School Photography: How To Prepare Your Kids For Picture Day

Photo by Kiana Bosman

It’s that time of year again, your child has picture day, and it’s approaching fast. When it comes to picture day, there may be some questions you have for both the school and those who’ve learned over time how to master school photography from experience. While our expertise can’t help out with the day-to-day and logistics behind your child’s picture day, we can help prepare you and your child through the chaos of picture day – which will ultimately lead to having fantastic images to share with your loved ones. From assisting your child pick out what outfit to wear, to what size prints to order, there are many moving parts when it comes to mastering picture day and school photography.

Read on as we share with you our secrets and learned tips and tricks of picture day, as these are special memories you’re going to want to hold on to forever.

What To Wear:

The ultimate consideration when it comes to picture day is choosing the wardrobe. When picking out your child’s outfit, there should be several different factors that play into the ensemble. Everything from personality, sense of style, to keeping the outfit appropriate are important aspects when it comes to school photography. As the shooting session is relatively straightforward and quick, many dimensions of a child’s character and sense of self can be displayed through style. This can be particularly difficult for those students who are at the age where they shop for themselves and decide their own sense of style.

Where is the sweet spot to be accepting and encouraging of your child’s preferences, while also keeping your eye out for what is the most flattering (particularly when it comes to school pictures). Then there’s the debacle of colors, textures, and wearability. The last thing you want your child to go through is discomfort during their school day – learning still needs to happen regardless of the fact that its picture day. Below, we break down wardrobe choices and how to pick the best fit for your child.

Style of Clothing – As mentioned earlier, sense of style and personality are very important when it comes to children and adolescence. In a world where parents or guardians control their lives from sunrise to sunset, clothing, and wardrobe is a way to demonstrate control and expression. When it comes to picture day, this can be a declared sense of self and contribute to developing unique characteristics and deepen their personality. While this may sound particularly deep for a child on picture day – it can mean much more than that. You may often notice the style of clothing changing with each coming picture day as your child’s personality can be somewhat fluid and adaptable. As this is more apparent with children who are in their pre-teen or early teen years, a sense of independence when it comes to style can fluctuate with each child. To show your support, try going shopping with your child for the perfect picture day outfit.

Colors and Textures – On top of demonstrating (or developing) a sense of style when it comes to picking out your child’s outfit for picture day, there are the fundamentals of shooting that come into play during school photography. Some list items to keep in the back of your mind include: the choice of backdrop used by the photographer, lighting, and style of picture.

Pending the backdrop, you may want to avoid certain colors. For example, if the photographer has chosen a black backdrop with a suede material you may want to avoid wearing black as the image could not capture the depth and your child will look like a floating head in the prints.

When photographers play with lighting, especially for school photography when the presets are made universal for a variety of subjects, there can be little room for error when it comes to deciding which color to wear. For example, (pending the photographer) it may be wise to stay away from wearing white, as the lighting could wash your child out.

Lastly, check what style of photography your child’s school photography shoot is. If the pictures are portrait, you may just have to worry about what your child’s top or blouse looks like. If the shoot is lifestyle, you’ll have to consider that the entire outfit will be on camera.

Comfortable Material – First and foremost, school photography happens at school – their place of learning. It is imperative that your child feels comfortable in their choice of outfit as they’ll be stuck in it for eight hours. If your child is distracted throughout the day with their outfit choice, and their discomfort, it’s very unlikely that they’ll listen or retain any of the information from their teachers. More than just a feeling of physical comfort, our clothing can create a mental state of comfort as well. When being captured on camera, the photo will turn out more authentic (and frankly better) if your child feels comfortable and confident in whatever they’re wearing. It’s only hurting the parents to stick a child in an outfit they do not want to wear or feel uncomfortable wearing because the sense of unease and discomfort will show in the final photograph.

Being Reflective – As this may coincide with style, wardrobe and outfit changes over the years change based upon our circumstances, personality, and growth. One way to express these changes is with our fashion choices. So it may be wise to work with your child on picture day versus telling them what exactly to wear. As both you and your child look back on these photos, their wardrobe choices should be more about who they are, than a random piece of clothing reflected on the fireplace. If there’s a t-shirt they love wearing, or a specific trendy piece popular at the time – embrace it (anyone remembers the stacked polo look in the early 2000’s?). This photograph will be looked upon for decades and hopefully capture more than a picture-perfect happy smile, but a sense of who they were at the time.

Does Your Kid Like It? – Just like your child should be comfortable in their school photography outfit choice, it’s important that your child also likes what they’re wearing on picture day. Some parents like the idea of curtailing their child’s outfit on picture day and force them to wear certain articles of clothing. Please don’t do this! If you’re not a fan of their original outfit choice, work with your child about different options, but never demand they wear a particular thing.

Avoid Lettering Or Busy Images – Your child’s favorite shirt may show or display their favorite character, band or brand name or logo. While this may be a significant piece of clothing to your child, it doesn’t mean it should be worn at their school photography shoot. Showcasing busy material or writing on camera can overcomplicate the image and take the focus and point of attention away from your child’s face and features.

The Morning Of:

Photo by Sai De Silva

The morning of your child’s school photography shoot should start like any other day. A warm and embracing good morning, a healthy breakfast, and a proper school send off. Except, on picture day there should be a few additions to the morning ritual to make sure your child is prepared. Some examples include: having discussions about what your child should expect on picture day, get them comfortable around a camera, and even assist them in getting ready. As confidence is a key ingredient in looking great in photos, having a morning full of positivity, attention, and compliments can go very far and show in the photos brought home. Below read on as we break down ways to incorporate a fun and happy morning in your household before school picture day.

Talk To Your Kid About Picture Day – When you have open conversations and talk about expectations that may happen at picture day, you and your child will learn a great deal from one another. Try pushing away the nerves if your child or children tend to me camera shy. Reinforce how this image is for family members and loved ones, and there’s not too much pressure behind how the image turns out. This is also a chance for you to be let in on some logistics and how the school photography shoot is being run. For example, what time of day your child’s picture is being taken, during what subject/period (for those students with rotating schedules).

Take Some Sample Shots – Being camera shy is a huge factor that leads to many children feeling awkward and uncomfortable in front of the lens. If this is the particular case with your child, try snapping a few photos before they leave the house to get them comfortable and acclimated to the concept of taking a posed photo. While doing so, allude to how beautiful or handsome they may look, and you want a few pictures for yourself – it should not be about preparing them or warming them up for picture day. It should be made clear that picture day is just like any other day and there is nothing to be worried or anxious about. While camera phone’s capture great quality content, if you happen to have a DSLR in the house try bringing that camera out to snap sample shots. This camera will represent the school photographer’s camera more-so and ease the acclimation even more. Plus! You might walk away with a dozen adorable and frame-worthy pictures the morning of school picture day.

If mornings in your home are more hectic and there’s little time (or no time) to implement much of a change to a morning routine, try taking photos of your child the night before. What’s nice about acclimating to picture day the night before, is you’re able to shoot a variety of outfit choices as well – and share the photos with your child. This way you and your child can pick out which outfit works best on camera for the school photography shoot the next day. *Keeping in mind backdrops and alternating factors will be present at the shoot versus your home. These photos are more for general reading an overview.

Help Your Kid Get Ready – Let your child know that you are there for him or her. The night before, hang up in open sight the outfit of choice (preferably ironed, steamed, or pressed) for an easy grab the next morning. The same can be said for accessories, place out on the dresser or nightstand any particular pieces of jewelry, belts, that are incorporated into the outfit. For the children that are getting around the age where it’s acceptable to wear makeup, help them put on a natural face (not too heavy, they’re still children). Along with being picture pretty, this can also help create fond memories – as many remember their parent giving them their first shade of lipstick or teaching them the rules of bronzer.

What To Pack:

Photo by Jared Sluyter

You’re sending off your kid to school, a typical day that happens to be picture day. There may be some cases where your child’s slotted time is towards the end of the day. They may have lunch, physical education, recess; it may even be raining that day – there are a collection of things that can change your child’s physical appearance from the time they leave the house to the moment the shutter is clicked. In any of these cases mentioned above, you should send your child off to school prepared to handle or tackle any unseen circumstance (while we can’t be perfect and predict everything – we can try and cover as many bases as possible.

What’s For Lunch? – So we can extensively prepare our children for their school photography shoot, help them pick out the most adorable outfit, pre-order their prints, mentally prep them to be comfortable behind the camera – and we send them off with a lunch full of potential stain-inducing food items. Say goodbye to the sticky peanut butter and jelly, the sneaky tomatoes, finger licking Cheetos, and the mayo-based chicken salad. Instead, send them off with clean (and bonus points for healthy) food that will leave their outfits stain free. Because let’s be honest, adults can even have their occasional mishap with coffee that can last the rest of the day – let’s not subject our kids to this same potential mess. Below we’ve provided two sample lunches to pack for your child, so they remain clean and stain-free for picture day.

Lunch One:

-Turkey, provolone cheese, and lettuce sandwich (if you insist on adding condiments like mustard or mayo, place only light amounts that absorb into the bread quickly)
-Apple (sliced or whole)
-Pretzels (avoids any unwanted grease or fake flavoring that can end up on your child’s fingers or shirt)
-Bottled Water ( stick with water as fruit juices and most sodas have coloring that can spill)

Lunch Two:

-Ham and swiss cheese sandwich (if you insist on adding condiments like mustard or mayo, place only light amounts that absorb into the bread quickly)
-Banana
-Crackers (avoids any unwanted grease or fake flavoring that can end up on your child’s fingers or shirt)
-Bottled Water (stick with water as fruit juices and most sodas have coloring that can spill)

Just Buy Two – As mentioned early, mishaps happen, many adults can’t go through the day without spilling on themselves – we can’t expect differently of our children. Even when we send them off with clean lunches, there’s always room for mishaps. The rule of thumb? Just buy two or bring an additional (back up) outfit. If carrying two outfits seems overkill, try merely bringing an extra shirt in your child’s backpack. This will ensure you’ll have a stain-free and clean picture to place on your mantel.

The Refreshers – A child’s school day is full of fun activities like recess and physical education that can cause sweaty clothes ( which is where the additional outfit comes in handy as well), disheveled hair, and dirty faces. But not to worry, if you send your child off with a bag of refreshers, they can enjoy their day like any other and prep for their school photo shoot right beforehand. Below, we’ve comprised a list of must-packs to send off with your child to cover all your basis:

Hairbrush or comb: one of the most crucial items to pack with your child on their picture day, a number of factors can attribute to wild and messy hair. By having a brush or comb with them, they can prep moments before the shot to guarantee their hair looks perfectly set in place. These mini detangling brushes by The WetBrush, are ideal, as they’re small and work for all varieties of hair.

Deodorant and facial wipes: Not only helping with any smell after recess, but these wipes can also help remove any excess dirt or sweat that can appear greasy or shiny on camera. Example products to pack include: these deodorant wipes from Pacifica, and these Neutrogena facial wipes (that are actually Allure best of beauty winners)

Lipstick or chapstick: To create glossy or pigmented lips to show up on camera, make sure to bring an extra lipstick or chapstick.

Floss picks: Especially if your child has their picture scheduled after lunch, packing floss picks guarantees there will be nothing stuck in your child’s teeth in their school picture.

Portable mirror: The perfect small and portable mirror to help apply any lipstick/chapstick, check if your teeth need flossing, and help set your hair before your time in front of the camera.

Water bottle: Believe it or not, beautiful and glowing skin is not entirely reliant on makeup. Drinking a large amount of water can have many aesthetic benefits on the skin. Make sure your child drinks a full sixty-four ounces of water on their school photography picture day. To help save the environment, try to stick to reusable water bottles as opposed to plastic, like these varying colors and themes from Swell Bottles.

Stuff For You:

While your child is responsible for flashing those pearly whites, your list of responsibilities may be a longer list. Not only are you in charge of making sure they get to school but also some (if not most) of the prep work. In addition to their wardrobe, lunch, and mental prep, there are a few logistics to mark down to ensure your child has the best picture day.

Remember The Date – This may seem like a silly add to the list, but rest assured there have been those days when things slip away in the midst of chaos and a hundred different things happening at once (we’re only humans after all). A couple of different ways to ensure you won’t forget your child’s school photography shoot:

-Add the date to your Google Calendar                                                                                                                                                     -Write it out on your family task list (if your family has one)
-Make sure your child’s agenda has the date written down ( can help develop positive habits)
-Place on your phone alerts

Pre-order Your Photos – Depending on the system your child’s school uses for picture days there may be the choice to preorder your photos, and in some cases, photos are purely pre-order, and there isn’t the option to purchase afterward. So instead of having to take a makeshift scan of your child’s yearbook, make sure to pre-order their photos beforehand.

Additionally, since we’re in the age of modern technology, many schools offer the chance to order digital versions of school portraits. These are likely the easiest and most cost-effective choice, as you can create as many prints as desired with your digital copy as well as keep the memory forever (thank you cloud). Just because you have the digital copy, does not mean it’s time to get lazy, these photos are intended to be displayed and showcased. Along with ordering prints on top of the digital copy, you can also work through CVS or Walgreen’s online platform to send pictures to the printer (easy right?).


Share us your thoughts in the comments below.

Get The H Hub Newsletter 👇

Creators

We’re a global creative agency with a diverse roster of influential talent. Join us today.

Apply To Join