I hope this blog post is an opportunity for you to learn from my mistakes. I’ve had 8 years of back to school photo experience now (even more if you include Preschool) and I’ve learned a lot. To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought when I first started taking the photos, and that was my biggest mistake. Just a little thought on my part back in 2011 when my oldest started Kindergarten would have made the next 7 years a lot easier.
I’m not saying that back to school photos need to be a big stressful ordeal. On the contrary, I’m saying if I’d put a little thought into it, then they would have been less stressful and more fun than they turned out being when I didn’t have a plan. 🚌
The GOAL for back to school photos:
First of all, you need to know what your goal is for these photos.
For me, back to school is the ideal time to document how my girls are growing and changing over the years. The best way to do this is consistency in the way you take these photos. More than any other pictures I take, I want these to be consistent from year to year, and that’s where I messed up in the lack of planning. I didn’t think enough about making my plan in the beginning, and then my desire for consistency led me to continue doing the wrong things year after year.
So here are my tips to help you come up with your own plan.
- TIMING: Make sure you have plenty of time to take the photos without stressing. No one wants to be late on the first day of school. Think about what works best for your family. Will it be before breakfast or after? Can you incorporate a fun tradition, like maybe first we take the photos and then we go get donuts if we finish on time? I’m not above bribery, but most of all, I Iove incorporating traditions into our children’s lives. It makes for wonderful memories.
- LOCATION: Choose your spot wisely! This part is where I was all over the place because I didn’t’ have a solid plan and I ended up with multiple spots where I routinely took photos for the sake of consistency. I wish I had chosen one thoughtful location. That would have cut down on stress and the time it took the photos and resulted in better and more consistent images from year to year. Make sure you choose a spot that you can get to easily each year and is in the shade so that you don’t have harsh light. For me, I wish I had specifically chosen in front of our front door. I started out taking photos out in the yard in the opposite direction and it was too bright some years. In front of our door is shaded always and would have provided a more consistent spot. I regret my idea to take photos in front of the Elementary school. Read more about that below. I think in general, in front of your front door is a great spot for back-to-school photos. I’m not saying you can’t also take pictures at school. I’m just saying that your “spot” that you are going to focus on getting consistently year after year should probably be at home.
- PLAN OUT YOUR SHOTS: Make sure you get in close for a headshot, but also back away for a full-body view. After all, they put a lot of thought into what they are wearing and you want to document that. I do the same thing with my girls together…I always get in close for a cheek to cheek shot of them together, and also a few of them hugging or interacting in some way. Bonus TIp: Not all the shots have to be before school. Consider making it a tradition to have your camera ready and capture them getting off the bus in addition to your morning shot. Many times, they will be much more relaxed at this point.
- CONSIDER PROPS CAREFULLY: You all know I’m not big into super staged proppy photos, but I do think there is a time and a place for a simple prop. The chalkboards listing your child’s grade, for example, can be really cute. Just make sure it’s something you can easily recreate each year without stress. CONSISTENCY IS KEY! Don’t make it so cutsie and complex that you can’t recreate it next year. Remember, your kids should be the focus. Do include details like backpacks & lunch boxes. These showcase their personality and you will be amazed at how that giant looking backpack on your Kindergartener suddenly looks so tiny on your teenager.
- MAKE IT FUN: I’m not going to lie. There have been years I’ve royally failed at this one. I want the photos and everyone else just wants to go to school so it all ends in a stressful mess. This is where timing and planning would have gone a long way in simplifying my process and still getting the images I wanted. Above all, go for giggles over the perfect poses. Capture their personalities. Ask them to wiggle, tickle each other or do a little dance. I mean, you can even let them dab or floss if that’s what it takes to get the photo but still keep it fun. Remember, this is a stressful day for them, so try to get it off to a great start. When you are done, give them a hug and tell them to have an amazing day!
Now that that is all finished, pat yourself on the back, you’ve made it through another parenting milestone. You are raising amazing humans and should be proud of yourself. Go call a friend and get a pedicure. Or maybe even a Margarita. How ever it is that you treat yourself…go do that. Parenting is hard stuff and it’s important to celebrate the little wins. You deserve it. ❤️
Want more photo tips? Check out this post on photographing your child’s birthday party.