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First Day of School Photo Tips

Taking pictures of our children on the first day of school has been a tradition for generations, from blurry sepias passed down from our grandparents to crystal-clear smartphone images today. While you may take pictures of your children all the time, chronicling the first and last days of school is a fun way to see how much they've changed over the years. We've put together a list of handy tips to help capture that perfect moment—and add it to the many memories to come.

1. Take pictures before school, not after.

We know mornings are hectic. Even on normal days, sometimes getting out the door on time can feel like an outright miracle. If you plan to take pictures for the first day of school, set aside ample time to do so. Help your kids through their morning routine by having lunches and outfits ready to go ahead of time, and give yourself about 20 extra minutes to make sure you get the right shot.

If you don't have time on the actual first day of school, there's no shame in taking your picture the day or weekend before school starts! You and your kids may both be more relaxed, and you’ll have fewer to-dos on that big morning. No one will know the difference—and you’ll have a picture-perfect keepsake to treasure forever. 

2. Mind the lighting.

Morning light can be tricky. If you take your pictures inside, you might have to contend with back-light and unnecessary shadows. To help fix that, consider investing in a ring light. By securing one to your camera, you can minimize shadows and get more flattering light indoors. If possible, take your photos outside instead. Natural light will help capture your child more clearly. Plus, there’s more space to move around outside, so you have more options for angles and poses.

3. Cherish the outtakes.

Let's face it—life with kids is anything but predictable. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can't get the pic we want. Maybe one kid refuses to look at the camera. Maybe you notice the other is wearing two different shoes after you've taken the picture. Whatever the case, cherish those “oops” moments. These little hiccups make our children unique, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

4. Pick a location that makes sense.

Kids and parents generally feel more at ease taking pictures at home—on the doorstep or front yard—so keep it that way if that’s the case. Let your child hold a chalkboard sign or letter board to amp up the creativity, but keep it simple. Don’t crowd your sign with too many words or small print; it’s hard to read and detracts from the cute smiling face you’re photographing. Two other sensible options include:

  • At the bus stop. If your little one rides the bus, why not wait until you're at your stop to snap pictures? This will ensure that they aren't late for their ride and gives you time to help them get familiar with the what, when, and where of a new routine.
  • On the playground. Kids typically enjoy getting their sillies out at the playground, so this is the perfect opportunity to use that to your advantage. Let them play for a few minutes before heading off to school. You can snap a few candid, unposed shots while they work off those first-day jitters. 

5. Take portrait pictures, too.

While taking a head-to-toe picture is a wonderful way to show how much your kiddo has grown, taking portrait pictures will help you capture their mood and personality on this first day. Use the portrait mode on your smartphone to get a close-up of your child’s head and shoulders. Let them be silly, natural, or pensive—whatever feeling they’re feeling. You’ll appreciate the variety of images and the thoughts that are expressed in each one. 

Don't sweat it.

If your child isn't cooperating, don't stress! You know your kid best—they might be hungry, nervous about starting school, sleepy, not in the mood, or something else. Take a break, have a snack, or make funny faces. Circle back to the things you do to help lighten the mood, and they'll bring out that adorable smile in no time!