“It’s really important that you get family photos taken! Time passes so quickly!” Phrases like this are thrown around a lot and it’s easy to dismiss as another photographer peddling their trade. However, I wanted to show you why photos have a far deeper value in my eyes and the potential power of photography on our kids’ self-esteem in a world that tends to pummel our self-esteem daily,

My son is only three, but loves photos (unsurprisingly?!) and spends hours flicking through albums of his younger life. This ‘unconscious memory’ filling is an important part of my love of photos as it is shaping his early life in his mind. Despite him having no memory of being a newborn, he will proudly tell you stories about being born and meeting his Mummy and Daddy etc.

child looking at family photo album improves self esteem

But it’s so much more than him telling cute stories! Have a read of these three great reasons to get your kids in PRINTED photos, as backed by scientific research:

1. The sense of belonging and reassurance

Professor Geoff Beattie, Head of School and Dean of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester says:

“We cannot underestimate the power of photographs to keep us feeling linked to others and belonging. They cement us into our networks. For children in particular, 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 very public statement that we are proud of them.”

Children learn very early on about family units and a sense of belonging. This has long been critical for survival, but is now part of social survival. As we all know, children learn visually from their environment long before they are verbally able to understand the genealogy of the relationships they see in photographs.

family having fun on holiday

Not to mention seeing photos of themselves delivers the subconscious message to children that we are proud of them. While I’m sure that we all feel pride in our children and deliver that message about their achievements, the basic, unspoken message that we’re proud of their existence is a powerful one to hammer home day in and day out.

2. The positive effect on our kids’ self-esteem

In 1975 there was a study (The Murfreesboro Study) done with a group of 10-year olds. The study picked out children with below average self-esteem scores. Over a five-week period the control group did no different activities. The second low self-esteem group of children was provided with Polaroid cameras and assigned tasks (various poses, compositions and emotions that they had to photograph themselves in). They then had to create scrapbooks with the prints once a week. When repeating the tests at the end of the five-week period, there was a 37% increase in their self-esteem scores. 37%! Just from seeing themselves in photos for five weeks! Imagine the power of your child seeing themselves in photos every single day in your home?

child looking at family photos

Not to mention seeing photos of themselves delivers the subconscious message to children that we are proud of them. While I’m sure that we all feel pride in our children and deliver that message about their achievements, the basic, unspoken message that we’re proud of their simple existence is a powerful one to deliver day in and day out. 

David Krauss, licensed psychologist and author of “Photo Therapy and Mental Health” 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 like a safe holding space for kids where they are safe and protected. Kids get it on a really simple level.”

3. The benefits of phototherapy

Phototherapy is therapy using people’s personal photographs (and the feelings, thoughts, memories, and beliefs these photos evoke) as catalysts to deepen insight and enhance communication during their therapy or counselling sessions, in ways not possible using words alone.

Printing your photos and having them in the home isn’t phototherapy, obviously. But isn’t it possible that some of the benefits might exist for children? Especially in the timeframes before they are able to express themselves fully with words?

“Touching the photograph where a face is smiling, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it. There’s a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience. That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image.” says Craig Steinberg, a licensed psychologist who works with children ages five through 13 using phototherapy.

displaying family photos

Get printing!

So, if I can offer one bit of really inexpensive advice, get printing your family photos. Hang those snaps loud and proud. And if you don’t have any family photos, get in touch with me and let me rectify that for you.

I can’t guarantee that printing photos will improve your kids’ lives but when the science is pointing towards the power of photography on our kids’ self-esteem and it’s such an easy (and gorgeous) thing to hang on your walls and your fridge, isn’t it worth a punt?