The Orange Slate

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My Case for Visual Journaling (Or “Take More Pictures”).

November 7, 2013

Take More Pictures

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I am a huge believer in story-telling. I believe that words and stories are so important that I have two degrees based on them.

I love blogging and all of the sharing that happens on the Internet today because much of it – at its core – is storytelling. You tell me your stories; I share mine. Together we learn and grow. Our stories give the world and our identities shape and substance.

I am a huge advocate of journaling because I think that nothing tells a story so well as the emotion and words brought about by immediacy – closeness to the action. The way you experience something that makes you angry or sad or excited on the day that it happens will be much different and, in many ways, more impactful, than the way you remember the event in a year.


And we should tell our stories, to ourselves and to others. Your world, your life, your spouse, your job, your children, your projects, your mornings, your evenings – these stories are important and meaningful and good and should be told and remembered.

But let’s get real. It’s really really really difficult to make time to journal in any kind of meaningful, regular way especially on a daily basis. So how do we record life as it happens? How can we preserve the story of our every day in an immediate way?

Enter visual journaling. Some people call it memory-keeping. Others call it “obsessive photo-taking.”

Whatever you call it, visual journaling is the discipline of regularly recording your everyday world, primarily through photography. 


Yes. Taking pictures of your everyday, messy, hectic, wonderful life is a discipline, a discipline that leads to cherished memories and stories told. (As a aside, I think there is far too much apologizing and guilt over taking pictures these days. Let go of the guilt. You’re telling stories and capturing beauty and that is something to be applauded and encouraged.)

You think you take more pictures than you do. Don’t believe me? Go check your camera roll. How many pictures did you actually take in the last week? I set a goal a while ago to take 3 Instagram pictures every day. I was so surprised because this is actually much harder than I thought it would be. So many days go by and I only have 1 Instagram or 2 or none.

Instagram is one of my favorite things in the world. I’ve ranted about Instagram before. My Instagram has probably been blocked because it annoys people (“Doesn’t she have a job?? Why is she on Instagram so often??”). But I love Instagram because it makes visual journaling so easy. Take a picture. Add a note. Repeat. Later, you have a whole packet of little memories and a whole record of your day or month or summer! Also, I have immediate accountability because I can easily check and see if I met my daily or weekly journaling goal.

My Instagram goal has helped me become more consistent about recording life as it happens (even if I don’t always meet my photography goals). I am so grateful, because I now have so many everyday wonderful special moment recorded, moments that would have disappeared into oblivion if I hadn’t taken a quick picture.


Of course, visual journaling doesn’t have to involve Instagram or photo-sharing. You can set photography goals and achieve them with your regular camera just as easily.

The point is that your photos tell the story of your life, but they can’t if they don’t exist. So take more pictures. To encourage yourself to take more pictures, set a goal. Start with something tiny and totally achievable, like one picture every day. It doesn’t have to be a picture of a person. It can be a photo of a room or a meal or a vehicle or a place. Or pick a theme (“Every day I will take a picture of my neighborhood” or “Every day at 10:15 I will take a picture”). For instance, Mark and I made a plan to take a picture of ourselves of the 15th of every month for our first year. (Has it happened with perfect regularity? That’s another blog post . . . ).

Here are some ideas to inspire you:

  • Take a picture of something you’re thankful for every day until Thanksgiving.
  • Take a picture of something that inspires you every day for a week.
  • Take a picture of people that are important to you (a child, spouse, friend) doing an activity they love.
  • Take a picture of every important place in your daily life (your kitchen, living room, the kids’ school, your office, your grocery store).
  • Set a goal of filling a mini album like this one with your Instagram prints.

Try it! Need some extra motivation? Go public with your photography goal! Share with a friend, on your blog, or in the comments.

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  1. Couldn’t agree more! Alas, we haven’t been very good at taking pictures regularly in the last two years. I should definitely work on that…

    So, what happened to the shared Sunday picture project? I’d be game, if nobody else gets around to it.

    1. For shame! And your husband is a *photographer*! Pull that camera out right now, young lady. Oh, I’m totally down for a photo project still. I’m still doing a bit of brainstorming . .. I’m sending you an email about my silly ideas this weekend.

    1. Yay for cameras on hand! I was looking at some of our old pictures today and I was laughing because we had the camera out at such *random* moments when we were working around the house in Michigan. So glad you are enjoying the pictures of Italy!

  2. In days of yore when I was a scrapbooker, I struggled with feeling like I had to document everything, like if I omitted anything it would be a tragedy. It was crippling! So I took a drastic and minimalist (and lazy!) approach and pretty much stopped documenting anything. That was no good either. Your perspective is right on. Great suggestions of challenges to get started, like taking a picture of places that are important to you. I might have to try it.

    1. LOL . . . it is totally crippling. I’m realizing how much crud is in my boxes, preventing from actually memorializing ANYTHING. Have you heard of Project Life? I’m getting veeeerrrrryyyy tempted to try it.

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