There are so many wonderful things about digital photography- having a camera at my fingertips to document all those firsts you encounter with kids and even scrapbooking from my phone have saved so many lovely memories for me. But I think we’re in danger of losing something from the days film, and not just the strange joy that comes from disposable cameras on the tables at wedding receptions, I’m talking about the blessing of the imperfect photos.
We recently took some family pictures to celebrate the new year and my daughter’s upcoming first birthday. It was the first time in a long time that our photos weren’t coming from my iphone in selfie mode. Which meant it was the first time in a long time I wasn’t taking a burst of photos then immediately deleting nine out of ten of those.
It wasn’t until we received the digital album of our family photos that I realized how much my mindset about what captures a memory has changed. I’m not one to pretend my life is ideal on social media- my instagram feed isn’t filled with perfect lighting and impossibly white backgrounds and furniture because… well… I have two children and I like my sanity and stain removal is not one of my gifts so nothing stays very white in my house for long.
Still, I’ve fallen into the habit of deleting almost any photo that includes someone squinting or a group photo where half the group isn’t looking the camera, or a blurry subject. My camera roll is a study in curated imperfection. Where even the chaotic moments have a little bit of charm and even when I’m a hot mess it’s documented from one of my better angles. And it’s something I didn’t realize I was doing until I opened up that digital album someone else had put together.
I was surprised to find that my first instinct was to figure out which of the photos to mentally delete- to not consider for sharing or printing. Then I looked again at some of the pictures I’d discounted- the picture where I was squinting so hard you can hardly see my pupils- the one where I’d zoomed in on the bags under my eyes and the little wrinkles that crinkle my nose- that squinting was from how hard I was smiling at the absolute blast my kids were having laughing with each other while that photo was taken.
Then there was the photo where my husband and I are looking at the camera smiling while my preschooler is staring off at an interesting new discovery and my daughter is literally trying to leap out of her father’s lap. THAT is maybe the most perfect representation of our life right now.
Joyful chaos all around us and we’re just trying to stick together and smiling through it. It reminded me of the photos in my own baby book, back when film cameras meant you couldn’t take 20 pictures to get the perfect moment and you just went with what was there.
Later that day, I looked at my own camera roll with new eyes when I was about to purge photos in my weekly phone back up and it changed the way I chose what to keep and what to delete. I still deleted nine out of ten shots of a sunset (don’t ask me why I took that many in the first place…), but when it came to pictures of family, I intentionally kept some of my favorite crazy pictures. In one of the shots you can see my son’s pants unbuttoned- a testament to this classic time of post-potty training independence where the trade off for no longer needing to wipe his butt is that he won’t let anyone else button his pants… or even tell him that he’s put them on backwards after his restroom trip.
I kept the delightful image of sibling silliness that I might have previously classified as a beautiful image of my daughter “ruined” by a photo bomb from her brother. I kept the picture where the angle highlights my mommy tummy I wish didn’t exist, because I also saw my kids’ looking up at me with an attention and adoration I know will be harder and harder to catch as they grow up.
These might not be the pictures I share on social media, although a few I now love so much that I just might, but they are now pictures I know I want to keep. The ones that will bring back memories of what it meant to be a family, with these children, in this moment. So I’m begging you, take a second look at what’s there in your photos.
Keep a few outtakes and ooopses and glorious messes that don’t look like the images you’d usually frame around the house. Keep them for your kids to look back on and see a glimpse of the everyday moments it’s easy to forget amid filters and formal poses. If you need a little help, maybe start by recruiting a friend to create a digital album for you before you can delete pictures from a family outing, or splurging on a disposable camera and see what perfectly imperfect moments you find. Here’s to capturing messy memories in addition to the glamour shots.
Amanda is a passionate theatre artist, wife, mom of two, child of God, an imperfect crafter, an unlikely gardener, and an enthusiastic blogger. You can read more of her writing at: AlphabetResolutions.com where she explores new goals and reflections one letter at a time. She loves laughter, music, avocado, reading, coffee, and so much more. She’s thankful for a husband who can cook, yoga, family and friends who feel like they are family, the oxford comma, and, above all, grace. You can also find her on instagram: @pepperdinegal