Confessions of a Photo Hoarder – 5 Tips for Disconnecting from Digital to Reconnect with Tangible Memories
I admit it. I’m a photo hoarder. In fact, I bet I’m not the only one. That’s right, I’m looking at you! But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Millions of people feel like they’re drowning in a sea of digital photos. So many of us are struggling to wade through our digital photos that there’s an entire organization dedicated to helping families organize their image libraries. The fact is, we are inundated with digital imagery. It’s beautiful, inspiring, futuristic, fun, emotional, stressful, overwhelming and distracting all at the same time. That’s why it’s important to learn how to stop burying yourself in digital photos. Below, you’ll discover five simple tips for disconnecting from digital in order to reconnect with tangible memories.
Technology makes it possible to document, archive and share more than ever before. As a professional photographer, I can attest to this. Perhaps now, more than any other time in history, we have to work extra hard to slow ourselves down. I believe tangible artifacts play a vital role in helping us detach from our digitized day-to-day. During a recent visit with my grandma, we flipped though her albums, pulled out photos, and read the handwriting on the back of each image. Each picture unlocked a story. Imagine walking into a history museum only to scroll through all of the exhibits on a screen. Something would be missing – something tangible. I love how technology helps us be creative, but it cannot replace physical artifacts that hold so much family history.
Here are 5 simple tips to help you disconnect from digital in order to reconnect with tangible memories:
1. Print your photos regularly. It can feel like a struggle to keep up with printing photographs, especially since we don’t need to print them to see them anymore. But there’s more to a photographic print than the paper itself. There’s something magical about holding a photo in your hands, about passing it around a table at a family reunion. Try scheduling a time once or twice every year to print your favorite pictures. Don’t try to print thousands. Just carefully curate the best of the best – you could make this a family tradition every year. Sit down and choose photos for a family “year in review.” I do most of my printing close to holiday seasons, since I often give prints as gifts. This way, you not only knock out some of the most well-received gifts (guaranteed heartstring tugs) but you can get your own printing done as well! (Hint: just print dupes of every picture.) Skip the drugstore photo labs if you can. They often cannot match the quality of professional labs. Professional photo labs have the tools and staff to make sure you get the best print possible. If you don’t have a local pro lab, there are ones you can use online.
2. Ditch your iPhone and try an instant camera. Sounds nostalgic, doesn’t it? But it’s not just for hipsters! Instant cameras are actually fun and fairly inexpensive. Fuji has a bunch of instant film cameras, perfect for the print procrastinator. You can have fun snapping pictures, while also getting a stack of printed memories. Keep your shots loose for people to shuffle through. Set them out in a tray as home décor. They are also sweet when framed. Memories make the best décor!
3. Showcase your printed photos in classic formats. There’s a lot of truth in the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There’s a time and a place for photo trees, dangling prints and decoupage jars etc. But these techniques just don’t make good permanent fixtures. They go from cute to dated, fast. Don’t over think it. History shows us that sitting down with a family photo album or walking down hallways filled with photographs are experiences that transport us to a place called memory. You have probably known the joys of family albums and prints (framed or loose) for many years. It’s a tradition worth saving and carrying on for future generations.
4. Frame your favorite family photos. Creating customized gallery displays is so much fun! I like to focus on finding sweet, small and unique frames. Don’t worry about making everything match; it’s fun to thrift and mix-and-match. But if you want something new and all matching, go for it! I love keeping old photos in the frames they came in, especially if it works within the aesthetic of the space.
5. Make Family Albums. The tradition of family albums is timeless. You can hunt down some vintage albums, or even make brand new ones. I have found treasure troves of amazing vintage albums on Etsy and eBay. I love the idea of putting my current photographs in albums older than I am; bringing past and present together for the future. (Just be mindful of choosing an album that doesn’t have materials that could damage your prints over time.) You can often find albums that once held square Kodak prints, perfect for Instagram pictures! I was stoked, to say the least. If vintage isn’t your thing, buy new from one of the many great book companies out there like Artifact Uprising and Chatbooks.
As a professional photographer, I know the allure of digital. It offers instant gratification and ease of use. Yet I also know the value of disconnecting from time to time. Happiness is sharing a photo without always having to charge a device, turn on a computer, open an app, remember passwords or scroll through thousands of files. When we disconnect from our devices and focus on a few specific photos, conversations can flow and memories can be shared without the glow of a screen. That’s the power of print – taking time to print your family photos will bring you generations of joy.
About the author: Alicia Osborne is a professional photographer born and raised in Florida’s capital – Tallahassee. Her love for photography began in the darkroom (processing film and making prints) in elementary school. After graduating from Florida State University’s BFA Art Program, she decided to turn her passion into her business and hasn’t looked back. Alicia primarily shoots weddings and life events, as well as commercial photography for multiple publications. She shoots analog as often as she can. Knowing she is making the photographs that families will treasure for generations is a joy. When Alicia isn’t working, she and her husband stay immersed in the exciting and tangible joys of cooking, playing records and traveling. She has become increasingly enamored with palm trees and carbonated water since she hit her 30s. You can find more of her photographic adventures and musings on Instagram.