I am already mentally preparing myself for that first day.
Despite planning the night before, that morning will be rough.
We'll rush around the house, trying to get ourselves ready in a timely fashion. My normally calm voice will suddenly take on the tone of an impatient drill sergeant as I constantly glance at my watch and the time quickly ticks by.
Once the final bowl of Cheerios is gone and the backpacks are packed, I'll grab my camera and the eye rolling will begin.
What would the first day of school be like without a "first day" photo?
Every year, we go through the ritual.
When the girls were little, they were thrilled to step in front of the camera. Not so much now. However, thanks to our agreeable youngest, the oldest begrudgingly agree to participate.
I'll take the obligatory first day photo and we'll head off to school.
By the end of the day, my Facebook feed will be filled with the smiling faces of the children I see regularly and those I only see on occasion. Many will have grown what seems like 6 inches since I last saw them.
In light of this annual ritual, I thought I'd share some simple ways to improve those first day photos. The best part is that they are all free.
1. Set your camera out the night before.
The first day tends to sneak up on us and in our quest to have lunch prepared, clothes picked out and everything else ready, it's easy to forget about taking the first day photo. Make sure you have your camera battery charged, loaded and in a convenient location so you are ready to take the image before heading to school.
2. Make sure your child's back is to the sun.
If they are facing the sun, there's a good chance they will be squinting. Your photo may also be slightly overexposed.
3. Declutter your background.
The focus should be on your child, not the car in the driveway (or if you're inside, the dishes on the counter...lol). Remove anything that will distract the viewer from the subject (your child). If you can't do that, move your child or get at a higher or lower angle when you take the photo.
4. Turn on your flash.
A flash on a sunny day? Sadly, your camera wants to expose for the brightest thing in your photo (the sun) which means if you don't use a flash as a fill light, your children will be dark like in the photo below . Even point-and-shoot cameras usually have an option to manually turn on the flash, so does your phone. The photo at the top of the post? An on-camera flash. It's a little thing that makes a huge difference.
5. Don't expect perfection.
As much as I love taking first day photos, I realize the girls are all a little anxious about meeting their new teachers and seeing who is in their class. They aren't as relaxed as usual and the photos usually show it. I'm not aiming for a Pulitzer, I'm just documenting a time in their life. It goes by quickly.
*Note: Is last year's photo perfect? No. I literally had about 5 minutes to get this image made. Had I more time, I would have put the girls at the bottom of the steps and shot down to crop out the driveway in the back. I would have done some post-processing ... I would have... I would have.... Reread #5 and have an awesome year!