How To Capture Happy, Relaxed Back To School Photographs

tips for back to school photos

The start of a new school year is just around the corner, and parents everywhere will be running around trying to make sure that all of the essentials are ready before term starts; shiny new shoes, full pencil cases and clean PE kits to name just a few.

And before your little one walks through the school gates on the first day of term, you’ll no doubt want to capture a back to school photo too.

Each school year is a milestone, and making this annual photograph helps to freeze each moment in time – the bittersweet moment where we’re so proud to see our children another year older, but also want to slow time down because they’re growing up too fast.

So how can you make sure that your back to school photos are full of natural smiles, and capture your child just as you see them right now?

In this article I’ll share my top three tips for happy, relaxed school photographs.

Tip One: Give Yourself Plenty Of Time To Take Back To School Photos

Trying to take pictures of your children when you’re all in a rush to get to school is never a good idea! When we’re stressed children tend to pick up on it and the stress ends up showing in the photographs.

So my first tip is to give yourself some extra time to take the photographs

Now you might be thinking that the chance of having extra time to do things on a school day is incredibly unlikely. And I would completely empathise – school mornings are always rushed in our house!

But instead of taking the photographs on the first day of school, take them a few days before. 

I know – it sounds like a hassle getting everyone in their school uniform on a non-school day. But it might just lead to a smoother, less stressful first day of the term.

And in 30 years, you won’t remember if it was the first day of school or a few days before, but you’ll definitely be glad you’ve got those precious photographs to look back on.

Tip Two: Choose A Clean Background For Your Back To School Photographs

Whenever you’re taking photographs of your child, you want them to shine and be the star of the photograph.

Choosing a clean background for your photograph makes sure that they do. Imagine, no more distractions like scattered toys or piles of paperwork stealing the spotlight!

A nice, uncluttered wall at home or a nice wall or trees in the garden all make brilliant backdrops. If you don’t have any of these you can even try the front door – anything neutral, that doesn’t distract from the people in the photographs will do the trick.

Tip Three: Don’t Tell Your Children To Say Cheese!

I don’t know who came up with the idea that we should all say “cheese” when we’re being photographed because most of us don’t look very natural when we do!

Instead I recommend asking your children to say anything other than cheese. When I’m photographing children at my Back to School Mini Sessions I always chat to them and occasionally ask them to say funny things back to me (but not cheese!)  The result is lovely, natural smiles and no cheesy grins!

If you’re struggling to think of what to ask your children to say, one thing that always works well is to choose a word that will make them smile anyway. Ask them to say a word that you know they will love to hear and say (“ice cream” is always a good one to try) and as soon as they start smiling, take your photograph.

Ready For Some Happy Relaxed Back To School Photographs?

I’d love to hear how you get on putting these tips into practice at the start of term.

If you’d like to make your back to school photos completely stress free, book a spot at my Back to School Mini Sessions in September, and capture natural, relaxed school photographs for you.

Click here to learn more about Back To School Mini Sessions

Picture of Clare Murthy

Clare Murthy

I’m a newborn, baby and family photographer working with families from South West London and Surrey. I specialise in timeless, natural photography with no props or unnatural posing. I photograph babies at my studio, and families in beautiful outdoor locations. I'm based on the Surrey / London border, close to Hampton Court.
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