August is here and you know what that means: back to school and all our kids' smiling faces with their first-day-of-school outfits, clean backbacks, and renewed spirit popping up on our Facebook and Instagram feeds.
For many, grabbing that quick photo by the front door or by their new classroom is done without much thought. But with just a little extra planning, whether you're using your phone, a point-and-shoot, or a DSLR, you can capture your kids' first day of school like a pro.
- Allow enough time. If you plan to snap a few pictures in the morning before school, be sure to get the kids up early. You don't want to feel hurried and stressed before they even get to the classroom. You could even do your own mini-shoot the weekend before school starts. Bribes help. :)
- Let your kids pick their first day of school outfit. As your kids get older, this will be a given. Or your child might be like my 12-year-old daughter who has been choosing her own outfits since the age of 3. This is not only less stress for you, but it allows you to capture their personality at that moment in time. My now 20-year-old son went through a stage in third and fourth grade where he wore a brand called World Industries (isn't he so cute?). Then he went through a long soccer stage. There were many first days of school with a Lionel Messi or Christian Renaldo jersey. I love looking back at those photos and remembering that period of his young life.
- Use props. It's always fun to add a few props to your first-day-back photos. For younger kids, you can find plenty of printables showcasing the grade they're entering. If you have older kids who wouldn't be caught dead with a chalkboard stating their grade, just ask them to hold some textbooks or have their backpack on. Maybe even sit at park table and "do some homework."
- Get a close-up. My very favorite photos are good close-ups. Toothless, braces, freckles, fresh faces, the first year wearing makeup to school ... you want the details!
- Good lighting. If you're taking quick pictures in the morning before school, try to avoid placing your child in direct sunlight. Otherwise they might be squinting and you'll get shadows on their faces. In front of the front door is a good bet if it doesn't get direct sunlight. If the sun is smacking your front door, chances are good the back yard will be better. The morning sun hits the back of our house, so we did this one of kindergarteners Zach and Allie out front.
- Do what's natural. In addition to getting shots of your kids smiling and looking cute, try to show the story. Getting ready in the morning (I treasure this shot of Blake in front of the mirror with all that nervous energy on his first day of 3rd grade). Silliness is awesome. Or, if your child walks, bikes, or scooters to school, go along with them and capture some pics of them -- if you can keep up. When my oldest son was younger, soccer was his passion. In seventh grade he would dribble his soccer ball to school every day. Great photo opp! Here are my little twins Zach and Allie on the first day of kinder. Fast-forward eight years and there's Allie in all her 8th grade glory.
- Do the same each year. I was never organized enough to do this, but I love seeing photos of kids in the same spot year after year so you can see how they've grown. At the end you can make a cute video.
- Beg, bribe, respect, whatever it takes. My kids are 20, almost 17, and almost 13 (times two). And three of them are boys. Boys, at least MY boys, do not like getting their picture taken. As a result, my personal social media pages are blasted with photos of my camera-loving daughter. As the kids have gotten older, I've respected their boundaries when it comes to photo-taking and social media. There are many times my boys will let me take a quick picture with the promise of not posting it on social media. Sometimes they'll want to approve the photo first. And they also have gone through phases that they don't want any pictures taken. While I've been know to bribe and beg, I ultimately respect their wishes. Chances are if you catch them on a different day in a different mood they might just say yes to the camera.
- Get mom and dad in the picture. This one is important and I'm a terrible offender. As family documentarians, we live in a great time for capturing and storing so many moments. As Moms (and Dads), we often neglect to include ourselves in the picture. Do your kids a favor, and pop in those photos from time to time. As your kids get older and have kids of their own, they'll treasure looking back on those moments with their parents. I love this memory with my son Nick -- now a high school senior -- on his first day of kindergarten.
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