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Signs Help to Create Interesting Photos for Meaningful and Lasting Memories


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Whenever I start to plan an event I begin by thinking "the event has long past, what memories do I want participants to have?" If the event is one in which there will be photographs taken (and photos are normally taken at my events), either by a professional photographer, a serious amateur photographer, or by the attendees themselves I next think about planning a photo album and what would I like the pictures to show. I work backwards to thinking about what I need to do at the event to help create the memories (and the photographs).

If the event were a birthday celebration, I would, for example, want people to remember:

-The invitations
-The crew making decorations
-The crew preparing a meal
-The setup of the room, decorations, etc.
-Picking up the honoree
-The honoree arriving
-Each guest or group of guests greeting the honoree and wishing them a happy birthday
-The cake and/or candle ceremony
-Games and activities
-Gift presentations
-Informal photos of people
-The cleanup crew

I would, therefore, plan a photo album with a separate chapter for each of these major activities early in the event planning process (possibly weeks or months before the event). I would plan the cover and title page of the album, as well as a chapter heading page. For each chapter I would prepare a list of the photos which I would want to include in that chapter. I would assign people the job of taking the requisite photos. (I would also remind my photo team to take pictures of people enjoying themselves while posing, not acting like tin soldiers!)

For my album cover, I might want to have a terrific photo of the honoree, or a photo of all the guests and the honoree posing. I might have a background saying "Happy Birthday (honoree's name)" or having guests hold signs announcing the event (if it was a big event I might have guests hold the letters H, A, P, P, Y, space, B, I, R, T, H, D, A, Y for the cover photo; if it was a small event I might have a few guests holding a banner saying Happy Birthday, etc.)

For many chapters I'd have a photo planned with someone or some people involved with the activity holding a sign providing the chapter title. I'd then then have lots of "content" pictures for each chapter.

Since providing specific content for each chapter would make an extremely long posting, and there will be a lot of variation between celebrations, I'll refrain from doing that, but I will make a few suggestions for the greeting the honoree chapter and the gift chapter.

Instead of sending birthday cards, have each attendee (or group of attendees) make a sign on 8.5" by 11" (or European equivalent) paper delivering a message to the honoree with decorations of the guests choosing. For example, the message might be "Happy 21st to Aunt Sarah! Jamie and Julie." Take photos of the guests holding their sign, presenting the sign to the honoree, and of the honoree holding the sign. Include all of these photos (nicely arranged) with the original signs in the photo album.

If your honoree is adventuresome, repeat this activity with a second set of signs, only this time blindfold the honoree so that they do not know what their signs say, and have the guests set up some fun poses. (Just be sure all the messages on the signs are positive... e.g., Sarah, you are so helpful and brilliant, Jamie and Julie).

Gift chapters would typically include taking a photo of guests presenting the honoree with nicely wrapped gifts, the honoree holding the gifts, unwrapping the gifts, and admiring them. For more adventuresome honorees one could vary this chapter (and save lots of wrapping paper and trees) by blindfolding the honoree prior to gift presentation, and having the honoree figure out what each gift is by feeling of it (just be sure the gifts are not breakable and don't have sharp edges).

Regardless of which specifics you plan for your event, having a detailed photo plan well in advance of the event may serve as a very useful planning tool.

Be safe, creative and have fun!



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About the Author

Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro, Ronald G. Shapiro, Ph. D. / Education by Entertainment
17 Brookway Road
Providence, RI 02906
401.272.4664

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