Here are a few easy photography tips and tricks to help you take better back to school photos:
1. Plan ahead.
'Twas the night before school started, and all through the house, Mom was running around like a crazy person trying to get everything done. Right? Well, add one more thing to your long list. You know the morning is going to be hectic ("Where is your left shoe? I swear it was there last night!") so get that camera ready the night before. Charge your battery and set everything out so you don't forget. Then set aside 10 minutes to take the pictures. Important: Do not leave picture-taking for the last thing to do before you pull out of the driveway. You'll be rushing and stressed and it's likely to be a disaster. Trust me.
2. It doesn't matter what camera you use, just take the pictures.
There are many reasons your "good" camera may be unavailable. Maybe the battery is dead, or you loaned it to your cousin, or all the buttons on it still scare you and you'd rather not deal with it on what's usually a pretty stressful morning. Maybe you don't even have a "good" camera - totally fine! Whatever the reason, don't worry about it! The most important thing is that you actually document this moment, because before you know it those kids are going to be in high school. Even I, Ms. Professional Photographer, have years where I only have cell phone pictures from the first day of school. I still love them just as much as any from my professional camera.
3. Shade is your friend.
Look for an area that has even lighting. Avoid areas with bright spots of sun. Bright sun can create harsh shadows on your child's face, not to mention the squinting problem. My kids' eyes are very light sensitive, so I always try to make sure they're not looking toward the sun when I take their pictures. The photos in this post were all taken in my embarrassingly overgrown driveway on the west side of my house, while the sun was rising on the east side. The sky provided plenty of light for the images and nice catchlights in their eyes - one of those little details that makes a beautiful photo.
4. Let them be silly!
Encourage goofing off! Let your kids be silly and express themselves. My daughter started middle school today, and she's done this little foot-pointing pose every year since second grade. It's her go-to silly pose and I love it so much because it's 100% her. After they get the sillies out, their smiles are more likely to be genuine and relaxed, too!
5. Snap a variety of angles.
I always try to grab a full-length photo, a half-length, and a landscape close up (horizontal style, like the first two images in this post). If you're using a cell phone camera, physically move yourself and your camera to get these different shots - zooming in degrades the quality by a whole lot. This is a good time for you to do a little jig to make the kids laugh. Also, if you have more than one little goober, try to get a group shot. It's not asking too much, I swear! I nearly forgot the group shot this year because my daughter is going to middle school and they leave at different times. I'm so glad I remembered at the last minute!
6. If you fail, try the next day.
So maybe it's not the FIRST day of first grade, maybe it's the second. It's still going to be a keepsake photo and in 10 years, you will be thankful to have it.