A Colorado anchorman recently went on a humorous rant about the number of snow covered patio pictures he was receiving from viewers. He pleaded with his audience that they could do better than this. He told them that taking pictures of snow covered patio furniture was the easy way out. He begged them to send him pictures of their beautiful state, and not of people’s back decks.

Have you ever done this? Not necessarily taken a snow covered patio picture, but taken a picture and later when you saw it you wonder why you took it in the first place. I am horrible about doing this on vacations. I will take pictures at the zoo of monkeys, rhinos, zebras, bears, pretty much every animal they have at the zoo. Then when I get home I’m looking at my pictures and they are all of animals. Really, what am I going to do with a picture of a monkey? Why on earth would I take a picture of a caged bear when there is one that strolls through my yard every now and then?

How about taking pictures of buildings? I’ve done this. I went to Boston and New York on a vacation and came back with pictures of random buildings. I have no idea what most of these buildings are, but I have pictures of them.

In just the last few years, I’ve gotten a little smarter about taking pictures. No, I haven’t stopped taking pictures of monkeys or buildings, I’ve just found that if you put someone you know in the picture with the monkey and the building, it makes the picture much better.

Another great thing about putting a loved one in your pictures is that it helps to date the pictures. Who doesn’t love a photo where dad had a perm and a mustache, or where mom is wearing a mini skirt and gogo boots? So, next time you go on a nice vacation, give this a try. See if your pictures don’t turn out a little bit better.

Joy Larson is a mother of four boys, graduate of the University of Montana, animal lover and writer.