Photo Tips: Back To School

It's the weekend before the chaos of 'back to school'.....the calm before the storm. With full-time 'in school' schooling looking a little uncertain at the moment, the academic year 2020-2021 is one that I am sure our children will remember for along time!


With that in mind, it's a great opportunity to share some 'back to school' photo tips with you so that you can capture your child / children's return to school on camera for our memory books.

1) Aim for some classic AND alternative portraits

Of course a 'classic portrait' is what we are all aiming to capture. The perfect back to school portrait that we can share with family and friends, or print and frame on our walls. Our children may of missed the classic in-school portrait session during the 2019-2020 year so this is your chance to capture it for yourself.

BUT - please don't forget the alternative portraits. The details, the environment, their new shiny shoes, their bag, their hair. The car journey, the walk to school, pictures with their masks on, the first week of school pick ups when they are so tired they can no longer walk to the car. All of these are images and moment worth capturing....and its your job to do this!

2) Staying calm A super stressed mama with a camera is not a fun one. If your school year does not begin the way you hoped....take a breath. On a positive note you have more time / less rush to get these 'first day back' photos done!


If you are heading to school, leave extra time for morning photos. Your children will be full of adrenaline and so will you....keep it light and easy. And if you don't nail the pictures on the first day - aim for later in the week. It's a fact that the first day is quite stressful, so if it's not happening, leave it. Pick your moment. Or....have a dress rehearsal the day before. When the sunset light in your garden is just perfect!

3) Consider your camera Smart phone vs DSLR? If you are planning on printing your images and putting them on your wall, go with the DSLR.


If you want more everyday images just for Facebook, Instagram or to what's app to family, use your phone.


Remember that in the UAE it is still super humid at 7am and your camera will fog up - so pop it outside for 20 minutes beforehand.

4) Head for the light I can absolutely guarantee that you will get better back to school photos outside in your garden / on your balcony / by your front door / in the gardens of your apartment building. So, make a plan and head for the light. Open shade is more even than bright or side lit images.

5) Pose them and then make them laugh

Once you've decided on your perfect background, pose and then unpose. For younger children, twirling, dancing and jumping on the spot work perfectly. For older children, get them talking. What are they excited about today? How are they feeling? Connect with them from behind the camera. Natural smiles and expressions come out when they are feeling relaxed and comfortable and it's your job as the photographer to help them feel this way.

6) Choose your focus point

For portraits you should always have your focus point on the corner of the eye closest to you. On a smartphone you can select your focus point by tapping the screen; on a DSLR you can change the settings from autofocus to manual toggling of your focus point so that you can nail the sharpness more easily.

7) Consider your composition Use either a centrally composed portrait or the 'rule of thirds', depending on the background and how much of that you want to include in the image. Position yourself and your camera at their eye level. It just makes for a more flattering and better composed image.

8) Props? Use them! My friend Harkee over at As They Grow has created some awesome printable signs for your children to hold. Alternatively pick up a small chalkboard; light box or pin board and create your own custom sign if you fancy using a prop.


9) Coming home Your role in documenting the return to school doesn't stop when you drop them off. What about coming home? Think about your daily routine, what has changed, what happens when you get back home. Use your creative thinking to capture this time as well as the obvious.

10) Join my mini photo challenge

I am running a 'back to school' mini challenge on Facebook. 10 days (weekends off) documenting the “new normal” for our children as they return (inshallah) to school in whatever form that might be!


Head here for the link to join the Facebook group. Natalie x


(This article first appeared on The Photo Club UAE blog page in 2018 and has been updated for 2020)

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