When Gordon Callender heads out to see his daughter, Isabella, play soccer or to watch his son, Jordan, compete in basketball or soccer, he doesn't leave the house without his iPhone and his Sony digital camera.
The Egg Harbor Township man takes so many pictures of his children and their teammates he has become an unofficial team photographer of 13-year-old Isabella's Atlantic United Soccer team and 8-year-old Jordan's Egg Harbor Township travel soccer team.
"It actually gives us an opportunity to capture their lives and to be able to look back and remember what was going on at the time," Callender, 41, said of his picture-taking habit.
The convenience of smartphones and digital cameras and the ability to send images with ease means today's parents have multiple times more pictures and videos of their own children than their parents ever had of them. They have so much material they could probably create a full-length documentary of every year of their children's lives.
But this photographic and video record has a way of piling up quickly. In the best case, shooting hundreds of photographs without organizing them in some way makes future use of old images more of a hassle than it needs to be. In the worst case, it virtually guarantees precious memories will be lost in an avalanche of mundane and unremarkable images.
Eric Weeks, the owner of EZ Memories Photography in Somers Point, said taking pictures on a cellphone is great. It is very spontaneous and easy to do, but amateur photographers need to get their pictures out of their cellphones and into a computer to be saved. They also need to be backed up because computers will crash.
"Every once in a while you need to go through them and pick out a half a dozen or a dozen and make a couple of prints with services like Snapfish or iPhoto or whatever the electronic photo organizations are. You can get very, very inexpensive pictures made and put them in a book. If you don't make the print, they will never get looked at," said Weeks, who cites national surveys about photo usage to back up his point.
With all the amateur shooting taking place, Weeks still advocates families visit a professional photo studio and have their picture taken every two to four years. A professional photographer can use poses, lighting and enhancements to the picture once it is out of the camera to create a professional image.
Callender takes pains to organize his photos on a regular basis. He knows parents will be looking for their children's pictures on Facebook, so he is diligent about putting the images from his digital camera into his computer on the same day as the event. Callender may take as many as 100 photos at a sporting event. Twenty percent to 30 percent of his photos make it onto Facebook and the rest stay in his computer. Callender uses two software programs to organize his photos, Apple iPhoto and Apple Aperture. He categorizes his photos by event and location. He has a physical backup for his photos with an extra hard drive and uses the file-hosting service, Dropbox, to store his photos.
Callender used his picture taking of the family's annual Christmas tree decorating to start a new tradition in his home.
The life of Suzanne Chew, 33, of Ocean City, changed when she received her first camera phone three years ago.
Chew's picture taking rose sharply at that point. Her oldest child, Kaia, 4 1/2, was 18 months at the time. Chew's youngest child, Cove, 18 months, was not born yet. Chew had a Droid phone three years ago and has had an iPhone for the past 18 months.
"It's readily available to you. I don't even have a camera anymore. I just use my phone for everything and no video camera anymore," Chew said.
Chew's father took lots of video and pictures of her growing up. He rented video cameras when they first came out. That's why she likes to use the newer technology to chronicle her children's lives.
"I have so many videos of myself as a child on so many vacations, and I watch them. My brother took the VHS tapes and made them into DVDs, so now, I get to show it to my daughters, and they love it. They get to see me when I was 5. It's really, really cool. That's why I want to capture everything, so they will always have these memories," said Chew, whose father died when she was 20.
For Chew, the most important thing is recording her children having initial experiences.
"There is nothing more joyous than to see your kids do something for the first time or to have so much excitement ... just capturing that innocence of either the first time of doing something or of the first time they sense Santa is coming or the Easter Bunny is coming, or their first dance recital. It's all new, and I love that look. I love what they do," Chew said.
Historian Vicki Gold Levi said her sister's son just had a baby seven weeks ago. Gold Levi's sister sends her a video or a picture every day or every other day, taken by Gold Levi's nephew's wife.
"She puts the cutest captions on them, and the pictures are adorable, and I appreciate them because I'm getting to see him grow," said Gold Levi, who added her nephew's wife sent her a YouTube clip of the baby trying to turn over. "The pictures are so adorable because otherwise I would see the baby twice a year maybe, and I love them."
Gold Levi's father, Al Gold, was Atlantic City's first official photographer, which she said gives her a totally different perspective on what's valuable as far as photos.
"To me and my siblings, our unofficial stuff (photographs) is gold, a treasure. It's everything to us," Gold Levi said. "A distant cousin of mine, my sister visited her, and she gave her a picture of her side of the family that my father and mother were in. I sent it to my brother who lives in Thailand, and he said it brought tears to his eyes."
Mary-Ann Hill, of Galloway Township, has two older children, Stephen Jr., 32, and Adam, 27, but it was the birth of her last child, Adrianna, 17, that accelerated her picture and video taking. Adrianna Hill started dancing at age 2. Hill's daughter is a junior at the Charter-Tech High School for the Performing Arts in Somers Point. She participates in a show almost once per week, whether it's for the drama, theater, dance or vocal departments, or a showcase, or coffeehouse performance, Hill said.
The picture and video taking and organizing has become a hobby for Hill. In her garage, she has three cabinets for her children's photo albums.
"There is never an event that goes on (without photos), every holiday, every milestone, every birthday. We're taken just random pictures and silliness," Hill said. "My daughter ... I really believe in my heart will go on to treasure this for the rest of her life because she has a great interest in it."
Hill said it's a little crazy, and sometimes, she is ashamed to admit she and her daughter take so many pictures.
"The things that make us (she and her husband, Stephen) the most happy are her performances. ... It's very amazing to see how she changed and matured, and that's what we like to look back at," said Hill, 52.
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Organizing your photos
When dealing with digital photography and video, the two main concerns are backing up your images in case of a computer crash and organizing them into some usable form. Some of these websites allow a person to do both:
•A software application that allows for organizing, editing and viewing of photos full-screen, emailing and sharing them on Facebook and creating photobooks. You can organize and sort tens of thousands of photos on a Mac by who, where and when. iPhoto turns photos into slide shows.
•Offers more advanced ways to organize, browse and perfect images than iPhoto. Aperture includes dozens of effects to transform your photos, including processing techniques that style, correct color and enhance images. Effects such as blurring, skin smoothing and polarization can be applied. You can zoom and pan multiple images at once.
•A free service that lets you bring your photos and videos anywhere and share them easily. You will not have to email yourself a file again. You start with 2GB of cloud storage for free. Dropbox works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. You can create photo galleries viewable by anyone you choose. Files are always available from the secure Dropbox website.
Provides 5GB of free storage for your content. With iCloud, you can send copies of photos to any iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The photos can be viewed on a big-screen TV through Apple TV. It is built into every new Mac and can be set up on a PC.
•A website that allows you to create photobooks and share photos with family and friends without being on Facebook. You can put unlimited images on the site at no cost. The service keeps uploaded photos at their full resolution. After uploading a full-size photo, the only way to get a full-resolution photo is to order a photo CD.
•A website that allows you to upload photos and videos, view and share photos, order prints, edit, enhance, organize and create photo gifts. Members can upload files for free and are given unlimited photo storage.