As school starts back up, one of the annual rites of passage, aside from the obligatory “first day of school” snapshot, is school picture day. After all, these photos end up being handed out to relatives, friends, and schoolmates… and don’t forget those yearbook spreads either. School picture day isn’t a day you want to forget.
That being said, I remember one year, in middle school (or was it elementary?), that school picture day snuck up on us. By us, I mean my mom and I. Neither of us had it on our radar. I didn’t do my hair, get dressed to the nines, or anything. I vaguely remember feeling silly as I stepped up to sit on the stool for my photo — sporting a half ponytail and my yellow soccer jersey. To top it off, the photographer mixed up backgrounds, so instead of whatever I’d requested, my school picture faux pas is forever commemorated with a purple background. Gotta love it.
So, what words of wisdom do I have to share for you… so you can be ready for school picture day? I’m going to skip “don’t forget” (because that’s a given), and move onto some more helpful tips.
1. Practice smiling. Teens already know how school picture day works, but younger children are new to the process. I remember hearing about how one of my nieces told her mom (after school picture day): “I didn’t smile.” Yearbook photographers have limited time to interact with the kids they’re photographing, and the whole process may leave your child feeling rushed (not to mention caught unawares). I still remember the drill. Wait in line with your order form. Step up to the “box” made from tape on the floor, sit down, smile for the camera. Lights flash. Seconds later, you’re done. By practicing smiling, you can have a better chance of that evasive on command smile showing up in your child’s school pictures.
2. Go with tried and true hairstyles. Don’t get a new haircut the day before, or try a new hairstyle you’ve never attempted. While it won’t be the end of the world, school pictures are really a capture of your child as they are that year… doesn’t it make more sense to have a haircut or hairstyle that is actually representative of your child, as my toddler would say, “in real life” ?
3. Do a clothing check. If your kid is messy and has a good chance of spilling on the shirt before photos happen, maybe a patterned shirt will be more practical. But generally, busier shirts detract from the face (especially once you add in the background). For older kids and teens, make sure the shirts fit well, and aren’t too revealing. Here’s a good guest post about dressing modestly for senior portraits — the concepts can be extended to picture day for younger grades as well.
4. Reminisce with your kids. What better time to pull out your old yearbooks (if you still have them) and laugh about all the clothing trends, big updos, or glasses that kids wore “in the old days” …right? In the very least, it may reassure an anxious child about the fact that school picture day is not something to stress out over. Being able to laugh at yourself is a really important life skill — take it from Roy Rogers!
5. Avoid glitter. This stuff often shows up in photos looking more like dandruff than sparkles. And while sparkles are fun — no one wants to look snowy. Stay away from glitter makeup or hairsprays for school pictures. You won’t regret it.
6. Glasses are fine, but pass on the transition lenses. I’m not sure how many kids who wear glasses actually have transition lenses, but if you do — leave them off for the picture. They don’t photograph all that well. Aside from that, glasses won’t be a problem. Professional photographers know how to make sure there will NOT be any glasses glare. Speaking of glasses, I remember one of the Babysitter’s Club books where the protagonist had to get glasses and was embarrassed at first, but then decided to “own” it and wore both sets of glasses for her photos. Whatever floats your boat, right? all seriousness, though, if there is something your kid feels will make school picture day be easier for them, it may be worth it to oblige.
7. This is a good day for bribery. Yeah, I’m not one for bribery, but I know it works. If it’s important to you that your kid smiles, or that you avoid the dreaded retake day, then make a deal with your kid. Good pictures? Reward.
8. Schedule a real portrait session. Let’s face it. Some kids just don’t open up well with less than a minute in front of the camera. You may prefer to hedge your bets on something that will produce those genuine expressions. Plan a yearly portrait session with your favorite photographer so that you can document your child’s growth …with pictures you know will be great.
Do you have any other ideas? I’d love to hear them. This will be my toddler’s first year of preschool, so it will be interesting to see how things go for him. Here’s one of my first school picture days (I think).