Do Photos Evoke Emotion?

  • A preteen sees photos from when she was younger and understands how much she has always been loved.
  • A senior with Alzheimer’s looks at old photos daily to feel anchored in a world that is so confusing.
  • A couple flips through wedding photos on each anniversary to recall the emotions of beginning their life together.
  • A person who was adopted sees birth family photos for the first time and searches for physical resemblances.
  • A high school graduate pulls together photos from sports and activities throughout his school years and sees how far he’s come.

These are just a few examples of the powerful emotions photos can bring to every kind of person.  The longer I help people with their pictures, the more stories I hear about what photos mean to them.  Clients often get teary just talking about the photos they are about to hand over to me.

Snapshots of the past give you a foundation for the present.  Whether you are looking at old pictures of the city you live in or pictures from your college dorm room, you look up from the picture and see how far things have come.  It gives today’s life more meaning when you see what had to change to make today happen.

Even if you don’t know the story behind the photo, you can treasure a glimpse of someone’s life as seen by the camera that day.  When a loved one is gone, a photo of them is as meaningful as a recording of their voice or a sample of their handwriting.  It is a piece of someone who mattered.

A few months ago, I learned about savefamilyphotos (  This site, and the Instagram account that is its main feed, claims to be “On a mission to save family stories, one photo at a time.”  Sometimes the photos themselves make you smile, or pause to guess the story.  What people tell you about the photos they submit makes you go back and give the photos a deeper look.  The stories aren’t always happy, but you definitely feel something looking at strangers’ photos.

Think about how you can share your photos with others who will appreciate them.  Whether you hand over print copies or e-mail digital files, pictures in your possession could make somebody’s day.  Don’t keep these memories in a box for someone to discover some day.  You never know what emotions you can evoke in someone’s life right now.


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