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Child Photography - Getting Great Back to School Portrait Photographs


Taking child portraits when going back to school is a ritual repeated across the world. Kids are ready to reluctantly return to school when the parents suddenly decide they need a photo of the event. Kids who were reluctant to go to school just seconds earlier suddenly can’t wait to get out of the house. By the time parents have convinced the kids to stand in front of the nearest door and “look happy” the polished first day of school look has been lost, and the family must suddenly scramble to make it to school on time.

School pictures are precious memories for parents but they truly can be a chore for kids. With a little planning you can still get your memories preserved while not upsetting the kids.

Plan Ahead
Don’t spring back to school photos on kids without warning. Going back to school is an uncertain time with lots of nervousness for most kids. Suddenly adding photos to the mix is a recipe for disaster. Plan to take back to school photos a day or two ahead of the actual return to school day. It not only gives you more time to take the photos, it gives your kids an early chance to make sure they are comfortable with their new outfits.

Pick a Nice Background
The stereotypical back to school photo uses a front door as a background. Doors may be an uncluttered background but most household paints glare horribly with flash. Instead of a door, consider using a muslin sheet in a fall color or take the kids to a local botanical garden for outdoor scenes.

Watch the Flash
If you shoot the photos inside, flash is a real issue. Most on-camera flashes create harsh shadows and unnatural skin tones. To avoid these problems, consider stepping back a little or diffusing the flash. You can make a diffuser for your on-camera flash by carefully taping some tissue paper over the flash. Using a reflector to add light without a flash is another option.

Entirely too many back to school photos have been shot with kids backed up against a door and looking straight ahead. A back to school portrait is just like any other portrait and should be posed as such.
  • Turn the subject
    Slightly turning your subject to the side and then having them look back to you will create a more pleasing angle than a straight on body shot

  • Shoot from their level
    Don’t shoot from above the child. Bend down so that you are shooting from their eye level.

  • Use a torso crop
    You don’t have to show the entire child in the photo. Consider cropping the photo just above the child’s waist so that you can better fill the frame with the child.

  • Use props
    Use props that suggest back to school in the photo. Place backpacks in the photo (mostly empty or stuffed with tissue to keep weight down please) or have the child hold a textbook of some sort.
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