Take the perfect back to school photo

Hints & Tips

Natural school portrait of a boy taken by school portrait photographer Alannah Hebbert

After 123,000 days of summer holiday, the kids are about to go back to school. Once you have winced over how little wear they got out of last year’s uniform, and how much you’re spending on school shoes, it will be time to take the perfect ‘back to school’ photos. I thought I’d put together a few tips to help you to get the best photo possible. And if you are despairing of getting a good photo, I have a special offer for you at the end.

Think about the background

A great way to get your photo to stand out is to try to frame your subject. Your front door is a helpful way to do this! Have your children stand on the step looking towards the outside so that they are in the light, and the house behind is shadowed as this will make them really pop. The ‘science bit’ behind this is that your camera won’t be able to make out the same highlights and shadows that we can (this is called dynamic range) and so the house behind your child will seem dark, whilst they are in the light and framed beautifully by the door frame! If it is very bright, they may need to take a small step back to avoid the squinty look.

Another option is to sit them around 5 steps up your staircase (eg. at the same height as you are holding your camera or phone), so that the lines of the stairs and the walls/banisters lead your eye to your gorgeous subjects.

If you have a garden, this could be another option – you could even track their height against a tree each September. Which leads me nicely to…..

Same pose, same place

Once you have decided on your location, you could try to stick with it year after year so that you get that real sense of time passing. When you look back in Year 6 and have a little cry, you’ll thank me (or hate me!). Some people like to include a toy or a chalkboard to show how the children are growing, and how their interests change over time.

Give them something to hold for a perfect back to school photo

This really helps children to stand naturally in photos and not look stiff and awkward. In fact, remember that tip for anyone you are photographing! It’s always hard to know what to do with your hands when you have a camera pointed at you, and holding something, putting hands in pockets or looping thumbs into belt hooks can really help. For the children, this could be a schoolbook, a favourite novel, a comforting toy, or even a little chalkboard with the year written on it. I have seen some perfect back to school photos with a little board showing the child’s age, teacher and what they would like to be when they grow up.

Don’t say ‘cheese’

Really. Really, really. Only ask them to say ‘cheese’ if you want a really cheesy smile! Instead, you could be really silly (yes I do mean fart jokes), sing silly songs together, or simply big them up before their first day: “You’re amazing, that’s so fabulous, you’re acing it!” Not only will you get natural smiles and big laughs but they will be leaving for their first day of school feeling wonderful.

Get creative

What else does the first day mean to you? You will always remember your little one standing in the doorway ready for school, but what are the other little things that you don’t want to forget? You could get down to floor level and take a photo of the un-scuffed pairs of shoes and school bags lined up ready to go; the children strapped into the car ready to go; the abandoned breakfast things and toys left behind; or the big rucksack on the small child as they walk off away from you (sniff!). Think about angles as you photograph. Taking photos from above will make your child look small, which is a lovely memory. Getting down to their level gives you a view from their perspective. Try to take a few different photos at different levels.

Don’t take a photo on the first day of school

Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely try to take a photo of your children on their first day of school! But sometimes it just doesn’t work that way – they’re stressed, you’re stressed; they’re overexcited about seeing their friends, you’re overexcited about drinking tea by yourself. Either way, they might need to you to be present and not pointing the camera at them on the first day. You could set aside a day earlier in the week when they try on their uniform and have their photo taken then, without the time pressures.

Natural school portrait of a boy taken by school portrait photographer Alannah Hebbert

Ask me to take the photo

You might have read all this with a wry smile, thinking ‘there is no way my kids will cooperate with any of this’. Don’t despair! I am running a limited number of sessions this September, to get the perfect back to school photo.

You can choose whether this is a ‘doorstep’ photo at your home, or an outdoor shoot in the locality, climbing on gates and sitting under trees. Either way, you will be provided with 3 digital images and one beautiful 5×7″ print, included in your session fee. Additional digitals and prints are available, too. Sessions last between 15 and 20 minutes depending on the age and number of children, and cost only £50. (This is cheaper than 3 digitals and a print from the slightly-awkward-white-background-school-portrait companies…) Sessions can start after 4.30pm, so plenty of time to get home, have a snack and put on a clean uniform before I arrive.

This is the perfect opportunity to get a back to school photo of your children in their uniform whilst it is still in pristine condition, and in a year where you may not have been able to have that traditional school picture. You can book now by clicking here, or call or send me a message on 07950 901619 if you would like discuss further. Alternatively, check out my family photography page.

I wish you the best of luck getting your perfect back to school photo! Enjoy the moments of silence next week!


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