Everyone loves a good montage, but it is a lot of work–even if you are hiring someone to do it for you. The most exhausting part is looking through the thousands (millions?) of photos and videos you’ve taken of your child since birth. Give yourself a nice chunk of time to just start looking through your photos. Summer vacation, a long weekend, or an uninterrupted chunk of time works really well. How should you go about this?
1. Do a “first pass” through your photos
Your first step is just to select all the best photos and videos. I recommend making a new folder and calling it something like “[Guest of Honor’s Name] Montage.” Your goal here is to copy all of your favorites over to one place. Don’t limit yourself yet. Pick as many photos/videos of your child throughout the years as you’d like. Make sure you’re including photos with guests who will likely be in attendance, ask your child for photos of them with their friends and just generally sort the good from the bad. Do this fast and don’t overthink. You should have hundreds of photos here–at least 300 if not way more. This sounds like a lot, but I promise, it will not be hard to to get there!
Pro tip: if you have a younger child, you can create their folder at the same time (just worry about step 1, not the following ones). Your future self will thank you!
2. Narrow down your photos
Once you have narrowed down your photos from every single photo ever taken of your child to some of the best, you’ll need to take a more careful look at the photos to further narrow down the number. When thinking through removing photos from your folders, first, be critical of the photo itself. Is it in focus? A photo that is a little blurry or pixelated on your computer screen will look terrible when it is even bigger on a 70″ tv. Does everyone in the photo look good, not just your child? For a posed photo, people should not be blinking and they should be looking at the camera. For a candid photo, are the people doing something interesting, fun or funny? Remember, that guests want to see themselves in the montage, so make sure there are lots of photos of your child with those people and try to minimize the number of photos of him/her solo. Are there photos that feel duplicative? Pick your favorite and get rid of the extra. Your goal here is to remove all of the not ideal photos from the folder. Aim for 200 photos or less.
3. Get approval from your partner and/or child
Another way to narrow down the photos is to get a different set of eyes on the photos. Your partner and/or child will probably have an opinion or two about the photos included. Make sure that there aren’t any photos that will embarrass your child on their big day.
4. Take a montage break!
If you’re not down to the wire, give yourself a few days or weeks to come back to the photos with fresh eyes. Relax.
5. Organize and narrow down more
Now that you’ve gone through the photos at least twice and gotten them down to a more manageable number, you’ll start to see some consistency in photos that will help tell the story of your child. This will give you a sense of the order of the photos for the montage itself. There are a lot of ways to organize–chronologically, by event/type (vacations, school, Halloween, camp, swim team, etc.) by people in the photos (guest of honor solo, early years, family, friends, etc.). I recommend creating subfolders with clear names (early years, family, etc.) to help with this organization process. When you do this, there will naturally be photos that don’t fit the story or that you now feel differently about on your third pass through. Remove those from your folder! Your goal here is about 200 photos and even less than that if you have video clips.
You’ll likely have about 20 pictures per minute of the montage, so 200 photos = 10-minute montage. If you have more than 200 photos or lots of video clips, be ruthless! Your guests will get bored if the montage is too long and you have the power to control this!