Hi everyone! It has been quiet here on the Film Girl in a Digital World blog. As a mom of two little ones, I’ve been busy running “Camp Mom” all summer. Any other moms feel the same way? I am so ready for school to start. I need a break for sure, but more than that, I think my kids need a break from each other! Can anyone say too much together time? A nice break from each other for several hours a day is going to be a welcome change.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, I have started thinking about back to school pictures. I am hoping to have nice weather on back to school day this year so I can get another photo like this one.

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How did I get this shot? A lot of friends asked me about this when I posted my daughter’s back to school photos. Want to know my secret? We woke up super early!! That’s it, that is my magical tip. The earlier you wake up, the softer and prettier the light of day will be. It’s not like we woke up at the crack of dawn, but we did give ourselves an extra half hour to an hour from when we’d normally get up for school. This kept us closer to that soft morning light and also gave us time to make sure we could get good pictures in.

My daughter is usually excited on the first day of school, so it was no problem for us to get up extra early. She got ready and we were able to get our pictures in while breakfast was being made. Having that extra time allows for some fun shots too. Some years she is especially excited to show off a new backpack or lunchbox, so I can have her “model” those for me. It makes for some super cute shots, and I’m sure she will look back at them with fond memories one day.

I usually also try and take a picture when we are really ready to go. As you can see from this shot, the sun is already getting a lot stronger & higher. The advantage to doing this at home is that you can position your kids in a flattering light. Here I’ve placed them with the sun behind them. If they were facing the sun, they’d be squinting, my shadow would be in the picture, and there would be lots of ugly shadows on their faces… eeek! If they have little siblings, this is a good chance to get them into the action as well 😉

Tips for back to school photos, Back to School Photography, Cristina Elisa Photography, Frederick MD school photographer, Middletown MD school photos

As always, I suggest putting your camera in manual mode and setting the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO according to the environment you’re dealing with. Not comfortable with manual mode? For shots like these, I’d try using aperture priority (remember what aperture does by clicking here) and keeping your aperture low. The image of my daughter by herself is shot at f 2.8, both kids together is at f 4 because my son was slightly in front of my daughter. I would have gone lower if they were on the same plane.

Taking the time to wake up early and do this at home is so important because once you arrive at school, it is utter chaos! Kids run to each other because they miss one another, you see parents & faculty you haven’t seen in ages, you’re trying to get all the school supplies in… and EVERYONE wants to take a picture in the same spot! I’m lucky if I can get my kids to cooperate, plus at school, you can’t control the direction of the light. The building is where it is, and the signs are where they are and that’s it. Last year I got this picture of my daughter. I’m so glad I have it, don’t get me wrong, but I ended up having to use a cell phone, she was distracted watching who would drive up next… and that sun! Ooof, it was bright. Not to mention she’s already dishevled from the 15 minute car ride hah!

So, my biggest tip is waking up early. To recap, however –

  1. Wake up early! Allow at least an extra 30 minutes to get some great photos.
  2. Take photos right after getting ready and also just before leaving if you have time.
  3. Use manual or aperture priority mode.
  4. Always take a school shot, even if it’s hectic!!
  5. Bonus tip below.

Don’t worry if it’s a gloomy day and you can’t go outside for your back to school pictures. I’d still get up early and follow the steps above. Just open up a door or use big windows to your advantage while you get some indoor photos.

I have one final bonus tip for you, pick a static object and always take pictures there so you can reference their size. I’ve been using an Adirondack chair, how tiny does my daughter look in this picture compared to the chair? It will be a while before she grows into it for sure, but won’t this be cute to look back on when we are taking 8th grade pictures or H.S pics? Ah!!! I can’t think that far ahead, but just remember, they only get bigger!! She’ll never be this tiny again!

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Cristina Elisa Photography is located in Frederick, MD and specializes in natural light and black and white photography.

Contact Cristina to book your portrait session today!