Grab a back to school photo you'll love!

Honestly, I get it.  I really do.  Unless it’s their actual first day at school ever, you’re probably totally over all the back to school hype.   But believe it or not, those first day back at school pictures that are snapped and shared widely year after year are going to be around for a really, (really!) long time.  So why not do yourself (and your little ones) a favour and capture an image you’ll love?  They’ll thank you for it later! 

Having taken literally thousands of school portraits as a schools photographer over the years, we’ve picked up a thing or two.  So, as the big day is coming around again, I thought I’d share a few of our schools photography tips to make sure you grab the perfect shot in the midst of all the emotion and chaos.

Be prepared

Try to plan your back to school photo ahead of time.  If yours are anything like mine, no matter how much preparation you do, there’s every chance that the morning will descend into chaos, so banking on five minutes to set up your picture is probably unrealistic.   Picking the right spot, anticipating their emotion and excitement and even trying out a few test shots (of the dog) can help to make sure that when your opportunity finally comes, you make the most of it. 

Pick your spot

You can choose to snap your back to school photo indoors or outdoors, but consider composing your picture making the best of the background you have.  Try to avoid a busy or ‘open ended’ background – you’ll be gutted after the event when you realise that as well as your perfectly turned out child, you’ve also managed to capture the cat doing something unspeakable, the row of boxers airing on the radiator and all your breakfast dishes!   Hallways tend to be a little more forgiving than kitchens in this regard!  Front doorways and stairwells are also great framing locations.   Aim for plain backgrounds.  Inside this might be an interior wall that is free of wall art / wall lights; outdoors this could be a high fence hedge or trees.  Look out for anything in your background that is going to be close enough to your subject to be a distraction, particularly around / behind their head; typical examples include lamps, door frames and parts of curtains.  Look out for horizontal items that would ‘chop’ your subject at neck level (fireplaces, high window sills and book shelves are serial offenders!)  

School Photographer Kerry

Lighting and shadows

Try to identify an area with nice even natural light, but avoiding direct sunlight.  Interior lights can be tricky, so best avoided if you can.  If you’re really stuck, try to locate a ‘cool white’ or ‘daylight’ electric light source, rather than the ‘warmer’ bulbs that have a tendency to cast quite a yellow tint.  If you have space a few feet from a window or outside door, this is ideal.   Weather permitting, outside offers plenty of potential, as long as you can avoid direct sunlight.  Don’t take your photo with your child facing sunlight – they’ll squint and there’s ever chance that their face will be too brightly lit.

Consider shadows and reflections as well as light; mirrors and large windows spoil many a first day at school photo!  Depending on your light source, you may find that your subject casts a distracting shadow on the background.  You can often fix this by moving them a little further way from the background.  If that’s not possible, move them right up close instead.  Avoid anything that might cast a shadow on the face.  If your child wears glasses, pay particular attention to these; watch out for strong reflections and be ready to remove the glasses altogether if needed to get the perfect shot.

If you can, take one or two test shots (without your child) of different spots around your home the day before and check these for light / shadows / distractions in advance. 


Holding their attention

 If you want your back to school photo to avoid showing off the pained expression,  cheesy grin or downright embarrassment, consider posing your child more naturally.  If your child is a natural fidgeter on their feet, having them sitting on a stool, stairs or a step is a good alternative; for the best shot, try to take the photo at their level, or go extreme high / low.   Leaning against a wall, or the back of a chair or sideboard will tend to plant their feet a little more firmly and create a more natural body pose at the same time.  

If you child really doesn’t want to have their photograph taken, or tends to pose very unnaturally, consider using a prop or an activity for distraction; ask them to check the contents of their backpack,  zip up their coat or button their cardigan to achieve a more candid look or natural expression.   Get siblings and pets in on the act if need be!  In years to come, the photographs of them in action will probably be the ones you love, whether or not you’ve managed to get them glancing at the camera. 

And breathe….

Once you’ve taken your image and packed them off, sit back, enjoy your coffee and enjoy some long awaited internet access!

If it all seems a bit much, why not check out our flexible and relaxed ‘walk in’ options for first day of school portraits instead?

Our Schools Photography Service

I’m a schools photographer with a more than a decade of experience in pupil portraits and general schools photography.  I am available to schools of all sizes across Cork and Kerry.

If you’re a School Principal or Administrator looking for a schools photographer, please get in touch to find out how I can help you deliver pupil portraits and much more. 

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