A photo is worth a thousand words. We all know that famous quote yet do we really believe it and accept it as truth? Does that mean we don’t need to write down anything about our pictures because we’ll just “know.”
We’d love to think we’ll always remember everything down to every last detail. Yet the older we get, the more the reality of fading and forgotten memories makes us realize writing down a few details might be a better way to preserve the stories behind the photos.
We shouldn’t feel bad about this fact. I mean really, most of us depend on to-do lists and grocery lists without scoffing at one another for a lack of brainpower. So why should we feel inadequate somehow for writing down a few words about our photos? Just. In. Case.
As anyone who has lost a loved one too soon, or endured a family member suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you just never know “when” will be too late to ask about “the time when” or “tell me about this picture” or “who is this?”
“Safeguard your yesterdays for tomorrow by capturing your present today.”
~ Brenda Kruse, PhotoOrganizingPro.com
By recording the seemingly simple and small details of your daily life now, you’re making it much easier on yourself — and your legacy (future generations) — to know why you took that particular photo, why you kept it, and why it mattered so much.
The secret to all that? Words, or the story.
And don’t instantly get your feathers ruffled, underwear in a bunch, ire up…by whining “but Brenda, I’m not a writer, I can’t write, I’m not good at words, I don’t know what to say,” etc. excuses. I say, “baloney!”
No one is asking (or expecting) you to write the next best-selling novel. Or viral blog post. Maybe you’ll be the only person who ever reads it anyway. The point is to put something down on “paper.” Well, I don’t actually mean paper or print, I mean as a digital CAPTION that becomes metadata that stays with your image file. Read this (I am a writer!) and repeat it until you believe it!
In Picasa (my preferred photo management program & hopefully now yours as well), captions are easy to create. Simply click in the space below the photo and type what you want. It auto-saves as you either click enter or move to the next pic. The best part is that every word is searchable so you’ve just made it easier to find the photo (like keyword/tags, which we’ll cover tomorrow). And all this VIP info is stored with the image itself, meaning it will export and transfer to any other program as needed.
Captions can be printed when you print the photo (not straight-forward but there are ways). They also appear in slideshows on Google+ (or you can turn them off). They can display with your photos when uploaded to Web Albums too. You can also turn them on in the Library view to show below the thumbnails.
Typing up even a simple caption may seem time-consuming when facing a backlog of your entire photo collection but I recommend you start from today and start with the stars! In other words, view your “all stars” and look at the most-recent photos first. Add captions there as you see fit. If you never get around to captioning your “other” photos, at least you’ve done your all-time favorites. Those are the ones you said mean the most to you anyway so those should be your first for saving the story.
This reminds me of what the flight attendants say on a plane in the case of an emergency and the oxygen mask drops from the ceiling compartment, put yours on first before assisting a child or anyone else. So these are your ultimate “me” photos…your oxygen mask moments.
Then you can move on to doing the others. And yes, you can copy and paste one caption to others, although this isn’t the ideal way to provide information. If you simply need to identify basic facts, the keywords/tags feature will likely be more appropriate. We’re covering that tomorrow so maybe wait and see on some of your “Disneyland Spring Break 2012” captions you thought you’d type. Instead, tell us about the tantrum your son threw when he couldn’t get the light saber sucker or how your daughter turned green after riding Mickey’s Fun Wheel or how long you waited for the Cars ride.
NOT JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM
When I say write captions, I mean more of the background story or an interesting tidbit about the moment that isn’t obvious from the visual. Not just some of the more literal things we can deduce from either seeing the photo or knowing which file folder it came from with its date and event label.
In other words, don’t bother putting a caption of “zoo sign” on a photo of a sign at the front of a zoo you visited. I’m pretty sure your future offspring should be able to figure that out without your “helpful” hint. One you way you should plan to help them is to explain why you went to the zoo. School field trip, vacation, local excursion, your kid wouldn’t stop talking about polar bears one summer, or whatever it is. You’ll be able to use metadata keywords and geotags to identify the location and other specifics so that won’t be needed in your caption although you could add it now as long as you include the additional details as well — not just the facts, ma’am!
TELLING A STORY “DOWN THE LINE”
Consider the old-time game of “telephone” for a minute. I’m too young to have ever played it but am familiar with the concept. You tell one person a story and then that person calls another person to tell them what you said. Keep the chain going and then see if the story even resembles the original when it’s told back to the original author! Kinda like gossip!
Same goes for your photos and the stories behind them. One person might tell the story one way; another leaves out one detail and adds in two more. Someone else might go off on a tangent about another aspect that’s not really related to this photo but reminds them of this other story. See what I mean? This is why you need to write down the stories and memories YOU want to save and share as captions. Even if they end up being little blurbs for the most part, they will add a little extra information, personality, character, and point-of-view to the photo.
Remember the old print photos of our past that we all have (or have inherited)? The ones when past generations actually wrote on the backs of photo prints? That little detail or description is now a cherished caption as it tells us what, many times, the people pictured cannot as they are no longer with us.
Of course, those hand-written captions were a little more awesome because they were just that — hand-written snippets of their signature style that we now treasure. Sadly, your Picasa captions will not give future generations that same warm-fuzzy feeling but they’ll be grateful you wrote anything at all!
What story does the above photo tell? Besides it’s the 70s?! Bet you’re not sure. Luckily the back had this CAPTION (in my Mom’s handwriting): “Brenda & Shane are taking lessons from Steve on how to make funny faces. February or March 1974.” That means I was a little over 2 years old sitting on the kitchen table with my slightly younger cousin while my dad made us laugh by making funny faces, probably after he came in from doing chores at night. This is from the old farmhouse in NW IA.
Enough lecture on why it’s so important and why you need to stop complaining and just start typing. Turn on your 15-minute timer and crank out some captions! You can always go back to edit or embellish later. Get something down for each “starred” favorite photo in your collection and you’ll be so thankful someday. You can send me a nice note then.
DAY 6: 15 MINUTES. CAPTAIN CAPTION!
Set your phone’s timer or stopwatch for 15 minutes and open Picasa. Click on the top filter to “show starred photos only” then look at your most-recent photo folder (probably 2015-03). These will be easier to caption because they are most fresh in your mind.
In the library, double-click to open the first one in the editing mode. Underneath it, click the “Make a caption!” text and type in your own. Click enter to see it “saved” on that photo or just hit the next arrow at the top to advance to the next starred photo in the folder.
As you go back in time through your collection, you will realize it’s more difficult to remember the specifics and the stories that go with some older photos. Those memories are already fading! Write what you can and if possible, jot a note in it to ask another person to share their story about the photo. This works for a spouse, child, sibling or someone else who was also there at that time or maybe remembers the stories you once told about this photo. Sharing your stories verbally is important but putting them in print is priceless. I’ll be showing some great options for taking “the next steps” with your photos for sharing and saving them!
In summary, your DAY 6 DUTIES:
- OPEN PICASA & FILTER BY “ALL STARS,” THEN START WITH YOUR MOST-RECENT PHOTO FOLDER (2015-03).
- DOUBLE-CLICK THE FIRST PIC TO OPEN IT IN THE EDITOR.
- UNDERNEATH THE PHOTO, WRITE YOUR OWN TEXT IN THE “MAKE A CAPTION!” SPACE AND CLICK ENTER WHEN DONE.
- CLICK THE FORWARD ARROW AT THE TOP CENTER TO ADVANCE TO THE NEXT STARRED PHOTO AND REPEAT THIS PROCESS UNTIL ALL YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOS HAVE BEEN CAPTIONED.
- IF YOU HAD FUN WITH THAT AND WANT TO KEEP WORKING, FEEL FREE TO OPEN YOUR MOST-RECENT FOLDER (2015-03), CLICK “VIEW ALL” AND ADD CAPTIONS TO ALL YOUR OTHER PHOTOS. WORK BACK TO DO THEM ALL IF YOU CHOOSE.
By their original intent, captions were designed to be relatively brief, extending about the length/width of your photo (if horizontal). Think about how captions provide details next to photos in articles found in newspapers and magazines. These “cutlines” sometimes simply summarize; others they offer unique details specific to the image shown. Picasa will allow longer text and simply continues your text onto another line (or more) so feel free to write out the story as you wish without editing it to fit a certain limit. I wouldn’t worry much about a caption that takes up two lines. That said, you would not be able to print a long-copy caption on the photo very easily and it may not display well on slideshows and mobile devices, but the point is to preserve the information along with the image first and foremost. Write on!
TALKING TIME LIMITS
Captions shouldn’t take long to type up unless you are a hunt-and-pack typist. If you are, maybe it’d be more efficient to have someone faster type while you speak what you want instead. It’s up to you but if you know someone who would make a great teammate for this process, ask for their assistance. In all reality, it really doesn’t matter much if your captions have poor grammar or typos in them so don’t stress about being graded. The only thing that might give you a little grief would be a typo in a caption if you tried to search for that word because Picasa wouldn’t include in its search results the photo with the misspelled word in the caption. Remember, spelling cownts.
© Brenda Kruse and PhotoOrganizingPro.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenda Kruse and PhotoOrganizingPro.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.