Bah! I'm not paying 100 bucks for shitty school pics - 15 Pro-Tips for Photographing Your Kids Yourself!

It’s September which means, you've probably received the flyer for school picture day!

Honestly, that shit is expensive. I have two children and spend well over $80.00/per child! JUST to get the basic package!? I couldn’t imagine my mother (parent of 5 kids), and the price she paid for terrible school photos. Only to have me go through the attic at 16yrs old and burn every trace of terrible childhood pictures. There is NO WAY I want that shit coming back to haunt me. I had a uni-brow, red hair, freckles.. buck teeth and chubby cheeks! A face only a mom could love at my awkward preteen stage.

Here is a school picture of my niece, and this is after retakes.. YES! Of course my sister bought them…. It was her first year in school and HOW COULD YOU NOT?! The pressure from family and just look at that beautiful smile!!


Looking at the flyer my kids had brought home, they gave such annoying tips.
Here let me share:

Photo Day Tips: Before the Photo Day

  • Aim for a HAIRCUT at least a week before the photo day, this allows hair to grow into a comfortable length for photos. [Why is haircut in capitals? Stop shouting at me! I think my kids look cute with shaggy hair.]

  • Check to make sure your uniform or clothing for photo day is clean and wrinkle free. [Oh, I suppose I’m supposed to own an iron? Is this a mom joke?! Wrinkle free material is all I buy, baby!]

On your Photo Day

  • Wear bright and solid colours for school portraits because it emphasizes your face. [*Puts crossing guard vest on my children.]

  • Wearing long sleeves allows the face to stand out more as well. [Jesus. It’s fucking SEPTEMBER! It was the hottest day of the year only yesterday!]

  • You might want to bring a comb to make sure your hair is perfect right before your picture. [yeah, okay. Cause teachers allow kids to go “prep” themselves before pictures.]

  • If you normally wear glasses, feel free to wear them for your photos. Our photographers are trained to reduce glare on the lens.

Photo Day and Posing

  • Practice your smile and posture in front of a mirror before photo day.

  • Remember to relax and have fun. [OH RIGHT, I forgot how fun it is. Especially with all these anxiety reducing tips!]

I don’t know about you, but no matter how prepared we are for school picture day, my kids come home with the most awkward looking pictures that I REALLY don’t want to spend 100’s of dollars (that I don’t have), on.

So, a few years ago, I decided to ditch the shitty, expensive school pictures, and take them myself! AND EVERYONE LOVED THEM! (My grandparents even wanted some to stick on their fridge (rather than placing them the back of bedroom doors to keep the mice away).

Here’s what I did:

I set out to find a fun photographer to give us some real life tips on how to take better, more cost efficient pictures- that you will actually want! I lucked out and found the talented Katie, from Red Devotion Photography, and she gave me the skinny on taking great photos of our kids.


1. First off, embrace the Rule of Thirds. That means rather that putting your subject right in the middle of the photo, aline your subject with grid guidelines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section.

Photo curtesty of PicMonkey. Learn more about the rule of thirds at

Photo curtesty of PicMonkey. Learn more about the rule of thirds at

Here's my handsome little guy, with and without the rule of thirds applied.

with rule of thirds

with rule of thirds

without rule of thirds

without rule of thirds

2. If you’re using a camera (like, an actual camera, not a phone), stand back and zoom in. This creates depth of filed, which makes your background more blurry and your subject stand out. 

3. If you are using your phone camera, newer phones have a “portrait” option that walks you through taking a picture like a total pro!

4. Don't be afraid to crop some of your subject (ie. Hair, arm.)

5. You want to go for natural reactions! Ask your child to laugh (the fake laugh always turns into a real laugh), ask them to tell a funny joke (they always laugh at their own jokes!) Do a silly face (They laugh after). If they're too young, you can make silly noises to make them have a natural smile.

Notice the difference between the forced smile in the first pic, and the authentic smile in the second.

Notice the difference between the forced smile in the first pic, and the authentic smile in the second.

6. Being able to quickly capture candid moments is another advantage of the iPhone and taking pictures yourself, because you pretty much always have it with you. This means you can whip it out and get those candid natural shots of your children just being themselves. Let's be real, they’re probably pretty used to seeing you with your iPhone anyway so they will just carry on doing what they were doing, while you get awesome candid shots of them.

7. Use natural light wherever possible (near a window, or outside), avoiding the use of flash (which makes everything look flat), and try to get consistent lighting rather than dapples of shadow.

The photo on the left is nice, but has inconsistent lighting. The photo on the right is much more flattering to the subject.

The photo on the left is nice, but has inconsistent lighting. The photo on the right is much more flattering to the subject.

8. Try different angles. Instead of head-on try above and have your child look up at you. If you prefer to shoot straight-on, make sure you squat to their level (This is particularly important with small children). If you take the photo from your normal standing position, you’ll be looking down at the child and get a distorted view of them from above. You will also end up with a bland backdrop of the ground around your child. Shooting from a lower angle allows you to capture a more interesting background behind your subject

9. If shooting multiple children in the same photo, get them to interact with each other. Tell them to make silly faces together, ask them to tell silly jokes!

10. Introduce a prop if you want! Change it up from the traditional photo. (OMG there are tons of great ideas on Pinterest!) If your child has a hobby, plays a sport or has a special interest in something, include it! Children love to dress up and make believe. You can really add something different to your photos by using costumes and props. To enhance imagination, you can use one of the many apps available in the App Store to add to the fantasy that you’re creating in the image!

scrabble pieces as props are adorbs!

scrabble pieces as props are adorbs!

So pretty in natural light!

So pretty in natural light!


11. Take a series of shots. Press and hold your shutter release to take a burst of photos to catch many different reactions quickly! Children are constantly moving, and it’s almost impossible to get them to do what you want them to do. This is particularly true when you’re trying to get action shots. In these circumstances you should use the burst mode feature. If you hold your finger on the shutter button the camera will continue to take shots until you lift your finger.

12. Pay attention to your background (The less the better). Try to avoid busy backgrounds.

13. Focus on the eyes. As the saying goes… “eyes are the windows to the soul” and they are often the most important part of a portrait photo. When shooting portraits of children, try to focus on the eyes. If you get this right it will lift the photo and engage the viewer.

14. Use free Apps to enhance your photos! You don’t even need to be tech savy. One important point to remember when using apps is that no amount of editing will turn a bad photo into a good one. So always make sure that your original photo is well lit and well composed before you start editing it.

15. Most importantly, remember to have fun! Capture the fun that your children are having, but don’t forget to have fun yourself. You want to have fun memories of being with your children, and children being children, as well as fun photos to look back on.

One last thing. Once you've taken your fab photos, you can print really great quality photos, in many different sizes, for a really cheap price, at places like Costco, or even online! You can even make little brag books online for family members as a Christmas gift! However, if you want good quality pictures, you want to avoid the instant picture printing machines.

AMAZING TIPS RIGHT?! Katie has turned my photos from crappy, “ceiling light” pictures, to fantastic- almost professional-photos!!

And HERE is a little surprise for you guys… Katie donated a GIVEAWAY!! A free photo session to one lucky family, (valued over $200!!) To cut the cost of expensive, school pictures!!


You can check her out here:


*Draw will be on October 1st, 2017