In lean times, a professional photoshoot of the family may be the first luxury to be axed.
But according to new research by the portrait photography chain Venture, you could be damaging your child's self-image if you don't have happy family photos on display at home..
"We cannot underestimate the power of photographs to keep us feeling linked to others and belonging," says Professor Geoff Beattie, Dean of Psychological Sciences at Manchester University. "For children, looking at photographs is part of the socialising process, learning who you are and where you fit into the family. By displaying photographs of our children at different stages of their lives, we are making a public statement that we are proud of them."
Photos can also trigger and reinforce happy memories, allowing the bad times to be erased. Children can't hold on to a "nobody loves me" frame of mind for long when the house is full of warm, smiling faces that say the contrary. But, warns children's photographer Martin Oliver, a former creative director on children's TV, make sure you display the same number of shots of each child, or your good intentions could have the opposite effect!
Portrait photographer Helen Bartlett recalls her childhood through the pictures on her walls. "My dad was an accomplished photographer and my childhood was full of big black and white images of us running around having fun. It does make a positive difference."
Displaying photos of the extended family is also important, so that far-flung uncles and grannies can be identified and kept alive in children's consciousness. Of course, you don't need a professional to capture all these moments, and the times that yield the most snaps - holidays and outings - are unlikely to be accompanied by a photographer. But today's professionals are adept at letting kids be themselves, romping on the sofa or climbing a tree - the difference is that their photos look as if they've stepped off the pages of Junior magazine.
As Helen says, "If you don't have a professional set of pictures, it doesn't mean your children are ruined for life. But a photographer's pictures are better - I can anticipate situations and make sure I'm in the right place at the right moment."
Martin agrees. "Owning a camera and being able to take shots is only 5% of the formula. I can do better composed, better lit, better captured moments - and get everyone in the shot."
This is, of course, paramount. If you're always the one behind the camera, you might look back at events and wonder if you were actually there. Even when she's commissioned to do children's portraits, Helen encourages parents to be in some of the shots, because that's what kids will want to look back on when they're older. Besides, appearing in a magazine-style shoot is good for everyone's self-esteem. "You'll look stunning in every shot," says Helen. "You can look at the photos and think, 'Wow! That's how I look on an everyday basis!'"
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