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Tips for IG Worthy First Day Of School Picts

School for kiddos in Wilmington North Carolina and surrounding areas in the south are gearing up to head back to school! Here are some helpful tips for taking better "First Day of School Photos from the comfort of your own home. Keep reading for some fun FREEBIES too!


The number one priority to create any great photo is placing your subject in the best light. So, while taking photos by the bus stop or on your front porch may seem like a great idea, if the lighting is bad, your photo won't be the most flattering or social media worthy! So, what kind of light should you look for?

  1. Overcast Day: Clouds in this case are a good thing! The clouds help diffuse the light, creating even lighting across your child's face. Therefore, anywhere you choose will produce good lighting for your pictures. So it does not really matter where you place your child. Do you best to face them towards the sun to cast the most amount of light onto their face and eyes.

  2. Full Sun: The sun's harsh rays can cause squinty eyes and awkward shadows on your child's face. So, in the case of a bright sunny morning, position your child in the shade of a building, porch overhang, or a tree. However, if you choose a tree, make sure the sun is at their back, to avoid what is called dappled light, which is spotted light coming through gaps in a tree canopy creating funky shadow's on your child's face.

  3. Rainy Day: If it is a rainy day, sit or stand your child near a large window, or open the front door to let the natural light in. Indoor lighting is often low with yellow tones, making clear beautiful pictures challenging. If you cannot find the natural light because it is so extremely gloomy, just do your best to avoid having your child stand directly under a light like a hallway pendant, as this can create dark shadows over their eyes. Focus on position the light in front of them or slightly off to the side.


If you are lucky enough to have options with your lighting. Then the next priority is choosing a location. Here are some things to consider when choosing your exact location.

  1. Porch

  2. In front of a bush

  3. In front of flowers or garden

  4. In front of a fence

  5. End of the driveway

  6. Bus Stop

  7. At school.

    1. Leaning against a brick wall

    2. Standing in front of the school's sign

    3. Standing in front of the classroom door.

    4. Leaning against a column or pillar.

    5. Sitting on a bench.

When choosing your final location also keep these pointers in mind.

  1. Make sure the background is clutter free!

  2. Solid backgrounds are best. (Blank walls)

  3. Position your child at a distance from bushes, trees, flowers so they can be artistically blurred in the background.

  4. Avoid positioning your child so that things appear to be "coming out of their head" like a branch, street sign, or light post.


Notice how I positioned my child a ways away from the background. This allowed me to gently blur the background, let my daughter pop off the background and minimized any distractions in the background. I also chose a spot in the shade of the house to minimize crazy shadows on her face.


If you can, take the photo the day before the actual first day of school. That first day back to school is stressful enough, without adding the stress of sitting and smiling for the photo. Trying to convince your anxious child to sit still and pose for a picture after you just reminded them eight million times to get their shoes on because you are going to be late can be more stressful than you want on that first day. But, if you can't, just remember to build in that extra time on that first day back so you are not stressed.


The year I took these I was pregnant with my second, who was due any day, so I knew I had to go early and get the photos! So, two days before the first day back to school we went over to her school to snap some photos. I am very happy we did this! We were much more relaxed!


Some parents like to add a prop to the image that may be a sign that gives their child's stats or a prop as simple as their backpack. If you do not have a "premade" sign like this, then you can write on a chalkboard, use those popular letterboard signs, use my FREE Canva Template here or use my FREEBIE print-from-home sign found below to create your own last minute sign. Finally, I think it is always fun to include their backpack and lunch box in the shot too. It adds culture and personality to the photo. I know my daughter spent so much time picking out her backpack this year. Other fun props include pencils, books tied up in a bundle, or the classic red apple!

First Day of School Sign Fillable
Download PDF • 1.05MB


If you are using your cell phone here are a few tricks, iphone users can use to make their photos stand out just a little bit more.

  1. Place your camera in portrait mode and change to studio lighting

  2. Click and hold on your child's face with your finger, then drag your finger up or down to change exposure on their face.


Make sure when you are lining up to take your picture you follow the following guidelines.

  1. GET LOW - The number one mistake I see with back to school photos, or really any photo, is that most parents take the photo from their standing position. Kneel down and get on the same level as your child's eyes. This simple change will dramatically improve your images.

  2. GET IN CLOSE - Move your physical body in closer before taking the photo whenever possible. Using the zoom feature on your phone drastically reduces the quality of the photo. It is always best to just move closer to your child versus zooming in.

  3. WATCH THE SPACE - Another mistake I see often is that people leave a giant space above their subject's head. This is called headroom. You want to minimize that blank space above your child's head. You want to fill your camera's frame with the thing you love most - your child - not the trees, building, or sky behind them. (Unless of course you are doing it with the purpose of capturing the school sign or something! ) Getting down on your child's level and angling the camera just right can help minimize that dead space above their head and maximize your view of your child!

Minimizing the space above the head is an easy way to quickly enhance the quality of your image. Here I actually got up really high and shot down at her, this brought some light into her eyes and created a fun view!


Finally - Don't forget to mix in posed and candid shots. My favorite picture is the walking away with the backpack into school! This is such momentous moment that deserves to be memorialized in a photo!

I quickly snapped this one on the way into her preschool. Notice how by getting down to her level it instantly became intimate like I was her in the moment!


And as always, if you find it easier just to outsource the fun to the professionals, consider booking a Back-to-School session or a one hour "Personality" Photoshoot for the older kiddos with me! I have some fun props for an indoor studio session, or I know of some locations around town that make for great back to school photos! Email me your vision and let's chat!


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