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Choosing Photos for Your Adoption Profile
Every Picture Tells A Story... Don't It? Besides being the refrain from a popular song it is the rule you should follow when choosing photos for your Adoptive Family Profile. Your profile will be the single most important tool you have when networking for birth parents, and you shouldn't waste a single inch on photos that don't share something significant about your family.
When a potential birth parent (PBM) looks at a profile the photos will be the first thing that captures her eye. Before she reads a word she will scan the photos, and she will already have an impression of your family before she reads the opening sentence. A birth parent will most likely sit down with a stack of profiles, pick up the first and flip through without reading. A photo may catch her eye, and she stops. She will read the text around the photo and then, if you capture her interest, she will read the profile front to back. A thought to remember is that while you will be counseled to keep the text of a profile simple as a PBM may not have had the opportunity for education, photos will speak volumes about your family without requiring her reading a single word.
A birth mother's thought process when culling through a stack of profiles is very much like what you may do when you visit a bookstore just to browse. You walk, full of anticipation, to the new releases table. You walk around the table slowly, just looking at the covers. A book with an evocative cover catches your eye, and you stop. You pick it up, and read the words on the cover. The photo or cover design sets the tone, and before you begin reading you know what to expect. You may flip to the notes on the author, you may read the inside cover, or if you are like me you flip the book open to the center and read a few lines. You get an instant impression about the writing style, tone, and feel of the book. Based on this you may choose to buy the book, or you put it in the mental "hold" pile and keep browsing.
As adoptive parents when we create our profiles the first thing we do is struggle with the text. We read tons of other profiles, we read books on writing profiles, and we labor over the text. We write, we rewrite, we throw it all away and we start writing again. At long last we get a draft we are happy with, and then we turn our thoughts to the photos. Text will get perhaps 10-20 hours of your attention, while the process for choosing photos is often thumbing through a stack of photos, pulling out the ones where we don't look fat or cross-eyed and heading out to Kinko's to copy them on a single page and we call it a day.
Photos count. They count so much, in fact, that they ought to get our immediate attention. My advice is that from the very second you begin to consider adoption start getting "candid" photos of yourselves. Head out to every social event with a camera in your purse and ask people to take a few shots of you both. You will, naturally, hate the way you look in at least half of them, your spouse will hate a few others, and you will eventually have a group of ten or fifteen to use in your profile.
When I think about photo selection I break the process down into WHAT, WHEN, and WHY. First, What are the photos of? When was it taken, and Why should we include it?
WHAT: Most if us don't go around snapping photos of ourselves. We have photos of our kids (if we are already parents), we have photos of our pets, our wedding, vacations and of our spouse doing interesting things. As an interesting side note; family photos are always lopsided. When I review photo packets from prospective parents I can always tell who "owns" the camera, one spouse is always over-represented! It somehow feels narcissistic to take photos of ourselves unless we are on vacation and standing in front of a landmark. You will need ten fun photos of you as a couple, and if they are all vacation photos a PBM will think you do noting but travel. The WHAT list wouldn't be complete without a list of must haves: photos of your home, a nursery if you have one decorated, you participating in your favorite hobbies, at least six good shots of you and your partner; and you having fun with important people in your life. An important note, make the last set of photos of you doing something, not lined up in a row smiling. Be baking, be skiing, be working on your car, be having fun. Show your style and interests through these photos!
WHEN: I've reviewed many profiles where the photos are old, grainy and have a brown tint to them- a dead give away they are more than five years old. Do not include photos that are of poor quality. Just don't; no matter how good the memory is that that the photo represents. Old photos make us look old...to a young birthmother she may well be reminded of photos she has seen in her parents albums. Not a great impression! Your photos ought to represent the current you, not you ten years ago and certainly not you as a teenager.
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