Nights are getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, and pumpkins have already shown up in the seasonal aisles of every store. This can mean only one thing: The start of a new school year is upon us. After an isolating year of distance learning and the absence of school events, this year brings at least some promise of normalcy, and you’re going to want to celebrate by documenting these important moments. Here are some easy tips and tricks for increasing the interest and quality of your back to school shots, and creating images your kids will thank you for some day.
Prepare in advance
Remember that whatever nerves or jitters you have the night before school, your kids are feeling two-fold. In order to take some of the stress out of the first morning, consider laying out clothes and supplies the night before to make getting ready in the morning a breeze. Any way you can involve your child in the planning process will make them more excited about taking the pictures in the morning. Have them come up with a list of location ideas. Do they have a favorite tree in the yard, or do they want to hold the family pet? With a little kid-centric planning, you’ll be met with better cooperation, and maybe help ease their nerves in the process. If your children are feeling particularly antsy about the first day of school, you may want to consider taking your photos a couple days in advance; no one will ever know, and it may ease some unneeded stress on that first morning back to school.
Signs are a great way to visually commemorate your child’s transition to the next school year. You can easily make a chalkboard sign with some chalk paint and an old picture frame, or pick one up at your local dollar store. Chalk pens are widely available, and are less messy than traditional chalk. Cardboard photo props like mustaches and oversized glasses are another fun way to take some silly photos that will make your kids eager to participate. Lunch bags and backpacks can be worn in the photos, or maybe you want to take an individual shot of these lined up by the door. These artifacts of childhood seem like clutter now, but someday you will miss seeing them in your entryway.
Lighting and Framing
The first thing you should consider is lighting. Whether using your smartphone, or a digital camera, look for lighting that is neither too dark nor too bright. This could be another reason to take your pictures in advance, so that you can capture the golden light of the waning sun. If you are taking pictures in the morning, plan your location around lighting so that your kids aren’t squinting into direct sunlight. You are also going to take better pictures if you turn on the grid feature of your camera. On your phone, go to settings >apps>camera, then turn on “grid.” This will help you utilize the “rule of thirds” which means that the subject takes up ⅓ of the image, leaving the rest of the image open. This will create more visually compelling images that you will want to keep.
Angles and Poses
Try shooting the picture from above. This is often the best angle for head and ¾ shots. If you have multiple children, have them pose together, and don’t forget to capture them saying goodbye as they go to their respective schools or classrooms. While you may be tempted to stage all your back to school photos, some of the best pictures are candid ones, taken at different points during that first morning. You’ll want to capture them walking across the street to the school bus, reuniting with friends in front of school, or even meeting their new teacher for the first time. Be ready to catalog different moments and you may accidentally get the shot that beats all the others.
A Note About Safety
Creating signs with your child’s name and grade is a fun way to record these milestones, but you need to consider where these pictures will end up. If posting pictures online, make sure that there is no information in the picture which could compromise your child’s privacy or safety. You may want to leave out the name of the school, or your child’s last name.
With a little forward planning, and collaboration with your children, you will create images that you, and they, will treasure for a lifetime. Once you have a wealth of these milestone images, consider getting some help from professional photo organizers to ensure that your priceless memories won’t be buried in a digital pile.