Read the complete article, complete with photo examples here - How to Take Better Back to School Photos
It’s that time of year again; time to take that all important annual First Day of School photo. The little kids LOVE it, all dressed in their new outfits, fresh backpack over their shoulders, they pose with joy. The bigger ones endure it, knowing that the quicker they smile, the quicker they can run off with their friends and avoid being seen (we hope they understand this. If not, fill them in on how it works). I am going to take you through some steps to help you get the most of that short “photo shoot” and how to capture memories that will bring a smile to Grandma’s face and bring back treasured memories, down the road as they walk across the stage at graduation (let me tell you, that day will be here much sooner than you think!)
In a nutshell:
- Light it right
- Tell the story with your background
- Choose a reference point
- Think outside the box
1. Light it right!
Nothing drives a photographer crazier than watching a mom snapping otherwise adorable photos of her child in bright sunlight, or mottled sunlight or sunlight on one child and not the other. It’s SO simple. Get out of the sun. Find a tree with shade, a porch, a doorway, anything, to block that angry sun from your photos.
In this photo example you can see how the bright sunlight ruined a photo with great potential. It’s too bright for their eyes, so they’re squinting like crazy and it is also too intense to allow the school building in the background to be properly exposed. On the right we scooted just a few feet to the right, under a great oak tree, allowing the girls to open their eyes, creating soft, simple light and allowing the school building to be exposed similarly, which is great (see Tip No. 2). Simple take-away: GET OUT OF THE SUN!
2. Tell the story with your background.
Before you start to snap, think for just a moment about the story you want your photo to tell. Perhaps instead of simply standing the kids in front of a blank wall, you might want to take a photo that gives more context to the memory you are trying to capture. Perhaps you can have her stand by the front door of her elementary school (assuming it’s not in full sun!), near a sign or fun gate or in front of the school bus.
Even if you can’t find a clever background (let’s face it, some kids aren’t interested in your photo-making dreams), make sure to keep the background free of clutter and mess. You want your cute kids (and their first day getups) to be the star of the photo, not that garbage can your husband forgot to put away or your neighbor’s car. See how much more the sweet girls stand out when the background is clean and simple. All I had to do was turn a few degrees to clean up the background. Viola! All better!
3. Choose a reference point (and watch them grow).
How much fun will it be, on the day your little kindergartner graduates from high school, to see his photo, year to year, next to the same boulder in your front yard? Consider taking your yearly first-day image in the exact same spot, in the exact same way, every year. It is important, when doing this, to try and keep your angles the same. Find a reference point on the top and bottom and sides, and square your camera up as close to the same way each time. Additionally, get down on the child's level; if you stand over him or her, you won’t be able to tell how big (or small) they are.
4. Think outside the box.
Of course you want that first day photo with all three (or two or seven) kids lined up in a row; it’s a great memento of the moment. But once you’ve captured that, out of the sun, with a nice background, and next to a “watch them grow” rock, you might want to capture some of the small moments as well. When you do, try to find a new angle to shoot from.
Grab her sweet face as she rides off on the school bus for the very first time.
Capture them celebrating their exciting new status as 2nd graders!
Catch them when they don’t know you’re watching.
Finally, after school can be a great time to capture a more relaxed photo of the big day. Think about “framing” your little subject with playground equipment (tree branches, windows, doorways, work well, too).
And that after-school-snack-face . . . how can you NOT capture that?
Get up close and personal. That sweet face will just keep changing. Trust me, I know. My first little kindergarten (now off at college) shaves his beard!
There you go! Now . . . go take those beautiful first day photos. You can do it!
Anna is nationally-recognized family photographer, serving families in the Milwaukee metro and beyond. Her tips are great for improving your photos of daily life in between your annual sessions with a pro. Anna is available for private photography and video commissions as well as small commercial assignments.