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How to Take Better First Day of School Photos :: Photography Tips

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Please welcome one of our favorite photographers, Rennai Hoefer of ten22 studio! Rennai is going to be sharing photography tips with us on a regular basis here on the blog. I know I need all the tips I can get, so I can’t wait to see what she shares with us!

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Summer is winding down and school will be starting soon (or has started depending where you live), which means lots of back to school photos in your social media feeds and on your own cameras and phones! Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you capture the moment and make the most out of your camera and phone images:


Choose good lighting. Whether you shoot in auto (I’ll forgive you, since I haven’t talked about settings yet) or in manual mode, your optimal lighting for back to school shots will be in open shade. Let’s face it, school doesn’t start during the golden hour of photography and it’s hot out there, so open shade is going to be your best bet. Have your kids stand just within the shade, facing outward toward the open sky. This can be done in your entryway, under a porch, in a courtyard as pictured, or under a tree as long as the shade is even and not dappled on your children’s faces (hint: have their backs toward the sun under a tree or shrub to avoid sunspots). Don’t be afraid to get in close also, you want to see those beautiful faces more than those beautiful new shoes anyway.

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If you have to choose, don’t compromise good lighting for a pretty background, which can be tempting. While having a great location and great light is ideal, choosing a background in full sun leads to harsh shadows, squinted eyes and a not as flattering capture. (SEE BELOW) The same can be said for too dark a location, which can be underexposed and lower image quality.

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Camera Phone Tips

Use a Photo App. Get an app that allows you to separate your exposure from your focal point, like this one from VSCO Cam. Leave the focus on your kiddos and move the exposure point around in your camera until you find the perfect exposure for your image.

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Above, I thought the kids’ skin was a little over exposed when I left my focus and exposure together, so I separated them and chose a brighter part of the image to darken my exposure a bit.

VSCO Cam has lots of further tweaking options and tons of filters you can add to your image and change the opacity on for a more or less extreme edit.

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Lastly, it doesn’t matter if your kids have already started school or not, you can still get the first week, or first month of school captured. The point is to record this time in their lives, not to reach perfection, so don’t stress if you “missed the moment.” I hope these tips come in handy, and you have a great start to a new school year!

August 13, 2013

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  1. Tina Dahl says:

    These tips are FABULOUS….thanks so much Rennai and Kim! Our kids start school this Monday so I will for sure use these tips 🙂 Thanks again.

  2. Tina Dahl says:

    P.S. Tommy and Kate are SO cute and looking so grown up 🙂

  3. Chrystal says:

    Do you have camera app suggestions for android?

  4. Jessica says:

    Great tips!! I especially love the reminder about still taking the “back to school” photo whether you missed getting to capture it on the actual first day!! The first week or first month is a great alternative.

  5. Gigi says:

    So helpful. Thank you. Specially about the app because I take so many pictures with my phone.

  6. Joanna M. says:

    These are great tips! I love that it incorporated an app option. There’s so many to choose from, so it’s nice to have a recommendation of one to download.

  7. Fara says:

    Great tips for back to school or any other occasion. Thanks so much! This year I decide to make a printable of “My first day at…” I wish I had think of it sooner. It’s a great tradition.
    Kim, if you are interested in it I can translate it to English and you can share it with your readers.
    Big hug,


  8. Lindsey says:

    Love this! Looking forward to more tips. 🙂

  9. Oh my goodness Kim! They are so grown up! It’s just amazing to watch everyone’s kids growing up (online) over the years:)

  10. shelly says:

    I love your daughters backpack. Can you tell me where you got it

  11. Easton Rimer says:

    Hey Rennai, thank you for this informational tip, thought of having some snaps of our children.


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