It’s that time of year again, the madness of sorting out back to school supplies, extra-curricular activities, and playdates begins. Often, that crucial “first day back” photo of your kids, dressed in their very best as they head into their next year toward adulthood, becomes an afterthought. For many of us, it’s an “oh wait a sec!” moment as they’re one foot out the door. This is kind of a shame, as these photos are a yearly benchmark of where their lives were at that moment, year after year. I hope that you will give this little photoshoot the time and effort it deserves! You will thank yourself later.
Here are a few helpful tips for great back to school photos!
1. Add fifteen minutes to your first day of school morning routine to allow time for pictures.
Set that alarm fifteen minutes earlier, make sure the camera is charged up, and get the kids dressed and fed before taking your snaps. Best to do pictures last (once everyone’s been fed, lunches and knapsacks packed, etc.) so there is less stress and no one gets hangry!
2. Add another fifteen for proper grooming.
If your child isn’t in uniform, take some extra time the night before to find a special outfit. A bit of advance styling ensures you won’t be capturing a mismatched outfit or have any wardrobe wars in the morning. Add a little flair with pig tails or a French braid if you have a little girl, and make sure your son’s bed head is not obvious.
3. Get the Right Shots.
Once you actually get them to stand still long enough to take the photos, make sure of the following three things:
A. Consider Location/ Backdrop: My personal favourite is in front of the house, as it also creates a memory of your family home. It’s also a good way to give the photo context and create memories for the kids of the places they lived when they were young, especially if you move around a lot. Alternatively, if there’s a particular room in your home that holds significance or where your family spends a lot of time, this will work as well, just try to find a spot with lots of nice natural light for visibility.
B. Make Sure to Get 3 Key Shots: The close up, the full body, and the action shot or “candid”. For the close-up, make sure you get one with a big toothy grin. Make them laugh. The best smiles are always genuine. Chances are, if they’re under ten, the teeth in those grins will change significantly year to year. Also make sure to get a full length shot. For the candid, ask your child to walk down the sidewalk with their backpack on and shoot them walking away and toward you. You can play around with this one and do whatever feels natural for you and your kids.
C. Siblings - Get Them Together: If you have more than child, it’s really nice to have a sibling shot. Having these yearly benchmarks of them side by side makes it fun to look back and see the changes over the years. When they hit their teenage years, little brother might not look so little next to his big sister anymore!
4. Take the pictures every year, and make sure to create hard copies.
Create an album for each of your children. An old fashioned stick-in-place album is ideal as you can add to it year after year with prints from your shoot. Today, we rely heavily on digital storage for our photographs. This is fine for temporary snaps, but your cherished memories need to be printed. While it may seem easier to save images to hard drives and the “cloud,” this is not the way to archive your family memories for future generations. Absolutely have digital backups, so go ahead and save to the cloud, but create prints and albums as well. I promise you will never regret this. Your grandchildren (and their children) will be so happy you did.