Taking photos is an everyday thing these days.  In fact, it's not unusual to take 100 photos in one week or even one day.  There's so much talk about making sure we preserve our photos digitally, with backups of backups.  And that's important.  But what we don't talk as much about is preserving our photos in the only meaningful way they can be preserved:  IN PRINT.

Did you know a printed photo can last at least 200 years? I honestly can't tell you how long the digital backups of your photos will last because that all depends on ever-changing technology. When will flash drives become obsolete?  (Remember floppy disks??) Will your files ever be unreadable?  Who knows? Print comes with its own risks, of course (fire, water damage--and this is what a digital backup is for), but print remains the best and most meaningful way to preserve photos. And I'll tell you why.

Print is the only way that photos can be interacted with--seen, held, and loved--with their stories in tact! The memory and story behind a photo is a full HALF of its value. A photo of my great-grandparents with a baby on their lap is interesting and valuable to me simply because they are my family and I never met them, but when I can read that the baby on their lap is my grandmother, whom I did know, it becomes more valuable to me. When I read the entire story behind that photo--when I learn that my grandmother, whom I had always thought was the oldest in her family, was actually their first baby who lived past the age of one, and that they buried their first three babies--my heart goes out to my great-grandparents in a way I would have never anticipated. It helps me know them.  That precious photo passed down to my children would be entirely meaningless without the story behind it.

This is something I've been passionate about my whole life, so it's been exciting to find out that science backs me up! Studies have been done that show that looking back and recalling happy memories actually increases happiness in the present! (Wow. A recipe for happiness!) A report in The Atlantic cites several studies that link children's familiarity with family stories and heritage to better coping skills, a stronger sense of self, an increase in compassion and understanding, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. (Sign me up, right!?)

Have you ever looked at a photo and had memories come flooding back? Me, too. There's this astonishing power in a photo--the power to actually re-live a moment, to grieve and heal, to fall in love again. Something that powerful doesn't belong on a hard drive or in a box. It should be accessible, preserved with the story that belongs to it.

So the next time you take a photo, save it somewhere digitally, yes, but think more about preserving it in print, with its story, so that it can be interacted with, enjoyed, loved, and appreciated. Think about making it meaningful ten or twenty years from now, not just today. Think about unleashing its power and increasing your own happiness at the same time.

If you're not sure where to start, I would suggest the following tips to get you on the road to preserving your photos in print:

  1. Upload your photos to your computer (from your phone or camera) regularly. No excuses.
  2. Don't feel like you have to use every photo. Choose your favorites. It's okay to not use every photo you take.
  3. You don't find time. You make it. Set aside an hour or two a week to work on memory-keeping. (Did you know the average American spends 5 hours a week on Facebook and 30 hours a week watching TV and 17 hours involved in sports and leisure? Just sayin'.)
  4. Start with something easy. (Your most recent vacation? The oldest pictures? A specific event?)
  5. Focus on ONE THING. Don't get overwhelmed if there's a lot to do. Start small and start easy. Don't get distracted by what still needs to be done. There's plenty of time for that. Enjoy what you're doing NOW.   
  6. If you have a hard time getting started, work with someone else. Committing to another person can help you keep your promises to yourself. Working with a sibling, child, or friend can be both fun and meaningful for you both. (Or ask me about my online digi-crops.)
  7. Listen to yourself. Preserve your photos and memories in a way that makes sense to YOU. Some people do memory-keeping chronologically, others by event. What other people do isn't as important as what will be do-able for you.

Photos are so common these days, so easy to come by, so easy to set aside or lose, that I think we've forgotten the inherent power in them and the gift that they are. To actually see again the face of a loved one who has passed on is priceless. To re-live meeting your baby for the first time is invaluable. To learn the stories of your family photos is irreplaceable. 

So it's worth the effort it takes to get there. I promise.    

Jennifer WiseJennifer Wise has been a memory-keeper since she was born. She uses this passion every day in her work as a Heritage Makers consultant and storybooking coach. She also works full-time as the CEO of a family of a tween, two teens, and a husband.  Jennifer is located in Colorado but is thankful that her business is online so she can help clients all over the country. She is a member of the Denver chapter of Polka Dot Powerhouse. She blogs regularly at www.lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com where she provides ideas, inspiration, and memory-keeping solutions for a variety of needs. You can subscribe to the blog via e-mail in the blog's sidebar.