Tips for Avoiding School Picture Day Disasters
6 mins read

Tips for Avoiding School Picture Day Disasters

School picture day is close at hand, just in time to get good pictures of the kids to give out to relatives at Christmas. 

Like many people, I have been a victim of terrible school pictures… I’m talking about the images that would have been made into Internet memes if the Internet had been around back then (okay, the Internet was around, but no one knew how to use it).

So to help future generations avoid school picture day disasters of their own, I’m here to share my knowledge. With any luck, your kid won’t sneeze or blink, and you’ll have a wonderful image you can frame, share and treasure.


First things first, use a neutral background.  Sure, they have the options of all those colors that will match your child’s beautiful eyes, but what do you want to shine more: the background or your kid?  With a neutral brown or gray background, your child will stand out better.  Not to mention, it’s hard to find a place in your beach-themed living room for a photo with a red or purple background.  


What will they wear?  Thanks to the use of a neutral background, it won’t be hard to make sure your little one is dressed in a complementary color.  Let them wear their favorite nice shirt or sweater, something they will be comfortable in. 

Learning Experience: One year, my mother wanted me to wear a new wool sweater for my picture.  It was literally so hot and itchy that I was red in the face and sweaty (my bangs were matted to my forehead) and my smile was as fake as fake can be because I was downright uncomfortable.

Hair Styling

Make sure your child has a good hair day.  Get their hair cut a week or two before school picture day so they look clean cut while still giving it time to grow out a little and look natural.  The night before, have them wash and style their hair.  For the lucky girls with curly hair, it’s a good idea for them to wet their hair the morning off and style it with the help of a diffuser attachment on a hair dryer.  Avoid the ponytail or any slicked back, stuck to the head looks.

Learning Experience: I had school pictures right after a great game of P.E. basketball.  My curly hair was frizzed up in all kinds of ways so I soaked it in the sink and put it in a ponytail.  The effect?  I looked bald as the day I was born in my school picture.  Not to mention, my nose was still sweating so my glasses managed to slide down to the tip of my nose… I looked like an old man.  Eeeexcellent!


Is your daughter old enough for makeup?  If you have a tween, here’s a good plan – convince her to let you do her makeup and go for a natural look. Use a little bit of sheer powder, a hint of shadow and mascara, and maybe some lip gloss. 

Learning Experience: I’ve never had an issue with applying too much makeup, but for some reason, I was determined not to have dark circles under my eyes for my sixth grade picture.  I broke into my mom’s makeup and used yellow concealer and highlighter and essentially pasted those on.  Talk about a great look. 

Safe Lunch Packing

Don’t forget to pack a safe lunch.  This is especially important for small children prone to spilling and kids with braces.  Aim for foods that won’t stick in teeth.  Here is my NO WAY list of picture day foods: Broccoli, spinach, celery, orange, corn on the cob, chips, chocolate anything, concord grape juice, popcorn, and black bean soup.

Learning Experience: School pictures were right after snack time one year.  My mom had packed me a super healthy orange, and I didn’t think a thing of it until we got the pictures, and there were pieces of orange sticking out from between all of my teeth.  This happened to also be the same day I had on the above mentioned wool sweater.  What a great year…

Special Instructions

Give your child specific instructions.  Have them remove their glasses so the flash doesn’t obscure their beautiful eyes.  Tell them to smile with their teeth.  You might even give them something funny to think about so you can capture their real smile.  And remind them not to look into the light, which often leads to squinting and sneezing, two common school photo mishaps.

Learning Experience: From first grade until fifth grade, I amassed a collection of the most super-cool glasses you could imagine.  I mean, these things practically allowed my cheeks and forehead to see, and they came in great colors like red and hot pink.  I switched it up in fifth grade and got Harry Potter glasses because he was just the coolest.  The first couple years, my school photos were a running record of my stylish eyewear.  Finally, my parents gave me the instructions to take my glasses off so they could see my eyes.  It would have been the best picture ever… except that this happened to be the year of the concealer and highlighter conundrum.

The moral of the story? School pictures are stressful but with a little preparation and foresight, you can wind up with a cute snapshot of your little angel. And if not, well there’s always next year!

Now that I’ve shared my embarrassing photo stories, it’s your turn.  What was the worst school picture you ever took?

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