tips back to school photosHoly cow – it’s almost time for school! While for some parents this realization may result in much celebration, for parents of new kindergarteners it may be a bit sad. Your baby is growing up and he or she will be in school – so let’s capture this milestone moment with some great photos! Here are some tips to ensure you get great first day of school photos of your kids:

Be Prepared!

The last thing you want is to head over to the school and realize your camera’s not ready – this is a once in a lifetime photo opportunity! Make sure your battery is charged (and in the camera) and you have your memory card inserted. Having a backup memory card (just in case) is a good plan as well. If you have lens options, choose one portrait lens and one telephoto that will let you get some candid photos from a bit further away.

tips photographing kids first day of schoolFind Some Details

Besides portraits of your kids at school, try to get some of the little details, such as your child writing her name, her cubby in the classroom, the line of shoes by the door, etc. Here are some other suggestions:

  • First day of school outfit
  • First day of school breakfast/lunch
  • Tying shoes
  • Walking to school
  • School supplies
  • Teacher’s name plate (on door or desk)
  • First day art work or craft
  • Playing on the school playground

You’d be surprised, but many kids will remember this little details for years to come, so capturing them on camera can help them know that you were there for them too.

kid's first day of school photo tipsBackgrounds are Key

Try to frame your child against a background that is fairly plain, but still communicates that he’s at school: the playground off in the distance, school bus, or the door to the classroom. Remember that the farther they are away from the background, the blurrier the background will be (which is a good thing, especially if there is a lot going on back there). Aim for a larger aperture (f/5.6 or larger) to blur out the details but still get a nice crisp portrait of your child.

Get Candid

Other than the posed “I’m at school and mum/dad is making me stand here with my backpack” shot, try to get some candid photos of your child interacting with others, such as his new teacher or other children. This may require a bit of stealth on your part, but is worth the effort. Wait until they are involved in an activity, then try to unobtrusively capture them if you can.

Choose the Right Camera Settings

Unless your child is zooming around the classroom, using Aperture Priority (Av) mode is fine. If you want the details in the background to be more in focus, choose an aperture of f/8 or smaller. To blur the background go for an aperture close to your lens’ maximum, such as f/4 or f/2. Just be aware that you’ll need to ensure your child is in perfect focus as there won’t be much room for error.

Indoors, you may have to increase your ISO sensitivity to ensure your camera doesn’t opt for a slow shutter speed. Also watch out for white balance, the fluorescent lights indoors can give everything a weird hue. Choose the appropriate setting in your camera’s white balance menu or consider setting a custom white balance.

Go Long Term

You can create an interesting time-lapse photo collage by capturing your child in the same spot, with the same pose at the beginning of each year. It doesn’t really matter if the background changes a little (obviously they are eventually going to go to high school), but the closer you aim for a similar shot, the more interesting the effect.


Don’t be too focused on getting the “perfect” back to school photo of your child, they’ll pick up on the anxiety and it won’t help them start their first day. Take a deep breath and be ready to capture a few moments, as long as you and your child are relaxed and happy you don’t need to worry about the rest.

Remember, that if all else fails there’s a great kid’s photographer out there to help you!


  1. BACK TO SCHOOL PHOTO IDEAS » Jane Goodrich Photography Blog - [...] last Monday’s blog we talked about a few ideas for photographing first day of school moments, but it seemed…

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