10 Tips For A Great Back-To-School Photo


This post is sponsored by Olympus

Some of my most treasured images every year are the back to school photos because over the years they create great signposts through our childhood.

Most of us could take some sort of shot but here are 10 tips for taking a great photo this year:

1. Doesn’t have to be the first day

Getting kids of any age ready for school after 6-8 weeks vacation can be hard enough without adding the pressure of a 15 minute photo shoot. If your family can manage it then that is great but ‘that shot’ doesn’t have to be of the very first day so relax if it doesn’t work out perfectly. You can always re-shoot some photos if you missed them or even plan to do it later in the week.

2. Phones will do but a camera is great

Some modern smart phones actually have some decent cameras but in many cases they won’t take the best image. Cameras will perform better and give you more options especially in low light situations indoors or if you need to have them on a tripod to get everyone in the shot etc.

For special occasions I always reach for a dedicated camera because those memory shots are important to me and they are the ones that you may be tempted to use later in life for … slideshows, photobooks, prints etc

Having a better photo is important to me for the really crucial things … and the clarity works so much better when printed.

man with Olympus camera up close

I use an Olympus camera myself (well actually 2 haha … a waterproof one and an OM-D EM-1 which is a awesome camera … I love it).

3. Grooming

This is very personal to every person but the majority of back to school shots are in school uniform and the idea of the photo is to capture the children in the state that you ‘imagine’ they will be each day … hahaha

I think its worth taking a few minutes to check the uniform, hair, teeth, shoes etc just to be sure something simple isn’t going to stand out in the shot. The point here isn’t to be perfect but to remove distractions so that when people look at your photo they see the very thing you want them to and aren’t focused on the missed button or the lop-sided piggy-tails.


4. Attitude

A great shot is impossible to get unless the children are happy and content … have you ever tried to photograph someone who doesn’t want to be there? My only tip for this is to setup the expectation early so that the kids know it is happening in the morning etc … otherwise bribery will be your only saviour haha.


Caption: “OK I got 1 of them happy haha”

school15. Location

Most back to school shots are in the house or just outside but my favourite so far in our family was shot at the front of the school with the office buildings in the background. You could even include the school sign or the front gate in the shot.

I’ve got some early shots of the kids on their transport to school too which I love … getting on the bus, riding their bike or just walking to school. Another great idea is to grab a few shots on the play equipment or the sporting courts.

You can get creative so that each year doesn’t look exactly the same.


6. Light

The purpose of a back to school shot is to see the children clearly so you want plenty of light on their faces but also their whole bodies. Outside is usually going to be easiest especially if its good weather but if you are indoors, stand near to an open window to get a lot of natural light.

You absolutely want the light in front or to the side of the children and not behind them because unless you know every manual setting on your camera you will usually get silhouettes and low detail.

7. Backgrounds

The only important thing about the background is that its not important in the shot … the kids are! Choose a background that will be plain and preferably textured. Trees and bushes are great and curtains or a fence. At a pinch you could use a wall but it often looks too plain and shadows can form which spoil the shot.

A trick is to stand a few metres from your background to avoid the shadow issue (especially with flash ON) and it adds depth and ‘blur’ to the background, which highlights the kids.  If your camera has a real zoom (not digital zoom like a phone), you will get better results by putting your camera to a longer zoom and standing further back. The children will end up the same size but the background will blur more … like you see in professional and wedding shots.


8. Composition

DSCN0244Put a little thought into what will be in the picture. The general idea is to fill the frame with what you love and in this case that means the children normally. Get up nice and close and make sure that the subject takes up a lot of the photo.
If you plan on shooting adults and kids together, try to get down to the same level so that your heads are close in height. Even if you are just shooting the kids you want to get down a little so that you are just slightly above their heads with the camera.

Its always tempting to put the subject in the middle of the photo but it can sometimes be more effective to place the image about 1/3 of the way in from the edge leaving more space on one side. This works really well if there is something else (school sign, tree etc) about 1/3 of the way in on the opposite side to balance it up.


Another idea is to take images that are full body, waist up and also just closer chest up shots so that you have a few options … if you use a proper camera you can often crop the image later to get what you want.

printableProps can help too … decide if you want some with the school hat on, or with the school bag or some books under their arm.

Even a little handwritten sign to indicate the year level or the year. We have made some free printable signs you could use … click here to download them.




9. Take extra shots

If your family are happy, and you have 5-10 mins you should be able to take 20-30 shots of various groups and locations. This will give you lots to choose from so that hopefully you have one where everyone is smiling,  not blinking and that you really are happy with. Getting a great shot from just 1-2 photos is almost impossible for even professionals so keep that in mind.

If you use a real camera, set the mode to continuous shooting and then you can hold the button down and get up to 3 or 4 shots per second (10 on a good camera like the OM-D E-M1) … that way you know that you should get one with everyone looking. Digital photos are free so take more than you need and pick the best.


10. Let Them Review

You will love your photos but especially as the children get older, don’t forget to review your images and ask them if they are happy too … on a camera you can zoom in to check them easily and quickly take another one if you need. Don’t forget tip #1 … if its not right you always have another day to get something you all like.

So this year plan to get some great family pics of back to school that you are happy with. Put 5 mins into planning a location and a time and grab your camera!

Don’t miss these crucial memories to signpost your kids life.

We will be running our School Mum Back to School Gallery if you want to upload yours … stay tuned on the facebook page.



About Author

School Mum

Being a mum to 3 kids (one of them full time at home with me) and trying to juggle everything became pretty crazy.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: 8 Things You Can Check Now Before School Starts.. - School Mum

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.