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The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Taking Better Back to School Pictures



Take Better First Day of School Photos


The traditional first day back at school photo! How can you make yours stand out? Here are five quick tips (PLUS the behind the scenes) to make this year’s photos the best yet!

1. Choose a simple background.

In order to keep the focus on your child, avoid busy, distracting backgrounds.  For example, look for something simple or solid so as to keep the viewer’s attention on what’s important in the photograph. For a bright style look for light backgrounds. Watch for dark doors, dark brown tree trunks etc. They tend to weigh the picture down!

Here’s a behind the scenes pullout. You can see we are in the shade of the house.

2. Go outside.

My style is light, bright, and airy so inside the house is too dark. If you must do indoors, turn off the flash and have them face a big window or stand in front of an open door (see below). 

However, when you are outside, look for pretty light before you look for a location. That may be contrary to what you normally do, but it’s key to beautiful photos! Open shade, such as on the side of the house, or under a shade tree are good options. If you must be in the sunlight, have your child face her shadow and close her eyes while you prepare. You don’t want squinty eyes! When you are ready, she can open on the count of three.

Search around for even light and skin tones. For example, rather than positioning her under a tree with splotches of light coming in on her face, move her to even shade.

To get the photo on the right, I moved her two feet forward out of the splotchiness from the leaves. Notice how the photo is much more pleasing to the eye without that distraction.

3. Take two photos.

Take a close-up headshot. Be sure to get in tight and don’t leave a lot of extra space on top of the head. To make sure the shot is clear, physically take a few steps to move in close rather than zooming in on your camera or phone. Then, walk back a few steps and take a full body vertical shot. Include shoes, backpack, lunch box or anything else that shouts, “back to school”.

 If you must shoot in bright sun, have your subject face her shadow.

4. Prep your kids the night before.

Set expectations by preparing them mentally ahead of time. Let them know they need to allow fifteen minutes extra in the morning for pictures. This may be the most important step to avoid rushing and bad attitudes! If you plan on having a chalk board with the year and their grades on it, create that the night before as well. Have bribes ready, if need be!

5. Get artsy.

Feel like being creative? Try new angles or perspectives. Instead of wearing the backpack, she could sit on it for a casual shot. Instead of looking straight into the camera, she could have there back to the camera and turn her heads and upper bodiy toward you. Try different props such as small chalkboards, confetti, balloons, extra books, etc. Try different spots – maybe in the street if your’s doesn’t have much traffic, perhaps sitting on a fence post, or standing near the bus. You don’t have to do what you have always done!

Once you take your photos, I’d love to see them! Tag me on your posts or send me an email and let me know which tip was your favorite! If you would like some constructive criticism, I’m here to help with that as well! Happy back to school!

PS – Shoutout to my 11 year old son who took the behind the scenes iPhone  photos of me in action!

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EST.         2005