Can Family Photos Really Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem?


Did you know that you can actually boost your child’s self-esteem by having family photos, with them in it, hung up throughout your home?

There was a study done in 1975 by Jerry Fryrear of Tulane University and Mary Ammerman with Murfreesboro City Schools, with a group of fourth graders at a school in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They performed a 5 week study on the children by having them take Polaroids of themselves with various instructed poses, emotions and compositions. The children were then able to create scrapbooks of their photos every week for those 5 weeks. And guess what?! Those particular students’ saw a 37% growth increase by their test scores and behavior/self-esteem as observed by their teachers. This is compared to the 10% increase from the controlled group that did not use the power of photos.

So, how does this relate to family photos? Let’s ask the experts.

David Krauss, a licensed psychologist from Cleveland, Ohio, explains it well. “I think it is really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit. A photographer’s job is to create and make the image look like a safe holding space for kids where they are safe and protected. Kids get it on a really simple level.”

Krauss is one of the founding psychologists who used family photos and albums as a tool to help his patients and boost their self-esteem. He wrote the book “Photo Therapy and Mental Health” in 1983 that backs up his claims and is considered one of the founding texts for use of photography in therapy.

Another licensed psychologist, Judy Weiser, explains it very simply.

“Family photography lets children learn who they are and where they fit. They learn their genealogy and the the uniqueness of their own family and its story. When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photograph they say to themselves: ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that’s why I belong here. This is where I come from.’”

So, then the real questions is. Are digital prints just as effective as a printed photo on the wall?

Modern Family Photographer Apollo Beach

We live in a digital age, and they are nice for those fun candid moments, but when it comes to supporting our children and showing them they matter I think Krauss says it nicely.

“My bias is very simple. I think they (family photographs) should be on the wall,” says Krauss. “I am very conservative about self-esteem and I think placing a family photo someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child’s sense of reassurance and comfort. They have a certainty about them and a protecting quality that nurtures a child. It let’s them know where they are in the pecking order and that they are loved and cared for,”

Here are what other experts say about the importance of a printed photo.

“My personal and clinical bias is there is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print,” says Craig Steinberg, a licensed psychologist who works with children ages five through 13 near Eugene, Ore. “Touching the photograph where a face is smiling or the shoulders, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it. There’s a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience. That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image.

Additionally, Krauss recommends having photographs of that child with their family placed in the child’s bedroom so it can be among the last things they see before sleep and the first thing they may see before beginning their day.

“It says we love you and care about you. You’re important.”

So, what can parent’s do to help boost their child’s self-esteem?

First, you can involve your children with the family photos. Go through them with your child, let them help you create a family album from your latest trip to the beach or birthday party. Don’t just keep your photos on your phone just so you can scroll through them every few months.

If you are going to have family photos taken by a professional, include your kids in the prepping process by allowing them to help you choose what they are going to wear. Of course you have the final say, but give them a voice and they will be more at ease during the session because they had a say.

What type of session would be good for your family?

There are a number of sessions, and you and your photographer should go through the best one for your family. Here are a few below.


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