Christmas is a little over a week away, and one of my favorite things leading up to Christmas is checking the mail for all of the Christmas cards sent to us from family and friends. I also smile when I see that almost every Christmas card we receive has a professional family picture taken, complete with matching outfits, more than likely suggested by Pinterest, and that everyone is happily smiling —our Christmas card each year has that too.
We lucked out in life when it comes to family pictures, because my sister-in-law owns a photography business. So, year after year our family has perfectly planned coordinated outfits, and she comes to visit our farm so that the background setting is familiar. I love displaying the work she does around our home as art, I love choosing which pictures will go on our Christmas card, and I love how she somehow is able to capture the personality of our kids in many of the photographs she takes. This yearly family photo session is a tradition we will certainly continue to do year, after year, after year….
I find it interesting though, because the familiar saying goes: “A Picture Says a Thousand Words….” and while that statement might be true, one picture can never tell the entire story. In each picture that I place on our Christmas card each year, you see a happy smiling family. And while that part IS true – that we are a family who really truly is happy and loves each other, the pictures don’t capture the moments leading up to those perfect looking photographs. They don’t tell you how I had fought with my kids to put nice outfits on for the pictures and then wouldn’t let them play outside with the outfits on because they would surely be dirty before picture time came. The pictures don’t tell you how we had to bribe our 4-year-old to smile, and in fact there have been some years where we only have one picture of him smiling and my talented sister-in-law has had to photoshop his head on to the picture to create her masterpiece that we could display. The pictures don’t tell you the tantrums and meltdowns that happened during our photo session or how long it took to make sure everyone is looking at the camera at the same time. Looking at these professional pictures made me think about other moments in life that we take pictures of.
I am constantly running out of space on my phone— my “available storage space” is always low because of the amount of pictures I take. My kids sometimes will instantly look up from whatever activity they are doing, and say “cheese” like an automatic response. Even when I am trying to take action shots of them. I love savoring moments in my phone. I love creating our Year in Review Shutterfly book every year with thousands of pictures and memories that I have taken. But these moments never tell the full story.
It’s like trying to share a picture of the Grand Canyon with your friends, but it doesn’t actually show how GRAND it is until you see it for yourself. Our pictures don’t fully tell others the whole story. They don’t capture the love felt in our hearts when we share those pictures. They don’t capture the sounds of laughter, and joy. They don’t capture the real emotions we are feeling as we take those pictures. They only capture one tiny second of that moment. They don’t tell the whole story.
Some of the real moments, we decide to “crop out” and filter too. I am getting to be a pro at cropping out the sink full of dishes, loads of laundry waiting to be folded, and a dining room table that needs to be cleared. I take a photo, capture the moment, and with all of the photo editing apps, I crop those things out. We show people what we want them to see. Yes, my children are happy in the photos, but I cropped out the stressed-out mom part where I am trying to create fun memories for them. Sometimes looking back at my pictures, I think “wow, I really had it all together” forgetting that I had cropped out the messy house in the background. And then of course, thanks to Instagram, we go one step further and take those perfectly cropped pictures and filter them. We try to capture the beauty of the sunset, but add a filter on it to share it with the world. We try to capture a moment we want saved in time, and then filter in again and again. So, while the picture may “Say a Thousand Words….” is it even saying the ‘real’ words. Is the picture being shared even telling the real story?
For me and my crew, we will continue to take our professional family pictures every year. We will continue to display the photographs as works of art in home and choose the best ones for our family Christmas card. But my challenge for myself this year, will be to also capture more of the real moments. Try to capture more of those un-posed moments where everyone isn’t looking at the camera and saying “cheese”. My challenge for myself is to not crop out the things in life that we don’t want others to always see, and not filter our moments as much. When I am older, and I try to look back to these pictures to remember the stories they told, I want my pictures to tell me the REAL story of my life. I want them to show me the real moments, both good and bad. I want them to try and capture the laughter, the joy, the tantrums, the sadness and everything in between. I want them to capture the chaos of having two boys. I want to remember all of that. Because the chaos, meltdowns, messes and craziness, all tell the story too. One picture may not say “A Thousand Words” but when we add up all the real moments in our lives, and we put them all together, maybe they will help tell the whole story just a little bit better.