The trouble with school pictures

The trouble with school pictures {Heather's Handmade Life}

Photographers who take school pictures, why do you hate us? Parents, I mean.

I understand taking school pictures probably isn’t easy — and that you have a lot of sticky children to usher through your lineup, probably on a tight timeline in between lunch and gym. But if a child has a big juicy drop of milk at the corner of their smile, would it be so hard to ask them to wipe it away? (Apparently, yes.)

I’m sure all those little forced smiles — full of missing teeth and awkward half-grown-in teeth with sawed edges — start to look the same after a while, and you just keep snapping away without fully noticing.

Also, do you . . . do you even try to make them smile?

Judging from the slew of uncomfortable half-smiles and flat-out grimaces staring out at me this year, in the school pictures I’ve seen, I think you may be freaking them out. Are you using disturbing finger puppets? Showing them YouTube clips of the scary clown from Stephen King movie, It?

The trouble with school pictures {Heather's Handmade Life}
In her school picture, our daughter is certainly NOT “smizing,” as Tyra Banks would say.
But this isn’t about the (really ineffective) tactics you are using to try to eek out smiles. This is about what my kids wear (or were supposed to wear) for school photos.

I had such good intentions! When our son was in Primary, I dressed him in a solid blue collared button-down for his first-ever school picture. It was a fabulous shade of blue and he took a great photo. He was quite the charming little Sears model in those days.

(Husband adamantly refused to let me enter him in pageants. Still kind of sorry I didn’t do it secretly. I would have definitely ended up turning into a crazy pageant mom).

Anyway, I had a fantastic (psychotic) plan that I would dress him in a different colour each year, on school picture day, and eventually I’d have a wall of framed school photos that looked like a rainbow of parental joy and OCD tendencies. It was going to be awesome.

In Grade 1, I dressed him in a solid red button-down shirt. Another wonderful photo. Everything was still coming up Heather! I could visualize my beautiful rainbow gallery, and started thinking maybe hunter green would be the colour for Grade 2.

But wait! There’s more! Our daughter started school this year, and I thought I’d follow the same insane plan. She could wear red for her Primary photo, blue for Grade 1, etc. and then they’d MATCH. And years from now, when we looked back at their elementary school photos, we’d automatically know which grade they were in for a particular photo — based on the colour of their shirt. Genius!

Of course, the beginning of the school year is always chaotic and tiring. School photos were scheduled for the sixth day of school, and I was running out of time. I realized the night before that I’d never gotten it together to sew a solid green collared button-down shirt for our son, or a solid blue collared dress for our daughter. Noooooo! 

Dejected and resigned to my failure, I rushed around laying out second-rate outfits that would officially ruin my theme. 

Our daughter wore a light purple blouse — no collar, and the fabric had tiny white flowers. I mean, it wasn’t even a solid colour! I did stay up late making two tiny light purple hairbows to match, so at least there was that. Purple would be her official Primary colour. 

Our son wore a charcoal grey top without a collar, and it had thin white stripes running across it horizontally. Who was I, even?! Oh well, I thought desperately, at least “grey” will be his colour this year. I could live with that. And I could always get back on track next year!

They rushed off the bus that afternoon waving their photo proofs, and I held my breath to see the options. I had to laugh when I saw that our school photo “streak” was officially over.

Our son’s smile was decent, but he was wearing the blue hoodie he’d worn to school that morning — the hoodie intended to be taken off once he was out of the cold September air — and it covered all but two inches of his grey shirt. Fail.

Our daughter was staring at off into the distance blankly with her lips parted in what could not actually be described as a smile — I’d call it “wary confusion.” (The matching bows did look great, though, so they were worth the missed sleep.)

Of course, I ordered the usual photo packages ($40/kid) and will hang them proudly. We may not have photos of two beaming, colour-coordinated children this year, but my “plan” was crazy and it’s probably for the best that it was ruined.

These photos are imperfectly perfect and I’m so glad to have them. Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll go wild and let them choose their own — no, sorry, I can’t even pretend that will happen. 

The trouble with school pictures {Heather's Handmade Life}
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4 Comments on “The trouble with school pictures

  1. lol I HATE school pictures. They are overpriced, terrible pictures of the my children that I somehow feel compelled to buy… and then stick in a drawer.


    • Agreed! I can’t imagine NOT buying them, as terrible as they are, because I do like to look back on my own (awkward) school pictures.


  2. Oh boy. Since Kerry does this for a living I disagree with the school pic hate as I have knowledge of the other side of things. Too many to recount here. But I’ll address one. I challenge you to take photos of 200 to 300 children in one day. Don’t forget lunch break. These kids don’t know you. Why should their smile be as natural with a astranger as with you.


    • Also Kerry and many school photographers take awesome pics in often trying circumstances with major time constraints. Don’t forget you’ll need extra time for the children with needs. Parents of these kids appreciate the extra time taken and often comment on how it was the best school photo ever of their child. So don’t insult an entire profession without thinking of the entire picture. And if you are not happy THERE IS ALWAYS A RETAKE DAY. if you go that route find a way to let the photographer know why a retake is requested. It’s not always obvious. There. Rant over


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