We didn’t hire a photographer for our wedding day. I’m not even sure why. At the time it seemed like a fun idea to let our guests take all the photographs so that we could capture the day from everyone’s perspective, but today, my number one regret is that we have no beautiful professional photographs of our special day to look back at. Too many precious moments left to the mercy of my dreadful memory.
Just last week, whilst mouse hunting in the attic, I came across my wedding box and I genuinely couldn’t believe how many little details I’d forgotten. Everything from favours to fairy lights.
That’s the problem with not having any proper record of events.
Of course, these days, 20 years on from my wedding day, there’s no real excuse for not taking photographs.
Long gone are the days of having to remember your camera; dragging it around in a huge bag or on a string around your neck; waiting to get the prints developed and then discovering whether you had managed to take any successful shots.
In an increasingly Instagram world, almost everyone has at least a phone camera of some kind to snap away at everyday things.
Even if you don’t own a DSLR camera, it’s easier than ever to take pretty decent photos. I know plenty of people who achieve outstanding results with just a mobile phone.
I learned my lesson. I now use every occasion as a chance to drive my poor family crazy by taking yet more photographs. Wheat ready to harvest – photographs! Strawberry picking in July – Photographs!!
I can’t help but think that one day, these will be my memories. Boxes of print outs. Files buried on my hard drive. Photographs to record and remember what my memory forgets.
And as much as there are probably many occasions for which I’m thankful there is no photographic evidence, I’m a little sad that other moments have been lost.
So here’s my top 10 list of the very best occasions for taking memorable photographs, but you seriously don’t have to wait for a special occasion. Go on, just take the photograph.
A lot of us will have a keepsake box of some kind, be it our own, or one belonging to our child. Usually filled with random keepsakes. Scan photographs, hospital momentos, newspaper cuttings, birthday cards and of course, if you’ve managed it, the traditional first tooth and curl.
Babies and small children have a phenomenal number of Firsts and as they get older, if you try and remember back to the first time they rolled over; sat; walked or ate solid food, you realise that the memories have become bizarrely fuzzy.
That’s why, if you can manage it, it’s a good idea to take a photograph of every first you can and if possible, name it on your computer, or scribble a note on the back of the print, so you know what you’re looking at.
This is a bit random, but I think these are rather sweet. We’ve always been big fans of the tooth fairy and other magical childhood beings in our house.
A tooth falls out and the little one dutifully writes to inform the tooth fairy. The following morning, they wake and are rewarded with a written reply and a shiny pound coin.
These are for us, the moments that really make childhood and they’re worth recording.
All too soon, they’re too old to believe in such things, but they made life magical for a short while.
These are some of my favourite photographs. The obligatory shots taken on the front door step on the first day of each new school year. Neatly pressed uniforms, perfectly brushed hair and shiny new shoes.
It truly is amazing how children have the ability to change so much during the course of a year. One minute you have an excitable 4 year old sitting there with pigtails and a bag that’s bigger than they are, then right before your eye’s they’re 12 and off to high school.
Take the photographs. Capture the subtle changes, before you suddenly realise that they really aren’t little any more.
Seasonal photographs can be tricky because a lot of the time, occasions like Christmas and Easter are some of the busiest times of the year, but that can work in your favour.
They’re also the occasions when you’re most likely to have family members gathered together; dressed reasonably nicely and with a theme going on.
Some of the best photographs I’ve taken are of everyone sat on the floor in front of the Christmas tree or standing in the garden with Easter baskets. Almost no effort required at all.
And because they happen every single year, you’re almost guaranteed to get some nice photographs on a semi-regular basis.
This one seems a little too obvious, but I’ll add it in her anyway.
Another one of those occasions when you're almost guaranteed to all be in the same place at the same time, holiday photographs are a must, especially as holidays usually involve lots of new memories and experiences.
Although not always, holidays often take place in new places that you've never been to before, so there are loads of new things to see and you're also much more likely to to do and try a few new things.
Can you remember every detail of a favourite holiday from 10 or 20 years ago? I know I can't, so grab a camera and snap everything you see.
No longer a new phenomenon, British schools have now been holding USA style proms for about 25 years (mine was 22 years ago!)
Whether you love or hate the idea, proms definitely seem to be here to stay and they’ve become increasingly lavish affairs with young people having dresses made; hair professionally styled and hiring classic cars.
School proms mark reaching the end of high school, which for most of us is a pretty big milestone.
The moment at which you can move on to bigger places and bigger things, making more of your own decisions about what you want to study and what you want to do.
Even if you don’t want to splash out for the professional photographs taken on the night, try to get a few photographs yourself, no matter what you look like.
You probably won’t think it’s important at the time, but in 20 years-time, it’ll be nice to look back at your 16-year-old self, all bright eyed and bush tailed.
Graduating is a huge deal. Whether it be graduating from school at 16 after GCSE’s, from collage at 18 or from University, you worked incredibly hard to get to this point in time.
Chances are, your graduation also marked the moment when you decided where you were going to move on to next.
It’s a defining moment in your life and that’s definitely worth remembering.
I passed my driving test on the third attempt. I lived in London at the time and driving wasn’t strictly necessary. I could get almost everywhere I would ever need to go using the buses, London Underground or the over ground trains, but passing my driving test was huge.
I still have a photograph of me standing, beaming next to the instructor’s car.
It gave me the freedom to go where I liked, when I liked, which became even more important when we moved out of London to the middle of Suffolk, 20 miles or 40 minutes from shops, hospitals or transport links.
It’s one of those moments which seems to signify one more step towards adulthood and a moment definitely worth saving.
Moving home can be terribly stressful and most of us definitely wouldn’t want to do it too often. Moving vans, furniture everywhere; the best laid plans descending into utter chaos.
But when the dust settles; the removal people have gone and you’re left sitting there amongst the boxes, it might be a good time to exhale and take a few photographs.
Chances are, over the next few days, weeks and months, that house will change out of all recognition as you turn it into your home and it’s rather nice to look back and see what you’ve changed and how far you’ve come.
Whereas once upon a time, engagement photographs would have been rare, photos of newly engaged couples and sparkly new engagement rings on fingers have become a lot more common place recently.
This is such an important milestone in your life, it seems crazy that you’d let the moment fade, but ring photographs are not as easy to take as you think. Jewellery is HARD to photograph well!
Try to make sure your hands are clean and your nails look reasonable (if the engagement is a surprise this might not be possible); try and have something in the background to set the scene (so you remember where you were); remove any other rings so the focus is on the engagement ring and take as many photos as possible to make sure you end up with at least one good steady shot with a clear focus.
I always think these are a good idea.
It’s strangely nice to look back at how you both change as the years pass. Looking at photos of us from even 10 years ago, it’s funny to see different haircuts and dubious fashion choices. It’s a great way to prompt your memory.
Anniversary photographs are also a good idea for another reason. If you’re going to make the effort to take some anniversary photographs, you might actually make the effort to do something for your anniversary.
It definitely helps you to save the date, rather than allow it to slip past unnoticed.
You don’t have to splash out on a professional maternity photoshoot (although if you’re able to, they are gorgeous), but try as hard as you can to take some nice photographs whilst you’re expecting your little ones.
I finally got around to buying a half decent maternity dress and having some photographs taken by the time I was expecting baby number five?!? Up until then, all I had was a rather underwhelming collection of shots taken whilst out with the kids, or mopping the kitchen floor (yay!), mostly because I’m usually the one behind the camera.
Most new parents take a lot of photographs of their new babies, but how about photographs of their brand new babies? Or birth photographs?
We all have phone camera’s, but under the lights of the maternity unit and with so much going on, it’s very easy to completely forget to pick it up and take pictures of those first amazing moments of life.
OK, so actual birth photographs are not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s lovely if you can capture some first moments. You’ll want them in the future, I promise.
It’s not only babies and children that have a lot of milestones. Although there might be a lot less of them, grownup-type people actually do have quite a lot of milestones of their own, many of which are totally photograph worthy.
The first day of a new job; the day you quit a job; the day you leave your parent’s home; the day you retire.
There really are so many milestone occasions that you can capture and any occasion that is important to you ,is significant enough to photograph.
So the next time you give blood, vote or go to an amazing concert, remember to bring your camera.
Achievements can mean pretty much anything and apply to just about anyone. Did your 7-year-old learn all their times tables after months of hard graft? It’s an achievement.
Did your 5-year-old take part in her first play? Did you pass an audition? Recover from an operation? Ticked something off your bucket list? All achievements.
Most of those would make amazing photographs!
Something that might seem insignificant to others, might be a great achievement for you and of course, that’s the whole point of taking photographs. To capture your memories. Moments you want to remember. Now and for years to come.
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