Category Archives: Photography

Photographing is for Chowderheads

My family has never been big on photographs. I am talking about my immediate family. I have aunts and uncles who fancy themselves professional photographers and seem to be willing to capture every single moment of every day of their children and grandchildren. I think some of them want to be able to stack all of these pictures together and then flip through them to create some kind of flip-book animation that shows every moment of their grandchildren. In my immediate family pictures have never been a big deal.

Sure there are pictures of key events. However, my parents home is not lined with pictures of every moment of my life or my brother's life. Why? Well, I have news for some of you. Not everything needs to be filmed and documented and hung upon the wall for people to see as if every moment of your life is worth some kind of exhibit in a museum.

Other families seem to think that everything that everyone in their family does is worthy of remembering. I think this is a problem. I think this has created a kind of rudeness that didn't exist maybe as little as fifteen years ago. These day, of course, everything in the world comes with a camera. Cameras themselves are practically microscopic. Your phone has a camera. Your MP3 player has a camera. You toothbrush probably has a camera just in case you don't have enough film of your dental habits in your photo albums.

While technology is great sometimes I think it can be a problem making it too accessible to people. There should, perhaps, be some kind of movement that actually reduces people's dependencies and technological tendencies. At the very least, for a start in that direction, we need to limit the number of cameras in the world.

I was in church recently. At the far end of the pew from where I was sitting was a nice looking older couple. As the service went forward I kept seeing movement out of the corner of my eye. At some point I realized that the man in this couple had a tiny camera and was turning around and pointing it up toward the balcony where the organist sits and musicians sometimes sit and where the choir often sits. There was a choir of girls in grades 6 – 8 singing that day. I am assuming these were related to one of these girls in some way. What this guy didn't seem to understand is that turning around and pointing this tiny camera was causing the people sitting behind him to do all kinds of contortions in an attempt to stay clear of his shot.

Now, one thing that the uninitiated when it comes to church should know is that you do NOT, under ANY circumstances, turn around to look at things unless expressly told to do so in the bulletin. Moses himself may have reappeared in black-face and top hat while holding a cane and singing "Mammie" but you were NOT to turn around. It was as if doing so would cause God to hurtle large, smoldering, craggy, violent, but ultimately holy and divine meteors through the roof of the church where they would then promptly embed themselves into your skull.

So, needless to say, this couple was violating this rule. Violation of this rule is accepted from time to time, however. What I could not believe was that they truly felt that filming this was something important. Can you honestly tell me you spend time watching all of the video footage you have of your child? Were these people going to be sitting at home one night and say, "Gee, 'Grey's Anatomy' is a repeat tonight so let's watch little Nancy's choir performance in church from January of 2007?"

Most of life is boring. I have news for you. Your child is boring. Your life is boring. The things your kid does may be absolutely wonderful and great for you but to the rest of us it is about the same as trying to watch carpeting grow. Unless your kid is a talking infant, blowing bubbles from accidentally swallowing soap or passing wind in a passable version of the "Star-Spangled Banner" they are probably not doing anything interesting.

Also, I am betting your kids never want to see that stuff again. I know my dad went through a phase of taking 8 millimeter films of family functions. You had to have an actual film projector to watch these things. My family has done that all of three times that I can remember in my life. You know what they show? A favorite is to show me knocking my young cousin off of my toy "Sit – 'N – Spin" so I could ride it.

Did you have one of those toys? They don't make toys this silly or fun anymore. It was exactly what its name was. You sat on it and turned this wheel and you spun around. Really fast. I might as well have been called the "Sit – 'N – Puke." I loved mine. However, I would rather choose to remember the fun times when I used this toy than the moment I acted like a spoiled jerk and nearly injured my cousin trying to get to the toy.

I am betting little Nancy has no desire to watch herself standing in a church balcony singing "What Child is This?" anytime soon. Right now she is just happy she didn't screw up the words or fall over the edge of the balcony. I highly doubt when she is 35 and sitting with her own kids and suddenly have a desire to show some shaky video that shows a blurry picture of her in sixth grade singing the same song mentioned before.

Thankfully my family never did get a video recorder to capture every moment of our lives growing up. My dad did not show up and record my one and only humiliating season playing little league baseball. This has left me to freely build mental blocks around those memories and pretend like it never happened.

Taking pictures for special moments is fine. Even those need to be done with caution. I hope to never run across the photos that were taken of me and my prom date, for example. However just because junior has figured out how to put food in his mouth rather than his hair I don't think qualifies as one of those moments.

Oh, and I would like to encourage the rest of us that, should we see someone trying to capture something stupid to start putting ourselves in the way. Why do we all freeze and move out of these people's way? Stand up. Wave your hands. Stick out your tongue. That way they won't want to look at those pictures anymore.

How to Take a Photograph of a Group: The Bride and Groom Together

How to photograph groups and couples

We have all seen those family photo albums where every photograph looks the same. Where people stare straight into the camera with forced smiles. Where sulky children stand rigidly to attention as dad screams at them to keep still. Wedding groups where some of the bodies are obscured by big hats or lost in a sea of faces.

As the photographer this is not an easy task to undertake. You need to compose the picture, pose the individuals and get the lighting spot on. If just one individual moves at the wrong time or one of the children throws a tantrum you are in trouble. Group photography has so many things that can go wrong to spoil a picture from the human content to the lighting and weather. You can't account for everything but you can use a few tried and tested techniques to get the best results.

The word group signifies something working together for a set purpose. There may be many individuals in that group but they are one entity. Your task is to bring out the individuals within the photograph but keep them as a united group. With a wedding photograph it is a priority to have the bride and groom prominent in the picture but what about Aunt Agnes who is at the back of the group hidden behind Uncle Tom who is rather well built in all directions! You can't work miracles but you can juggle people around until you have everyone's head in the photograph. Keep the group tight without making the end result look as if they are being corralled in a sheep pen. On the other hand don't allow the picture to be too loose. Everyone should look comfortable and happy with their position and not as if they were the long lost relative no one wanted at the wedding.

Once you have the group where every face is visible and you are happy with the overall result take your photograph. Remember the people are in front of the camera and you are behind it. They cannot see what you can see. You are the only one who can say if it is working or not.

Couples

You meet a couple who have travelled over from Japan to enjoy your wonderful city. They have taken photographs of everything and now would like you to take a photograph of them in front of the local harbour. You take the camera, they stand in front of a lamp post so it looks like it has grown from the heads and you take the photograph. Would you do that? Hopefully you wouldn't, you ask them to move to a new location so the lamp post doesn't spoil the shot.

It is the same every time you take pictures of couples. It is your task to take best photograph you can and so you have to pose the couple. A couple has something that joins them together. They could be husband and wife, brother and sister, grandma and grandpa but there has to be a connection.

If they are in an intimate relationship then anything from holding hands to arms around each other's wastes brings the pose together. We are not showing two people in a photograph as if in a mug shot, we want to convey their relationship. Relationships should be warm and friendly and you need to express this in the photograph. Body contact has to be the best way to show this. You want a tight composition. One of the best ways to create that intimate feeling is for the couple to lean their heads towards each other.

If you are photographing a wedding and survived the group shot you will need shots of the bride and groom. There are probably millions of photographs out there where the bride and groom are standing side by side in the church doorway looking at the camera. All this type of shot says is 'here is the obligatory bride and groom shot'. These are two people who are going to spend their lives together and they have not married the camera they have married each other. They should be looking at one another not at the camera, their bouquet or a dog wandering through the churchyard. They should be engrossed with one another, or at least appear to be so.

Make it dramatic. If the groom has the bride in his arms he is not showing how strong he is. He should be looking down at his bride as she is looking up at him. Nothing else in the world matters, they are together.

Create a Story with Your Photographs!

When you hold a camera in your hand, you have the power to create! You are making memories! It could be a single image, or a story that breathes life into your photographs. If you scrapbook with your photos, then you are a story teller! So many times, however, the story they tell gets blurred by the photos you’re using. Photos can come from a variety of sources; friends, family members, business contacts, and yourself of course; and yet, many times these pictures, while appreciated, lose the focus of the very events that you’ve tried to capture in the scrapbook. This happens because the photos don’t capture the event effectively, but that’s sad considering how easily anyone can tell a photo story. If you take control of how you take your pictures, and use the following concepts, you’ll have created a photo story that will have people clearly understanding the story you are trying to tell.

The whole point of the scrapbook, often, is to tell a story of an event or a person. The event photos have the group together, but also the individuals involved. Often, the biggest problem is that the picture of your friend that is being showcased shows just a small image in the picture; in fact, you may not be able to recognize the image as being of your friend because they are so small in the photo that you didn’t know who they were! What is the point of that? If you can’t grasp the image of the event or person clearly, and quickly, you are losing the whole point of picture taking.

The solution is easier than you may imagine; it requires a small bit of planning before the event takes place. With the ideas I’m about to give you, the final product, your scrapbook or photo album will truly tell the story of the event or person, with a new style and grace.

A photojournalist, a person who works for a newspaper or magazine, is interested in telling a story with the photos they take. These images need to tell a story without any words. What would that look like? Imagine a Memorial Day party, the barbecue grill is fired up, the beer is in the cooler, and the conversation is flowing. To tell the story, look around you and see the events taking place, and start taking pictures. Are the kids throwing a football? Are the grandparents watching, or are they eating the chicken? Are the parents hanging out around the BBQ grill, or watching football on cable? Look around you and observe the ordinary, the extraordinary and the unforgettable. Even the most innocent of pictures may turn out to make a special memory.

Now, take multiple pictures of the events you are recording, but shoot them in a new way. Divide your event pictures into three categories; wide angle, medium angle and close up, and then shoot away. A wide shot is just that, a wide view of the event going on, and it establishes the location of the event being recorded. For example, a picture of kids playing football may show the kids on both sides of the game, with parents watching in the background. To get this kind of shot, zoom out as wide as your camera lens will go. A medium shot is not as wide, and includes pictures of a smaller area, like the kids on one side of the game, maybe in a huddle, or up at the line about to throw the ball. A close up would be a much closer picture of someone or something on the field doing something, like the ball on the ground or in the quarterback’s hand, or a receiver’s hand catching a pass. This type of shot of anything will, if effective, leave out the extra things around the sides, top and bottom of the picture, and just fixate on the item you are capturing. Those extra things could include trash cans, or trees, or basically anything not related to your image, things that will distract from your image and the story you are trying to tell, and it can confuse your viewer as to the point of the picture. To tell the story effectively, you need to have at least one wide shot of the event, five or six medium shots, and a couple dozen close ups of the individual parts of the event. If you are covering single individual, then follow these ideas with that individual in the shots, but still in the three basic styles. This variety will give you a lot to choose from when creating a photo story of the event or person. If you have an SLR type camera, that’s even better, as you can get very wide shots and close-ups, simply by changing lenses. But in the end, no matter what type of camera you have, you can follow these ideas in this article, and use them to tell a great story; the story of life!

Bottom line, photographers are telling stories with their images. But, what is the story? Is it a birthday party, or a Memorial Day picnic, or a wedding? Create a story with your images with the three basic picture styles, wide, medium and close up, and then group them together in your scrapbook to tell the story. Zoom into your friends; grab the close up shots that enliven your pictures. Suddenly your event scrapbook will come to life!

Online Photo Albums: A Safe Way to Store Your Pictures

When my last computer's hard drive died on me, I lost most of my pictures in the My Documents folder. I was devastated. Luckily, I had some of my favorite pictures stored online. If I didn't have those photos online, I would've lost them all. Don't let this happen to you. Upload your pictures to an online photo website where they will be kept safely, while you can still share them with your friends and family.

Social Networking Web sites ( www.myspace.com , www.facebook.com )

A fun way to share your pictures is with MySpace and Facebook. I'm sure other social networking websites have the picture option, but I only have experience using MySpace and Facebook so far. If you already have an account, you have the ability to share your pictures with all of your friends on that website who also have an account. Both social networking sites allow you to upload your personal photos to albums. Then, your friends can view your pictures and leave comments about them. If you set your account to private, then only your friends are able to see your pictures.

Picture Trail ( www.picturetrail.com )

You get your own homepage for your pictures, free to join, create slideshows, many different ways to personalize your albums from page borders to background music, free photo editing and uploading software, customized image hosting for other websites, camera phone uploads, optional password protection

My Photo Album ( www.myphotoalbum.com )

Unlimited photo storage, free to join, ability to add videos, add multiple pictures at one time with the "easy upload" tools, personalize your albums and choose from hundreds of different album layouts, decide whether you want your albums to be public or private, camera phone uploads, order prints and photo keepsakes right off the website

Shutterfly ( www.shutterfly.com )

Free to join, save on shipping with the ability to pick up prints at Target stores, unlimited photo storage, prints start at 12 cents each for 4×6, create a photo book, create greeting cards, excellent wedding accessories like save-the-dates and invitations, order gifts like calendars, apparel, picture frames and more, free photo software, optional password protection

Snapfish ( www.snapfish.com )

A photo sharing and ordering website by Hewlett Packard, free signup with 20 free prints, 9 cent prints for 4×6 pictures, create personalized gifts, ability to earn free credits and free stuff from Snapfish, upload videos, add contacts to an address book for easy sharing of pictures, cheap shipping charges, unlimited albums

Photo Bucket ( www.photobucket.com )

Free to join, upload up to 10,000 pictures, image hosting service for other websites, upload videos, room for hours of video, share pictures on your MySpace, Facebook, or blog page, create slideshows, find and download pictures

Webshots ( www.webshots.com )

One of the most popular online photo sharing websites, free to join, share photos, get free wallpaper and screensavers from this site, download pictures, order prints and customized keepsakes, full screen slideshows, free software download, Webshots toolbar for Internet Explorer

Wal-Mart Digital Photo Center ( www.walmart.com)

Free to join, upload unlimited pictures, order prints and gifts, pictures can be delivered to your home or picked up at a Wal-Mart store, prints start at 9 cents each for 4×6, create group rooms where your friends and family can upload pictures to one specific private group, free software to upload pictures

I have used all of the above services for both print ordering and online photo storage. I haven't had a problem with any of the websites, and I will continue to use them. However, there are hundreds of other websites that you can use, not just the ones I reviewed. Right now, my main photo storage websites have been Picture Trail and Webshots, and I order my prints from either Walmart or Snapfish. Look around to see which website is for you, since they all have great features to offer to you. Don't worry about strangers viewing your pictures, since most of these websites offer password protection that only your friends and family need to know about. I recommend using password protection if you're able to do so. Once you have your pictures online, you can access them on any computer with internet access, and you won't have to worry about carrying a disc or USB drive around with you. Online photo albums are a great way to share pictures, and store them at the same time without having to worry about creating a backup.

Autism and a Trip to the Photographer

Every new mother knows that family, friends, and work colleagues all expect to see pictures of the new baby. So the new mother dutifully trudges her sleep deprived self off to the photographer for pictures. As the years progress things get easier with the exception of the toddler/preschooler years. Children wear cute little outfits, hair is neatly brushed and shoes are carefully selected.

Mother despite not being in the picture puts on a crisp clean outfit brushes her hair and teeth. Puts on matching shoes and purse and slips into her slightly messy but still stylish car. As she arrives at the photographers she sees another mother. A mother in a dirty shirt, messy hair, and large black circles under her eyes with a screaming toddler. The well dressed mother sits with her quiet children and leaves with perfectly nice pictures. Her children are well posed and spotless. She does not say a word to the other mother quietly thinking to herself good discipline does wonders and that woman must not…….in short be a good mother.

The morning of the photography shoot begins with waking up. First the child must be given his breakfast and vitamins. Then the child must be bathed and dressed. Keep in mind this involves screaming for food and screaming as you put the child in the tub and out of the tub. Then more screaming as hair is brushed. Let us not forget any other children that must be fed washed and changed/taken potty. When all that is done the kitchen must be cleaned then mom gets to get dressed. With a bit of luck the time comes to brush my own teeth. Soon it is time to put the shoes on both children and to try to put 2 small children into car seats. So carefully the baby is put in the car seat while holding the hand of the toddler. Finally both children are in the car seats and safe. The drive to the photographer is uneventful.

Getting out of the car involves putting the baby in her stroller and taking a backpack then holding the toddlers hand as we slowly walk to the photographers. As we walk into the photographer the toddler begins to get anxious and fuss. Carefully you sit down with the baby and toddler but he begins to look around and spots a television. He begins pushing buttons over and over. Then he begins trying to run away and finally he spots the computer on the shelf and begins pushing the drawer where the keyboard is located. He begins opening it and closing it. As the sales clerk gives you a black look. The phone rings and you wait despite having arrived on time. He pounds the keyboard and keeps returning to the keyboard despite you putting on a movie for him. The other mothers look at you distastefully.

You carefully bring your screaming child over to sit near you and ask if they are ready. The salesclerk puts her hand over the phone and looks at you. In a moment Mam she says.

Finally we are taken back for the photographer to take his pictures. She sets up the scenes but he won't smile or sit in the scene instead he goes to the computer. The look in his eyes when I put him back in the perfect scene is fear. He is terrified of the artificial scene and the toys that go along with it. Finally he relaxes and we get a picture of him playing with a blanket…playing peek a boo. He's smiling. There are no cute props there are no cute backgrounds just my child who was terrified of all that and a blanket smiling and playing a game of peek a boo. We go out and he tries to run away from me and the baby. I catch him and pay while holding his hand the pen and keeping a knee on the stroller.

The woman sitting and waiting to do her photos looks at me and shakes her head in disgust. I don't care I walk out of there with a treasure more precious than gold. My little boy is smiling.

Little Photo Books for Baby

We all love to look at our babies. They also love looking at us! The ideas below are cute little photo books. Not only are they great little picture books, they are also great little teaching tools. Pictures of family members and other objects provide visual stimulation. Reading the words provides speech and word recognition. Have fun making these little books for your baby and for your friends. They will love the thoughtful idea.

The Book Ingredients:

Cardboard (stiffer) for the cover

Cardboard (slightly flexible) for the inside pages

Photos

Yarn (large fluffy yarn or many strands of regular yarn will work)

Markers (safe, colorful)

Glue (non-toxic)

Instructions:

Take photos of family members, pets, favorite dolls or stuffed animals, etc. Make the photos full face and large enough to fill about half the page.

Cut 2 pieces of the stiffer cardboard about 5" square for the book cover. Make a fold line about ½" from the edge. This ½" area will be the bookbinding. The binding can be at the left side or the top, whichever you prefer.

Cut as many inside pages as you wish from the slightly flexible cardboard. Cut these about 4" to 4-1/2" square. Again, create the fold line for the bookbinding for each page.

At this point you could actually use the markers to color each page. Let dry well before applying the photos.

Use a hole punch to create 2 nicely spaced holes on each cover and page. These holes will be where you pull the yarn through at the end of the project. Make sure all holes are properly aligned.

Cut out each family face and glue to a page.

Using safe, colorful markers, print the family member's name below the photo.

Make as many pages as you like. Do not make so many pages that they are hard to for baby to maneuver.

Assemble the little book, weaving the yarn through the 2 holes from back to front. Tie off in a pretty bow.

At this point, you could take another piece of yarn and pull through the top hole only, creating a yarn loop to tie onto baby's stroller or high chair. Make yarn loop just large enough, but not so long baby could get caught up in it.

Hints:

Construction paper and painted cardboards can make the project more colorful. Be sure your "ingredients" are non-toxic!

More "Book" Ideas:

Book of Toys

Book of Household Objects

Book of Farm Animals

Book of Other Baby FacesBook of Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

How to Make a Baby Book from a Photo Album

There are many reasons for making your own baby book. Maybe you want to write your own stories. Maybe you would like to read stories in another language, but such books are out of reach. Regardless of your particular reasons, you can easily make a baby book without spending a whole day or a bunch of money on a complicated project. Just use a photo album as a blank canvas for your book.

I have recently heard that a friend of mine had been looking – with little success – for books in her native language for her new baby. She wanted to familiarize him with the sounds of this language, but was at loss as of where to find such books without having to break a bank and order them from abroad.

Enter the photo album. With a few hours of internet research, printing, measuring and cutting, I easily created the first books in the baby's future foreign language library. While the options in making a book are limitless, I found that using a photo album had some very attractive advantages.

Advantages of Using a Photo Album to Make a Baby Book

  1.  Easy to make. No gluing or tying pages together. No do-it-yourself padding for the covers. You can concentrate on the content.
  2.  Easy to clean and keep in good shape. If your baby touches the pages with dirty fingers, you can simply wipe the book clean. Photo albums with plastic pages are usually sturdy enough to withstand a good deal of abuse, as they are meant to last.
  3.  Beautiful books. Albums are designed to be presentable, so your book would end up looking nice. If you buy more albums of the same design, whether of different colors or not, they will look pretty aligned side by side on the shelf.

What You Need

Story and images from the internet (or your own)
Small photo album with plastic inserts, from a craft store (often on sale)
Printing paper
Printer
Scissors

How to Make the Baby Book

1 – Copy your story into a Word document. Adjust the width to what you think is a good one for your photo album, and use the Page Break feature to create your test page. Print it out, and cut it to fit the album page inserts. Through trial and error, decide on the right formula of width and length for the test page. Do not forget to count the number of inserts in your album, and to increase or decrease the font size to fit this number best.

2 – When you obtained the right formula of width and number of lines for each page, use the Page Break feature from Word to create every page. Print them out.

3 – Use your test paper as a pattern for cutting the pages, or create an easier to use pattern using thicker craft paper. Cut each page around its contour. You can cut out more pages at a time to finish faster.

4 – Create a title and an end page using a larger and fancier font. Look online for a nice border image and copy it into your Word document to enhance the look of these two pages.

5 – If you can find images related to your story on the internet, copy them into your Word document, adjust their size and print them out on separate pages.

6 – Create a dedication page if you have enough room in your album. After all, this note of personal touch is why you are making the book in the first place.

7 – Arrange your pages in order, and mix them with your images. Insert them into the album pages.

8 – Create a title page for the book cover, and place it into the little insert of the album cover.

With little effort, you can create a whole library of books that your child will cherish forever. Use the same method to create personalized gifts for baby showers, birthdays or any other event fit for such a present – and bring joy into a little reader's world.

Why Photo Cards Are so Great

People buy cards for many different things. Holidays, birthdays, sympathy, and just about anything that you could possible imagine. There are even cards out there for pets! If you ever go to the store and pick out a card for someone, you may notice the high price of the card, not to mention that someone else may get the very same card. There is a really unique way to send out cards to people for any occasion, and they can be created by you with whatever you want on them. I am not talking about designing a traditional card online, I’m talking about creating your own photo cards.

Photo cards are special way that you can send someone a personal greeting that is unique and that no one else can send them. You can create a card for any occasion too! If your child has a birthday party, you can take a picture of them blowing out the candles on the cake. Then take this picture and use it as the picture on your card. For wedding thank you’s, try using a picture that was taken by someone of the two of you at your wedding. Christmas photo cards are very popular right now. Taking a picture of your family, home, or a vacation you went on is a good idea for this holiday. Some people even like to send Halloween photo cards with their children or pets in their costumes. If you have a pet, or maybe a garden, then use pictures of these things for sympathy cards or for blank cards. Cards with no message imprinted can be very useful.

You can design photo cards however you want. You can have different borders or background, and get do them in any color. You will choose your font sizes, types, and all of your different patterns. It can also be any type of card you want. It can be side opening, a one sided card, or a two sided single card. It is going to be as detailed or as simple as you want it to be. You can even put multiple photographs on it.

So how do you create these photo cards? There are many different ways. Your home computer program being Windows or whatever you use will normally have a program to design photo cards, and you can print them out at your home printer. You will have to get the right card paper and make sure you have enough ink. It has often been found cheaper to go through an online photo system like Shutterfly or Snapfish. These are just 2 of many. With these online vendors all you have to do is load up your photos, type in your greetings, and they will mail the cards to you. These cards cost less than a quarter to create, and you don’t have to deal with the printing mechanics or the high price of ink. Another way is to create them at stores or pharmacies that have photography departments, and this is also very cost effective.

In many cases photo cards can serve as duel purposes. If you want to send out graduation invitations or thank you’s, you can use the card to have all of the information and a picture on it. This way you don’t have to pay for additional photos to insert with each card. Photographs aren’t cheap and photo cards will save you money. They are also a great way to keep memories, and to display pictures. Some people keep cards around forever, so they will have your special picture and unique card forever.

Try making a photo card for your next occasion or event. If you are an advanced photographer, you will be able to create many different unique and neat cards, and get to display your talent. Search for different places on line that you can get them done if you don’t want to worry about doing it yourself, and get creative!

Personal Journal Assignment: Use Photo Image as Journal Prompt

When I worked the 12-steps in Adult Children of Alcoholics, we were directed to locate a childhood photo of ourselves, where we were smiling. Today's Personal Journal Assignment is to use a photo image as a prompt that will help us get out of the victim mentality.

If the smile in your childhood photo image was genuine and you were raised in a safe, happy environment, slant the following exercise toward gratitude. Let your photo tell its smiling story.

Some of us weren't as fortunate. We are abused and afraid, always afraid. It is my greatest hope that this Personal Journal Assignment will work its magic for you, as it did for me.

Photos Tell a Story

Every photo has its own story. When you feel confused or fragmented, a photo image will point toward repetitive painful patterns, which happened before and keep happening again.

Find a picture of from your childhood where you were smiling, gaze at your image and listen for "aha" moments.

One Word at a Time

In your Personal Journal, write a one word description of the photo image you selected. If the appropriate word doesn't pop into your consciousness choose one of these: anticipation, confidant, inspired, flinching, cozy, worried, angry, safe, depressed or happy.

Embracing your Personal Power

Our aim is to get out of our victim mentality, one word at a time. Written words light our journey to wholeness.

Look at the one word description of your photo image and write a list of feeling words to describe where you were in your life. Go with the feelings. If you are moved to tears, take time to cry. If you feel angry, write out the anger. Did you hate the situation at the time this picture was snapped? If you are angry and feel hatred toward a parent or caregiver, explain why these feelings surfaced to your Personal Journal.

Following each session of photo journaling, you will take back one or more aspects of your personal power that you had stuffed away in order to survive.

Growth Opportunities

The child of an abusive alcoholic lives in chaos. As a result, survival becomes imperative. In order to survive, we bury aspects of ourselves, such as anger, laughter, initiative, self-love, confidence or freedom of expression.

Therapeutic journaling offers boundless growth opportunities. By integrating one missing piece of our psyche at a time, we gain the wisdom to let what is past be in the past and the confidence to change our present lives.

My Photo Journal Experience

I had difficulty finding a childhood picture where I was smiling. Finally, I settled of one taken before the Junior Prom. In it, I wore a gorgeous yellow dress and my straight hair was in curls.

The word I chose was "flinching". (This is why I incorporated "flinching" in the list of words.) The fake smile in the picture was on the outside, on the inside I was crying. Before getting dressed, my mother had beaten me with a belt. My legs were covered in whelps and stiffness of the dress material hurt me each time I moved. What should have been a night of laughter was filled with pain and sorrow.

As I looked at my smiling picture, I took the opportunity to cry those tears I'd stuffed a long time ago. And then I wrote out page-after-page of angry, hurt feelings. Afterwards, I felt drained, but excited because knowledge is power. Due to the "aha" moment of clarity, I could emphasize with the smiling girl in the photo, who was crying on the inside, Simultaneously with my positive action in permitting both of us to weep, another piece of personal power was integrated into my present self.

Use Photo Image as a Prompt

I'm in total agreement if you'd prefer to suffer a broken bone than to work the photo image exercise. Our victim mentality can become so comfortable that we have no desire to scratch, claw and dig ourselves out of past pain.

But, I shared part of my story the smiling picture told, with the sincere belief that you will benefit from it. Because I've been a victim and now I'm physically, mentally and spiritually free. When you live in freedom you will smile on the inside.