School Pictures

We’ve gotten this year’s school pictures for both girls.

The best part of school pictures is updating the 8 x 10 frames on the mantel. Each frame contains a stack, a veritable history of children in school pictures. Once we get over admiring the newest offering, each daughter spends time exclaiming over her long-ago adorableness and the occasional poor fashion choice. Then there is discussion of each photograph’s overall ranking and whether the ranks have changed since the last time they looked.

Way back in nursery school, we’d get some awesome school pictures. I loved the photographer–Dan from Skylight Studio–who managed to charm the kids into real-life smiles. And we could get sibling shots, too, which was completely awesome. They’re still some of my favorite portraits of the girls. I mean, c’mon. Feast your eyes on these adorable children:



When we moved to elementary school, the quality plummeted–bad lighting, fake smiles. First I was shocked, and then I tried to recruit Dan for our elementary school (it didn’t happen), and then I mourned.

And then I got over it. There’s something sort of freeing in acknowledging that the school portrait just isn’t going to be that good. Lucky for me, Cute W takes excellent photos. And I take plenty of pictures, too. Between us, we get some really good ones. So I’ve decided to let go of the whole idea of hoping for excellent and flattering portraits of my children. Instead, the school picture is an historic document, evidence of what the kids are like at school. I no longer attempt to influence wardrobe choices or urge them to braids, because it’s interesting to see what they choose for themselves. And they’re allowed to choose their own background each year. You can’t quite comprehend how great a risk this entails if you haven’t seen the heinous thematic choices: fireworks, tie-dye, exploding colors, city lights. . . .  But if you’re reconciled to the idea that the picture probably won’t be that great, anyway, you don’t have to sweat the fact that the orange sweater is going to clash miserably with the pink-rose-blossom background.

Even if I sneak in by volunteering at the library, it’s pretty much impossible to know the kids’ school selves. So it’s appropriate to cede all control with the school pictures. The only thing truly reliable about the school pictures each year is that J’s hair is going to be messy. That, and that every year, I’m going to be startled by how old the kids are. It never fails.


  1. Claire

    My son had his kindergarten pictures taken last month (I think ours was Skylight studios too). It was a joke! He has this weird looking half-smile on his face. Needless to say, I had them re-taken on re-take day, and I’m hoping for the best. I admit he’s not great at smiling on demand, but a professional photographer should have some strategies to get kids to laugh and smile for photos. (We’ve never had a problem before.) And they can see the picture for themselves and see that it came out terrible; that should be an indicator that they need to try again.

  2. meghan

    Ohhhh school photos are hysterical to look back on! My mom still has all mine 🙂 the silly scrunchies and frilly dresses! and crazy clips in the hair 🙂

  3. Erin T

    We do the same thing (keep the photos in the frames as documentation)! I always debate ceding the real estate occupied by school photos in our living room, but it is such a mark of time’s passage.

  4. Melinda

    We’ve been spoiled by Dan. I’m currently hemming and hawing about whether to even keep the terrible photos that came back from A’s picture day. There’s no such things as a retake day and the kids’ schools only seem to do them every other year here, to boot. Looks like we’ll have to count on our first day of school candids for this year’s school pics! :-/

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