With the arrival of the holiday season comes prime time for photos and videos. When far-flung family members converge, everyone wants to save the moment for posterity. I lost my mother a few months ago, and I can tell you how much it means to have photos and videos of our family together, to help keep those memories alive.
I'm no expert, but here are some personal suggestions that may be of use as we enter the holiday season.
I am a big believer in the Flip video camera (or competitors with roughly the same size and shape, like the Kodak Zi8). Having a video camera in your pocket or in a case on your belt means that you can take video at a moment's notice. That's the best thing about those super-portable cameras; you're not just catching the big moments, you're catching people as they really are.
But take a cue from professional videographers; don't hesitate to get a lot of footage and then edit it down later. Take plenty of raw footage -- the more, the better -- but don't expect your friends and family to look at all of it unedited. You can do very simple editing with the Flip's built-in software, or your computer may have pre-installed editing software like Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie for Mac. More advanced editing software can also be purchased. Learn how to edit video; there are plenty of online tutorials. You'll get the hang of it as you do it.
If you can spare the money to buy a Flip (or equivalent) right now, you'll have plenty of chances between now and New Year's to use it, and maybe some time over the holidays to try your hand at editing. Think how much it would mean to family members if you sent each of them a DVD of your holiday memories.
The same principle applies to still photos. One photo may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes one photo can be more effective than three photos.
I remember the day when you had to worry about running out of film, but today's digital cameras and high-capacity memory cards mean you can take plenty of photos, even at the highest quality settings -- which is a good thing. There used to be a saying that you could tell a great photographer from his wastebasket, meaning that he or she took lots and lots of raw photos and then spent the time combing through them to find the best images. You can do the same; don't hesitate to take more than one version of a shot, and don't hesitate to take shots that capture people in their candid moments.
But then, spend the time to sift through your shots and pick out the best ones to share. That's a lesson I need to take to heart myself, for example when I put together my mission trip photos each year to share with friends and donors. Too often, I include redundant versions of what's basically the same photo, for no reason, or I include photos that won't mean anything to the people who end up looking at them. Edit the shared version of your latest photo collection the way you would edit a video, even if you want to keep all of the originals in your personal archive. Think of the last time you were bored looking at someone else's photos, and try to make sure your virtual slide show is shorter and more effective.
The people with whom you share your photos will thank you for it.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is lakeneuron.com.