Surprise… old pictures have a lot more to offer than a giggle at the fashion trends of yesteryear!

There’s a simple pleasure in browsing through old photographs to get a glimpse into the past, to reminisce, relive cherished memories, and to see how far we’ve come. It’s a form of time travel available to anyone who has taken the time and effort to save their old pictures. But there are hidden benefits, 7 of them to be exact, of hanging on to old photographs from childhood or past vacations that you may not be aware of.

The first obvious benefit of revisiting old photographs is the rekindling of dormant memories. Open the album to a long-ago vacation, and you’re flooded with memories and emotions. There’s nothing sweeter than sharing those memories with someone else, whether it’s the person you traveled with, or perhaps your grandkids. From browsing historical photos and images of areas you’ve been interested in, to long-ago vintage pictures of the family, photographs hold a few secrets that might not be so obvious at first glance.

The 7 Hidden Benefits

1. Looking at old photos makes you happier.

old photographs

Most of us are influenced by something called “negativity bias” which is a preference for remembering bad times. This is a primal survival instinct – we tend to avoid things that didn’t feel good – but constantly dwelling on what went wrong, can ruin anyone’s day. But photos shift you toward a more positive look at the past. Keeping the good times vivid in your imagination makes you happier and more appreciative.

2. Looking at vintage photos you took makes you a better photographer.

If you’re a photographer, your skills and your “eye” have developed over the years. You’ll notice mistakes in composition, exposure, and most of all, editing. Photos help you see your potential as a photographer. Whether or not you consider yourself a photographer – whether you use an expensive DSLR or shoot from the hip with your iPhone – you are creating a living record of your personal history. Looking back, you may rekindle interest in a form of photography you used to enjoy; or see something that catches your eye in an old shot that never made it to any album.

3. Photos help you be okay with what you have.

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When we see something beautiful, we want to make it our own. Photos help you “own” things that please your eye, without spending a ton of money to purchase them. Sites such as Pinterest are living proof that people love to collect and share photos of things that they like. Being okay with what you have means not being so influenced by wanting and longing. You appreciate what you have, simply because you are satisfied with “owning” images of things you may otherwise never get the chance to own in person.

4. Photos help you gain a new perspective.

Nothing is as eye- and mind-opening as travel; and even if your photos were just snapshots of backyard BBQs and the kids’ football games, it’s still a chance to see how different things were back then, and often, how differently you saw the world.

5. Photos help you declutter your home.

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Seriously! Instead of saving bins and boxes filled with the kids’ old artwork or schoolwork, take a photo and create a memory book. Plum Print and Shutterfly are two sites where you can create photo books. Photo books are usually neater, longer-lasting, and more professional-looking than scrapbooks. You can put several images on a page to save space – and then, once the items are archived, keep only the truly exceptional pieces and (gasp) toss the rest – which is okay, since they now live in a book (and the kids will most likely prefer to have photos rather than the real thing).

6. Old photos inspire creativity.

A growing trend is to shoot one image every day. This makes you get creative, especially if you feel you “never” do anything new or different. You may be stuck in a routine, but having to shoot a new image every day keeps you engaged with life. The daily hunt for something interesting inspires creativity, whether you’re feeling creative or not!

7. Remember how easy it is to forget.

Holding on to memories isn’t always easy. Someone may say, “hey, remember that time we…” and you have NO idea what they’re talking about. It’s as if the memory was erased! Even precious memories can get lost in the clutter of a lifetime of events. Of course, the memory is there, in the archives of your mind, but it’s a lot easier to remember when you have pictures to spark those memories.

Take Photos… and Keep Them!

old photographs

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone, it’s this: take pictures of everyday life, not just the momentous occasions. It’s the everyday things that really mean the most. When you dig up vintage photos of your family, sure, there are the awkwardly posed portraits, but everyday snapshots remind you of just how awful that paneling in your living room was… how goofy you looked with that 80’s ‘fro… and what items you had in your house that made it a home.

And if you have a box (or boxes) of old photos, keep them. Even if you don’t plan on looking at them ever again, chances are you’ll want to, at some point; and if you really don’t, someone else will appreciate a glimpse into the past from a completely unique vantage point: yours.

Today, everything can be digitized to save space (and to preserve old crumbling photos and fading slides). I highly recommend you do this, at least for the photos that mean the most. You just never know when you’ll feel like some good old fashioned time travel!

Happy shooting!

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