are, more than a few of these photo/video records are actually sitting somewhere on your hard-disk or your camera or worse, your phone. I have come to realise as the mother of a child who just turned three that while the actual moments are actually overwhelming, tracking them down, say ten years from now can be a challenge.
There are two sides to baby documentation. The first is the creative aspect and the second is the administrative aspect. Yes, this might sound formidable to some, but when you know that there are people who have years and years of recorded data still waiting to be collated, you will see what I mean.
One of the things you realise when you have a baby is that while on one hand, you want to document every memory, moment or milestone, on the other hand, it’s just one of those items on the list of things to do. And the longer you wait, the more arduous the task becomes. I waited three years and ended up working incessantly for three months to get upto speed with my child. After all, collating and organising photos, videos, memorabilia, important bits of paper here and there (the first piece of school work, the first scribble/doodle/painting, the first boarding pass/railway ticket.. the list is endless). And while we are all good at collecting and hoarding, we take our own time to ‘organise’. So here are some tips to get you started.
- Delete.This may sound harsh, but at the rate at which we are accumulating albums thanks to digital photography, it is really important to keep weeding out what is really important. The parameters for deciding this are many. Sometimes a really good moment, for instance three or four generations of parents in a frame may not be the best quality picture, but it is still worth keeping. And sometimes you may have several shots of your child in a pony farm , all of which delight you, but you still have to trim it down. Always remember that every picture is data, and data piles up and eats into your computer or hard-disk’s memory. So, edit at every stage. I would say while editing, ask yourself. How many of the same do I need?
- Try and include yourself in the frame from time to time. The thing about parents is that we get so overwhelmed taking pictures of our tots that there are somehow no pictures of us. So don’t be modest. Ask your friends/spouse to click you. And make sure you have at least a few pictures every year which feature the entire family. And don’t leave the pets out please!
- Print. Now we may think that with facebook and instagram and picassa and so many cool online apps, printing photos may have become redundant, but there is nothing like a real photo that you can touch and feel. So every year, take stock and choose 15-20 photos that you absolutely must print for posterity’s sake. Also because grandparents enjoy real touchy-feely pictures much more than looking at them on the computer. You could even blow up a few and get them framed for the wall, but be really choosy because there is only so much wall.
- Have a great family photo taken by a real photographer (you will always find one in your friend circle) that captures the mirth of your family once in a while. And no, I am not talking about the posed,aseptic, dry, lifeless pictures they take at studios, but a real live one, may be in your own home. I took one recently and it’s already made it to the wall.
- Chase the school for pictures from school activity/concerts/sports days. Very often, photography is not allowed at such events and the pictures are taken by appointed photographers and you can request them to give it to you or pay for them. Sometimes we forget to collect our class photographs and years later, regret it. Always follow up. Also, sometimes friends tend to click you and your child at random outings like brunches or birthdays, and very often they have an eye for things you don’t. Always make sure you get the pictures mailed to you and save them in your folder.
- People: Sometimes we get so carried away by our child that we forget to include the people in his universe in the pictures. So playdates, park friends, building friends, grandparents, cousins, all deserve a place in your memory bank.
- Contact sheets: Sometimes, it is worth the while if you have a series of images telling a story, to put them all together as a collage or what they call contact-sheet in photo parlance. You can do it with apps on Picassa or Shutterfly, but even your local studio can do a collage for you.
- Labeling. Now while we are all prone to creative labelling, such labels are not helpful years later when you are trying to search for a particular photo or video. For example, instead of calling an album Zoolander or the Aliens or something like that, always start with the year/date and then add whatever tag you wish to, so that, years later, when you have volumes and volumes of pictures and videos, you can still track down something just by looking for it under that particular year.
And here are a few devices and tools that make documenting and displaying far easier:
- Digiframe: These are like live slideshows of photos and usually have 1GB to 4 GB memory, although now there would be higher end models too. The nice thing about them are that they are small and compact and look like a photo-frame, and can play a series of photos off a pendrive or the memory card like a slideshow. A nice thing to have on your desk or gift to family members with loaded photos. This is also a great option to photo-frames, since more often than not, it is difficult to choose what to frame.
- Photobooks: These are the best things to happen to the conventional albums which wear out with time and often have issues of plastic sticking to the photos and ruining them, photos getting discoloured and other such. The photobook allows you to make magazine like prints of your photos and renders them on a page, binding them together like a book. You could even do it like a collage, mixing random photos on every page, blowing up a few , like I did. There are many online options like itasveer.com, snapfish.com and zoomin.com, but I found zoomin to be most user-friendly with simple yet elegant templates, and their paper quality and service is excellent.
- Media players – These are external hard disks that come with large memories , as much as 1 TB or 2 TB. The great thing about them is that they can be connected to your television and you can play photos, videos and music off them. They also come with a remote control device, so it’s really convenient to choose from the menu and play. For my son’s birthday party this year, I actually played an entire slide-show of his photos from birth to age three set to a background of his favourite baby music. It was great fun and really appreciated. You could also play baby videos this way. Also, it is a great place to save and play your child’s favourite animation movies if you don’t want to be stuck with too many DVDs.
- Memorabilia: Sometimes, a really good picture can be printed on a mug /clock/calendar and given to family or friends as a memoir. Most of the larger photo studios offer this service.
- DVDs: are a good place to back up videos, but make sure you optimise their usage. For instance, a DVD can take 4.7 GB of data, and once you write it, you cannot overwrite it. So make sure you compile enough videos (I would go six-monthly or yearly, depending on how much you shoot ) and then burn them on a DVD so that the burning process (sometimes it could take about an hour) is justified. Also, if you don’t have an external hard-disk, a DVD is a good backup, but make sure you get one sooner than later.
Whatever tools you choose, make sure you always have a copy of everything in your computer or hard-disk for emergency. The point is, if you haven’t done an inventory of baby photos and videos, the time to start is now. And most importantly, have fun doing it. I looked at it not as ‘work to be done’ but as a journey back in time. It worked.
This article was first published in the Aug 2012 issue of Mother & Baby magazine.