Digital cameras record baby’s every move

Digital cameras record baby’s every move

By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet Writer
Sept 16, 2007

For her 30th birthday, while she was still pregnant, Lindsay Nie
received from Mom an album filled with her baby and childhood photos.

She enjoyed the trip down memory lane — recalling, for instance, the
wooden slide she had in her room and the way she used to play on it.
But she also noticed many gaps in the collection, in some cases months
or even a year in length.

So after Nie gave birth to Amber last December, she was determined
to leave a better record, a daily diary through imagery. She slips her
Canon PowerShot SD450 digital camera into a diaper bag anywhere she
goes and has snapped more than 6,500 photos in nine months.

"I grab it all the time, if she’s just doing something really cute,
maybe playing with a toy or grabbing a shoe in a shoe store," Nie said.
"I don’t really delete any. Years from now, I want to remember the bad
face she made" — not just the smiles.

Thanks to cheap and easy-to-use recording devices — digital cameras,
camcorders, camera phones — today’s kids are forming the most
documented generation ever, as parents, relatives and friends capture
forever the first, second and hundredth smile.

The challenge will come in managing all the data and making sure they get migrated and cared for along the way.

"There’s going to be little escaping the embarrassment that comes
with having that many baby photos and videos," said Steve Jones, a
communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "On
the other hand, what a great thing for this generation to have."

The research company InfoTrends estimates that 67 percent of U.S.
households had digital cameras last year, up from 42 percent in 2004.

Today’s children will get a glimpse tomorrow of what everyday life
was like — how their parents dressed, what furniture and paintings were
in their homes — not just during birthdays and special occasions when
past generations were more apt to pull out their film cameras and pose
in their best outfits.

"With digital you can just keep on taking to get the one you want,"
said Amy Short, a nurse in East Alton, Ill. "I definitely take a lot
more of my son of just everyday, laying around or sleeping or just
little things."

Virginia Merritt of Newnan, Ga., laments that she has few records
from her life past 8 months, including when she started walking.

"I just have what my mom remembers," she said.

So for Evan, who turns 1 on Sept. 25, Merritt made sure to keep a
list of firsts on the Web site TotSites, including first use of a sippy
cup (Aug. 8), first fever (April 8) and first passing of a toy from one
hand to the other (Feb. 12) — categories generally not found in
traditional, printed baby books.

She also posted sonograms from her pregnancy at Baby Crowd, a Web site for expecting parents.

But all this documentation may carry a price if parents, in spending
so much energy creating and preserving a digital archive, fail to enjoy
living the moment.

And will future generations even have time to look through stacks of
CDs containing tens or hundreds of thousands of photos, and even if
they do will individual memories become less precious because there are
so many?

What if disk drives fail or software formats change, rendering
photos unreadable by tomorrow’s computers? Will CDs even work? Think of
those reels of 8 mm home movies with no projectors for viewing them.

"If you look at your parents’ or grandparents’ belongings, you can
find old negatives, … and negatives are still reproducible," said
Greg Miele, a Bethesda, Md., father of two, ages 9 and 17. "Yet if you
have a hard drive fail on your computer, it’s all over. It’s a huge
risk to maintain your photographs in a digital medium."

After two years of shooting digital, Heidi Grunwald has started
returning to film, overwhelmed by the prospect of cataloging all the
photos too easily snapped.

"It’s taking a lot of enjoyment out of photography," said the
mother of a 9-year-old. "I find myself not even using the camera,
thinking that if I take photographs of this school event, I’m now going
to have to spend a whole week processing them. Why do you need all
those pictures? Who’s going to look at them all at the end of the day?"

Many parents acknowledge their kids may never want all the
photos, but they say they’d like to have them available just in case
they want them — particularly as they become parents themselves.

"Now that I have children of my own, I would love to see baby
pictures of me to see if my daughter looks like I did, what
characteristics I share," said Thea Jankowski of Saint Charles, Ill.

Until that day comes, many of the photos are being distributed
to family and friends via e-mail and photo-sharing Web sites — in some
cases exposing their child’s most private moments to the entire world.

Some parents buy additional disk drives to archive photos, burn
them on CDs or keep copies online — not always mindful that photo sites
often make it difficult to retrieve the original, high-resolution
versions necessary for quality prints.

Brian Gilbreth of Louisa, Va., simply buys new memory cards for
his camera. He has four already, each holding 2,000 shots of newborn
Ava, including "every outfit she’s in, every facial expression, every
hairdo she comes out with."

Nie, who lives in New York, has been taking monthly shots of
her child in the same armchair, each with a birthday cake. It’s today’s
equivalent of the formal portraits past generations took at J.C. Penney
or Sears.

Alexa Schmid, mother of twins in Plymouth, N.H., snaps shots of her daughters "recognizing each other, playing with each other."

She stores the images on the computer with separate subfolders
for each month, and she renames some files — as in "Isabella Playing"
with the date — in hopes of remembering the context years from now.

Jennifer Lucas, of Frankfort, Ill., makes prints of the best
photos and keeps them in a traditional album. She keeps the rest by
month on CDs.

"Looking back at what my parents have of me, there might be 20
to 30 pictures from my entire first year," Lucas said. With Jack, born
four months ago, "we already have hundreds documenting everything he’s
already done. Chances are those discs are never going to be looked at
again when he gets older, but they will be there in case."

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