Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Let's Avoid "Headshots" in the FamilySearch Memories

The Memories program is a fantastic way to share photos, documents, stories and audio files, but there are some practices that have begun to appear that destroy the very artifacts the users are trying to preserve. One of these practices is that of making a "headshot" out of a photo. Older photographic practices rarely focused on just the head of the person in the photograph. But today, with commonly available photo-editing programs such as Photoshop and many others, people can manipulate the old photos to "improve" them for whatever reason.

The selection of photos above illustrates the problem of making a headshot out of a larger photo. In this example, the original photo and the headshot photo are both available. But this is not always the case. Here are the two photos. The first one is the headshot.

Here is the original photo that was cropped to make the headshot.

It almost goes without saying that the photo showing George and Ann Jarvis in the second photo has considerably more information and historical context than the cropped headshot. I suppose that there could be an argument made that the cropped image is somehow useful, but from an historical context, the loss of all the information in the original photo including the relationship between the husband and wife shown is lamentable and unnecessary.

Here is another example from the Memories section of Amelia Jarvis. This is the original photo.

And this is the cropped headshot.

If you look closely at the second, cropped photo, you will see that the cropping was done by cutting the original photo and putting it in a circular frame. This is a common "scrapbooking" practice and essentially destroys the original photo. I found many of these cut headshots in older "Books of Remembrance" pasted onto pedigree charts. One of the important things about the large photo, the dress worn by Amelia, is lost in the headshot. Examining the style of the dress is one important way to date the photo. By cutting out the dress, the photo becomes less valuable and harder to date. The second, headshot, photo is also of considerably lower quality than the original.

If all that you have is a headshot, by all means, include it in the person's memories section. But if you have a complete, uncropped photo do not crop it to show just the person's head. If you must do this, be sure to always include the more complete photo.


  1. What are you feelings about unrelated pictures being posted to fill the preferred portrait circle? I woke up to find a picture of a pot of flowers gracing the preferred portrait circle of George Calvert – 1771 LDL6-Z3F. I did not know Uncle George personally, but when I reflect on him and his life, a picture of a pot of flowers does not come to mind. As I have oft said, it is human nature to want to fill blank spaces.

    1. You can click on the photo of the flowers and choose another photo or nothing if you like. I don't really care what others do. I would like a way to delete duplicates or whatever.