In the era of camera phones and Instagram, school picture day might seem a little outdated. However, that is the picture of your child that will go in the yearbook and is often the one grandparents and extended family want to display on their fridge.
And really, how often are you printing out your favorite Instagram pictures anyway? It can be a good excuse to get a frame-worthy picture in your hand, not just in your camera roll. But because it is once a year occurrence that can come to represent an entire year of your child’s life, there can feel like a lot of pressure to get things right. But it doesn’t have to be complicated.
To get the best tips on making the most of school picture day, we went straight to the experts who, very likely, will also be taking your own kid’s pictures. Lifetouch has been taking school pictures since the 1930s and knows a thing or two about school photography. Here are some of their best pearls of wisdom:
“There aren’t too many mistakes parents can make on school picture day!” says Leah Hytjan, senior marketing manager for Lifetouch. “You want that ideal image to capture just who they are in that special moment in time, but it also should be an
enjoyable experience for your child where they can feel proud of who they are!” That means not worrying about perfection and letting your kid have some fun with it — within reason. That means not worrying as much about little things like braces, cowlicks, or missing teeth, and letting your child personalize their look so it feels like them. These days, that also includes glasses—these days, photographers know how to work with glasses to reduce glare. Keeping them on will keep your kid looking like they look the other 179 days of this school year.
Relaxing also means not practicing smiles or coaching your kid. Instead, Hytjan recommends telling kids to simply think of their favorite things to do when the photographer says “smile!” That will help keep things natural
As a general rule, Hytjan recommends avoiding dressing kids in big logos or graphic tees when possible. This keeps things less busy, and more focused on your child’s smiling face. Solid-colored tees and polos are a good idea. However, she also adds you should feel free to let your kid accessorize with favorite jewelry, bows, and other layers that allow some of their sparkling personality to show through.
The same advice goes for hair — instead of coming up with an elaborate fancy ‘do for just one day, let your kid wear their hair how they normally do it. “are! Down and natural, in a bun, with a big bow, funky hair parts — they all look great as long as you love it,” says Hytjan.
School picture day might be after lunch — which can include stains, crumbs, and more. If your kid brings packed lunches, maybe avoid things that could stain, like soups or sandwiches with mustard, just for one day. (Of course, this is contingent on age as well as the individual child. Many middle schoolers can probably handle getting cookie crumbs off their shirt better than the average kindergartener). Melissa and Shelley, the moms behind Stockpiling Moms, also suggest eating breakfast before getting dressed on school picture day to avoid last-minute spills there, too.
On that note, you may want to remind your kid to comb their hair or wipe their face before the picture, too. However, Hytjan adds that school photographers will generally be on hand to look out for things like crooked collars. Lifetouch photographers, for example, are trained to ask a child if it’s ok to make any adjustments on clothes or will enlist the help of a teacher or other school staff.
Even if you plan to not make a big deal about school picture day, you still want to know when it is, if only to avoid graphic tees and a packed lunch of spaghetti. These days, most schools are good about reminding parents the day before (often with signs or take-home flyers). But if you aren’t always the best at checking the homework folder, or carpool, for example, you could easily miss the reminders. Picture day is probably listed in the school calendar. Besides writing it down on the family calendar, consider just putting a quick reminder in your phone for the night before. And if you use school picture day as an excuse to get a fresh cut, you may want to plan even further ahead. Melissa and Shelley have experience there as well, too. “Sometimes a fresh cut can be too short,” they explain, especially if your kid keeps their hair short. Giving it a week or so to grow out can make it feel more natural.
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