While I’m always sad to see summer end, I love the first day of school. Even more than January 1st, the first day of school marks a new beginning to me, time to start afresh with new ideas and new goals.
The first day of school always calls for new notebooks full of blank pages and backpacks stuffed with kleenex boxes and colored pencils. And, of course, for Back-to-School photos!
Are you ready to snap a few shots before your kids board the school bus this week? The first day of school offers an opportunity to capture a moment in time. And if you make it a tradition, I find children are more cooperative because they just know---this is what we do on the first day of school!
I love how pairing similar photographs can tell a story and capture the passing of time. Whether it be the changes that take place over the course of one school year (above: Aidan on his first day at Rock Tots in 2005 and the last day in May), or…
…as seen on the same day several years apart (above: Aidan again, first day of preschool at Mrs. Pam’s and then the first day of 2nd grade).
Here are my 4 Simple Tips to capture a great First Day of School photo that you’ll treasure and that won’t add stress to that morning.
1. Prepare. Get your camera ready the night before and leave it out near the lunch boxes. Ready means your battery is charged and you have room on your memory card.
2. Decide ahead of time the best place to take your photos. The sun is a bit too bright and direct at our house in the morning---see how Aidan is squinting in those photos above. I still take photos in front of that same tree every year, but the harsh shadows aren’t flattering. I finally realized the shade on our deck makes for a much better location at 8 in the morning. You don’t want a busy background, like my photo below, so clear some space today.
Much better without those busy chairs, isn’t it?
3. Any props you want in the photo? Have them ready to go. A mini chalkboard with this year’s grade. A shiny red apple. I love how a simple backpack or a stack of school supplies can add context. There are lots of free printables online, such as these and these, for your kids to hold too.
4. Write down any must-get shots that you want.
I usually like a shot of the boys with their backpacks on the way to the bus. And, back when they were young enough to let me, I loved taking a photo of them with their teacher that first day. Plan on enough time to get a photo of each child separately as well as group shot.
Above: September, 2011. Nolie, feeling shy with Ms. Tiger, whom he came to adore.
Here are two final bonus tips.
Bonus #1: While the first day photos are a wonderful keepsake, but they aren’t worth stress. As Becky Higgins explains in this old favorite post, our children need us calm and centered more than they need us pointing a camera in their face that first day.
The best way to avoid any rush or stress is to prepare, capture what you can, and then let it go.
Bonus #2: After you kiss your smiling child goodbye, don’t look back. Especially don’t peek back in the window of the kindergarten door to get a shot of your child happily coloring at his or her desk. Like me, you might end up shocked to see this in your viewfinders:
I knew if I went back in, I would just make it worse. I stood outside that door for so long. It took all the strength I had not to go back in and comfort him. I remember watching the clock anxiously all day---but he came home skipping, and having fallen in love with the world of school.
I wish all of us the same sense of joy and wonder as my middlest on his first day of kindergarten, and, as Nora Ephron so perfectly put it, “a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils” too.