7 Tips for Photographing the First Day of School

Simple and professional tips to help you take the best pictures of your child's first day at school

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You’ve managed to capture your child’s first steps on film. You have photos of her leaving her first tooth for the Tooth Fairy and there’s probably a recording of her first word somewhere, too. Now, as your child prepares for an exciting new stage, it’s time to capture her first day of school. For budding photographers, here are a few tips from the pros on how to snap great digital pictures of that big new first.

1. Pre-focus your camera.

With most people using digital cameras these days, photographer Mark Burstyn suggests pre-focusing to help get the perfect shot. “Hold down the shutter button half way and the focus will lock,” says Burstyn. “That way you can just snap the picture.” This comes in handy when capturing kids on the run.

2. Candid is best.

Your child’s first school day is one full of activity and excitement, so to fully capture the experience keep your shots candid rather posed. “Stay in the background,” says Burstyn. “Your kids are always interacting [and those would be the best moments to capture].” Fellow photographer Michael Alberstat agrees. “For kids, it’s best to set them off to do their own thing and snap shots when they don’t know. That’s when you get the best stuff.”

3. “Keep [your kids] backlit…

With the sun coming over their heads rather than from behind the camera,” Burstyn suggests. This will ensure photos are properly lit.

4. Keep shooting!

With digital cameras, you’re free to take as many pictures as you want and go through them later on. “Look though the lens and shoot as you see stuff happening,” says Burstyn. Resist the urge to delete blurry shots on the camera and do so when you’re editing them on your computer later, this way you won’t miss great photo opportunities while you’re busy deleting.

5. Take a variety of shots. 

“[Shoot everything] from prepping their stuff the night before, their first lunch, getting new clothes, packing their backpack,” suggests Alberstat. “Do it as a documentary. You want to document the small things you might forget down the road… and then try using [a computer program like] iPhoto and doing a “First Week of School’ album.”

6. Look for interesting backgrounds. 

“When I do personal shots, I try to show cars in the background and stores and such, as they make interesting photos to look back on,” says Alberstat. “Things that we see everyday now, 20 years down the road are going to be really interesting to see. When your kids grow up and they look back at these photos they can say “wow, the cars were so different back then’ or “I can’t believe you put me in that outfit’.”

7. Use props when you can

“Use their knapsack or their lunch bag or their new school supplies,” suggests Alberstat. “Give them a task, say “I need you to put together all your school supplies and pack your knapsack’ and take pictures while they’re doing that. The best shots with kids are when they’re doing something.”

Let your camera lens be an extension of your own eyes to capture memorable moments as they happen. Take pictures leading up to your child’s first day and as she comes home will grab the full experience giving you photographic memories for years to come.

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