How to Take Back-to-School Photos

Published on July 27, 2015
Written by Becky Rogers

A professional photographer’s advice for capturing your kids

Kathy Beaver of Kathy Beaver Photography generously offers Simply Appalachian readers a number of tips for taking your own back-to-school photos of your children.

The most important tip is to capture your kids as they are right now. If the photos come out well, you’ll have a keepsake you’ll want to keep forever. And if they don’t, you’ll have time to try again before they grow another couple inches.

The Basics

You don’t need an expensive camera. You can even use your smart phone. But turn your flash off to avoid red eye. Use the ambient light. Earlier in the day or later in the evening are the times of the day with the best natural light for photographs.

Find a place that’s evenly shaded if you’re outside. If you’re inside, don’t shine a light directly on your child; you’ll get unsightly shadows in the photo. To make sure you’re going to get a good, focused shot, look at your child’s eyes through the lens. That will tell you if the light’s good.

Timing Is Everything

You don’t have to take the photo before school starts. In fact, you might be better off waiting until school has already started. Your kids will have their books and everything else from school that you can use as props for the photo. If you can capture what their days are like at this age, that’s a treasure worth keeping.

To that end, don’t have them pose in front of the living room wall. Take a photo of them doing their favorite activity, doing their homework or playing games. Photos that show them doing something, not just standing there, are much more fun and meaningful. Also, let them wear their favorite outfits. The idea is to capture their true essence after all, even if it is a ratty old baseball shirt.

Pay Attention to Details

When taking photos of your kids, get down on their level. Look them in the eyes when you click the photo. After you get those shots, mix it up a little. Find different angles, even overhead as they do their homework. Snap a few full-body photos and a few close-ups, especially if your child has a feature you particularly love, like a ponytail or a peculiar expression.

Pay attention to the whole scene in the photo. Make sure there’s nothing behind them that looks odd, like a plant or lamp that looks as if it’s growing out of your child’s head. You’ll regret it if you don’t notice it until it’s too late. You don’t have to set up everything in the photo perfectly; instead, make sure the scene looks natural. You want to capture real life, not fantasy.

Keepsakes You’ll Adore

After the photo shoot with your kids, explore some photographic apps for post-production. You can find inexpensive filters that can turn your photo into a watercolor painting, a sketch, or something more elaborate. Try a few to create something truly unique.

If you get that perfect shot, consider having it printed and framed as a keepsake. If you get many good photos, you can create a wall collage or even a book of the photos. Services for photo products have proliferated online and even in your local mall.

If this advice seems like too much work, you can always hire a professional photographer. Check out the Simply Appalachian profile on Kathy Beaver’s photography career. She’s an Asheville, NC-based photographer specializing in weddings and high school senior portraits.

Photo credits:,, Skip Hop Zoo Packs