Our most treasured family heirloom are our sweet family memories. The past is never dead, it is not even past. -- William Faulkner
We're all familiar with the value of saving family photos, journaling about those in the pictures and creating a scrapbook or photo book. These books are treasured and we hope that they will help preserve our family history across down the generations.
But how many of us think about preserving the stories of family heirlooms? How many of us have heirlooms we are planning to give to our children - we plan to divide them up amongst the children but we wish we had the same set of cherished objects for each child? Or perhaps we have a treasure trove of heirlooms, but we're downsizing our home and know that we should sell or donate them?
There is a way to save the memories, much like we do with family photos. This will allow us to share the memories of heirlooms with more than one child. We can declutter our own possessions, but still have a way to relive the memories and stories. Make a photobook, or memory book, filled with pictures of and stories about the objects.
The first step is to capture photos of each item. This should not be the type of quick pic you do for your insurance company. And it shouldn't be the white background, Amazon-product look - unless that is the specific mood you want. You are attempting to capture a feeling and produce a photo that reflects your emotional connection to the object. In Marketing, we call this the "hero shot".
First, think about your staging. Are you going to put this on a wood surface? On fabric? With related accessories? You can even group related objects together. I like to think of this as setting up the subject for a still life. Also plan on your lighting. Soft, natural light is usually the easiest and most pleasing. It's also very "on trend". If you have a window with sheer curtains, consider putting your staged heirloom nearby. Avoid hard shadows as they tend to detract from the object.
Next up is your camera setup. If you have a DSLR or Mirrorless camera - awesome. I recommend you shoot on aperture value set at f/11 or less. You'll get a fair amount of the object in focus. Be careful with on camera flash as it can be harsh but you can use it to supplement the natural light you've selected. Play with your ISO settings, but don't go too high. You want to be able to use a quick shutter speed, but you don't want the picture to be too "noisy". (Noise in a digital picture looks a bit like grain on a film image, or it can look like splotches of strange colors.) If you don't have a standard camera, a good camera phone is a great option as well. You actually may find it easier since you don't have to play with all the settings. Take a few pics and select your favorite. I typically don't do different views (front, back, side, bottom, top) unless there's a really good reason - an engraving, a special "mar", etc.
Photographing jewelry is tricky. If you're trying to get a detailed shot, you'll want to watch for distracting reflection and focus on the the most important part of the piece, When professional photographers shoot jewelry, we often use a special set up to minimize reflections and take many shots with different parts of the piece in focus, We then use software to put those together so the entire piece is in focus.
If this seems daunting and you want help with the photos, we'd love to work with you. We'll consult with you about the objects, arrange for getting them to our studio and shoot them here. They'll be "magazine quality".
Next up is the journaling. Some of our clients like to write out a paragraph or two. We're willing to help edit if you'd like. Other clients like to use bullet points to capture the main points. This is a personal decision - there's no right or wrong way. But capture these in a document - Word, Google Docs, Apple Pages, etc. It makes things a lot easier. As you write, you'll figure out if you're missing info. Family members may be able to fill in the missing blanks. If not, capture what you have. At least you won't lose any more info.
Once you have the digital images and the journaling, we like to upload them to a photobook builder. Check out Costco, ProCam or other options. We put the image on one side, and the journaling on the facing page. Choose a font that suits the mood - feminine script, block print, etc. We recommend no more than two different choices per book, otherwise the fonts get distracting. Some companies will let you upload text. For others you'll have to create a pdf or jpg of your journaling.If you use our company to do this, we'll select the fonts for you and take care of how to create the page.
Name your book. Some companies allow you to put a title on the front. Otherwise we put that on the first two pages. Give a little info about family members, the date the book was made and who did the journaling. This is information that will be cherished in the future. Once you have your book designed, order one copy. If you like it, order additional copies as you need or make changes to perfect it.
This Memory Book will become a cherished family keepsake. With really good pictures, it can even become a personal coffee table book It will tell the story of heirlooms, souvenirs, family jewelry, art projects, trophies and more. And you will have the option to "edit" the objects afterwards if you choose.
Please let us know if you have any questions about making your own book, or would like to work with us. We'll make the process easy and you'll have photos worthy of the objects you value. In future blog posts, I'll give some tips on photographing specific types of heirlooms and on some help with the journaling.