There are a number of reasons some people are reluctant to get family portraits taken- some may even think they’re frivolous or an expression of vanity (and trust me, I understand the concern about having too many pictures of yourself up and what that says about you-but stay with me!). That couldn’t be more wrong. The truth is, family photography helps us raise children with stronger self-confidence and higher self-esteem!
There was a well-known study conducted by Tulane University in 1975 with a group of fourth-graders in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The children selected for the study showed scores of low self-esteem, and they were then given Polaroid cameras to take photos of themselves in a variety of poses and compositions and showing a wide array of emotions over the course of five weeks. During those weeks they created weekly scrapbooks of their self-portraits. At the end of the study, they were tested again and the students had a thirty-seven percent increase in their average behavioral self-esteem!
So just having photos of themselves to look at can help a child’s self-esteem, but seeing family photos can do even more. David Krauss, a psychologist, and pioneer in using personal photography and family albums in assisting mental health counseling and therapy (and co-author of the book Photo Therapy and Mental Health-considered a founding text for using photography in therapy), states that seeing family photographs on display tells a child that they are important to this family. He further says “I think it is really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit. A photographer’s job is to create and make the image look safe holding space for kids where they are safe and protected. Kids get it on a really simple level.”
And while digital photos are great and being able to pull up a picture on your phone is convenient, having printed photographs on display in your living space is agreed upon by experts to be the way to get the best confidence-building results. Krauss says, “My bias is very simple. I think they (family photographs) should be on the wall…I think placing a family photo someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child this sense of reassurance and comfort. They have a certainty about them and a protective quality that nurtures a child. It lets them know where they are in the pecking order and that they are loved and cared for.” He additionally recommends having photos of your child with your family in their bedroom so they can be some of the last things they see before falling asleep, and the first they can see at the start of the day. “It says we love you and care about you. You’re important.”
Even the family photo session itself can build on your child’s self-esteem and create a stronger bond within your family. They’re a tangible way for kids to feel safe and secure in their place within the family. Then displaying the pictures prominently shows them how valuable they are and the importance they bring to the family. Dr. Krauss states, “It’s important not only to be photographed in ways that indicate caring, nurturing, love and success but also to see those images and take them in,”
I love families. That’s why I do what I do-to see that connection and that joy, and to see a child light up with confidence and a strong sense of self and just complete security that they are loved and cherished by you. Family photographs are not a superfluous superficial silly thing, they’re a bonding experience that shows each other and the world that this is your family. And it’s perfect.