an old photo album open to show a selection of black and white photos

The visual family treasures that colour your memoir

June 27, 2022 / Memoirs

Photos, handwritten letters, newspaper clippings, birth, marriage and death certificates, drawings, maps, recipes and other family treasures help bring your memoir alive, adding clarity and warmth to your written legacy.

Your thousands of words are worth a few pictures

The old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s the case, then your thousands of words are worth a few pictures too! When choosing photos for your memoir, think about the content of your photos. Do they capture the spark of the person or group you’ve described?

Sharing a photo of you or your loved ones caught mid-joke, crossing the finishing line of a race, gardening, or climbing Mt Taranaki is maybe more engaging than a set of staged, studio-taken photos, although these too can tell a story. Candid photos personalise the story you’ve written. They help your tamariki and mokopuna link faces and places to names and events, creating a visual element that words alone can’t provide.

It’s also good to balance your candid photos with more formal ones of special occasions like your first day of school, graduation, or wedding day.

Personalise and validate your words

Official documents like birth, marriage and death certificates can solidify timelines you’ve established. Family trees can clear up confusion about the connections in your family. Handwritten letters and notes humanise and soften people, events, struggles and achievements. Art can showcase others’ talents or yours.

Choose items you emotionally connect with the most

What we connect with the most are what others will relate to the most too. Old family recipes may bring back nostalgic memories of your grandparents and are a tangible link to your culture and past. An old birthday card from someone who’s long gone may stir up bittersweet feelings. Choose what makes your heart feel the most.

Take photos of larger treasures like trophies, or cars and caravans that have been on many memorable road trips.
Discuss with your family and friends what items they have a strong connection to – their answers can shape your decisions on what to include and what to leave out.

Bringing the visual pieces together in a cohesive and sympathetic way

As book designers, Two Sparrows can make the quality of your documents and photos crisper and more legible and arrange them in a way that is attractive and elegant. Sometimes we might leave the grittiness of the items as they are, to add to the feel of your memoir. We will be sympathetic to your visual treasures, and talk through ideas with you, on how best to incorporate them.


For more tips on getting started on writing your story, download our free resource: ‘How to tell your life story and leave a lasting treasure’. If you are ready to get your story published as a book, have a look at our Memoir Package, or contact us to talk about how we can assist.

Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash