If you're a parent, I bet you've thought on numerous occasions about how you can build your child's self-esteem, dignity, and confidence. But did you ever think about how professional family photography can help you do just that?
Dr. David Krauss is a licensed psychologist from Ohio and co-author of "Photo Therapy and Mental Health." A pioneer in using family photography in therapy and mental health counseling, Dr. Krauss says,
"It's important not only to be photographed in ways that indicate caring, nurturing, love and success, but also to see those images and take them in... What it says to a child is, 'I'm important in this family.' "
As a parent, you have so many jobs - cleaning the house, doing laundry, organizing playdates, going to the grocery store, paying bills, and putting dinner on the table; the list has no end. Sometimes, you might not feel very photogenic and it's tempting to have your professional family photographer only photograph your children. But according to Dr. Krauss,
"It is really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit."
Judy Weiser is Vancouver-based art therapist, psychologist, and author who has, for more than 20 years, assisted her clients' treatments using many kinds of personal photography. A leader in these techniques, which are called "photo therapy," Weiser states:
“It lets children learn who they are and where they fit. They learn their genealogy and the the uniqueness of their own family and its story. When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photograph they say to themselves: ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that’s why I belong here. This is where I come from.'”
In summary, in some ways, your family portraits aren't for you. Instead, they're for your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren and beyond. Your family portraits - with you in them - are your legacy.
About digital images vs. printed wall portraits, Kraus says,
“My bias is very simple. I think they [the family portraits] should be on the wall... I think placing a family photo someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child this sense of reassurance and comfort. They have a certainty about them and a protecting quality that nurtures a child. It let’s them know where they are in the pecking order and that they are loved and cared for."
Cathy Lander-Goldberg is the director of Photo Explorations in Missouri and a licensed clinical social worker. Photo Explorations helps girls and women to use photography and other expressive arts to gain self-awareness. According to Lander-Goldberg,
"Displaying photos prominently in the home sends the message that our family and those in it are important to one another, and we honor the memories we have experienced."
Your intention might to be to purchase the digital files from your professional family photographer and to print them on your own. But so many of our clients have told me that that was their intention following their last professional family photography session, but that their busy lives got the best of them, and they never printed a single photograph. For others, the decisions about print size, print media, custom framing or frameless mounts, and placement can be overwhelming. When people aren't sure what will look best, they tend to do nothing. There's a lot to be said about using a professional family photographer who provides design services and finished, ready-to-hang wall portraits.
A licensed psychologist in Oregon who works with 5-13 year old children, Craig Steinberg, says,
“My personal and clinical bias is there is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print. Touching the photograph where a face is smiling or the shoulders, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it. There’s a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience. That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image."
You might live in a house with a lot of windows, where you simply don't have as much wall space as you'd like. No one's saying that you need to buy a new house in order to build your child's self-esteem. Based on Steinberg's comments, a professional photo album filled with your family photography seems like it would be a next best option.
1) Hang your family portraits in a prominent location that you and your children spend a lot of time in, such as a family room.
The more your children are exposed to portraits showing them as an important part of the family unit, the better. Plus, seeing photos of your family makes you happy as well, so you will want to frequently see your family portraits too! Therefore, hanging them in a location where you will see them a lot is an obvious first step.
2) Hang family portraits in your children's bedrooms.
Stephanie Marston, child psychotherapist and author of "The Magic of Encouragement," suggests that parents place two images next to their children's beds. One image should demonstrate 'family togetherness,' and the other should portray the child happily engaged in an activity. The reason for placing the two portraits in the bedroom is that:
"Research has shown the 30-minute time period just before bed is when children are more receptive and listen and absorb more than any other time. Put photos of your kids being capable and loved next to their beds, and these positive images are likely to be the last thing they see before they sleep and the first thing they see when they awaken."
3) Hang newborn photography and baby portraits in the nursery.
It's never too early to use professional family portraits with your children. In fact, you can start photo identity games from infancy. Hang wall portraits of your baby in the nursery, so that they can get to know themselves. Make them laugh by pointing out different parts of their bodies. One day, your child will recognize him/herself, and that will be a treasured moment that you'll remember forever.