We are so excited to introduce to you one of our favorites of all time, Chelsea Davis of Chelsea Davis Photography. Chelsea is a mom, blogger, amazing photographer and a real life friend of ours. She truly has a gift when it comes to photography and we have been blessed to learn from her. We could not be more thankful to her for being apart of MWOA today!
Whether it’s their first day of MDO or their senior year of high school, your child’s first day of school is quite the milestone. Regardless of what grade or how many times you’ve gone through this tradition, I know it can be hard to watch your baby hop out of the safety of your home and down the halls to their new classroom. It’s exciting and gut-wrenching all in the same breath. So in an effort to freeze time and keep them little as long as possible, I have put together some tips for capturing these special memories through photographs.
1. Plan ahead. The first day of school can be chaotic, stressful, and — let’s be honest — a bit emotional. You’re all over the place, getting things washed, prepped, packed, and ready to go while battling a slurry of feelings. A little pre-planning can make things easier on yourself, so charge your camera equipment well in advance and make sure memory cards have plenty of free space on them. Put your camera in your purse or in an easy-to-find spot so you can snap photos whenever you feel inspired. Also, consider making a shoot checklist of the images that you’d like to get and any details you want to capture so that you are certain to photograph every sweet bit of their first day.
2. Practice makes perfect. Make sure you get to know your camera before ‘go time’. Find the settings that feel most comfortable for you, and practice taking photos with these settings. Shooting outside is great for lighting, but there isn’t a lot of natural light inside most schools and that can make taking photos inside your child’s classroom tricky if you aren’t used to shooting in those conditions. If there’s a window or glass door, position your child close to it to take advantage of that natural light. Try increasing your camera’s ISO if the room is dark and be sure to fully utilize any light source available by positioning your child close to that light. Another great way to get some practice before the first day of school is snapping photos at meet the teacher night, where the conditions will be very similar to their first day.
3. Start a tradition. A fun way to capture your child on their first day of school is to recreate the same photo year after year so you can compare the photos as your kiddo grows. To do that, it helps to be consistent with the location; a reliable spot to shoot is your front doorstep or another pretty place in/near your home. Using the same props or accessories is also key, whether it’s a small chalkboard with that school year’s details written on it or your child’s backpack and lunch box resting at their feet. Be sure to keep your camera settings consistent as well, shooting with similar focal length and settings each time.
4. Let your child participate. Some kids are ALL ABOUT having their photo taken, and some would rather run screaming in the opposite direction. Trust me, I know 🙂 If you let your child participate in some way — picking out their school clothes, packing their backpack, or helping with the props/accessories you are going to shoot with — it should help them feel more involved and excited about documenting their special day. I also recommend talking about these photos in advance so your child knows what’s coming and can prepare themselves! Do some test shots in the days leading up to the first day of school and practice positioning them where you want them to be so it’s not a completely new experience for them. If you’re brave, hand over your camera and let them snap some photos of you so they feel like they are part of the fun, because that’s what it should be, fun!
5. Make it personal. There are so many creative ways to make these photos personal to your kiddo. If you opt to create a sign with that school year’s details as I mentioned above, have your child do the writing (name, age, grade) so you can preserve that adorable little detail before it changes (I love kid handwriting!). Include their favorite toy in the photo, have them wear their favorite color, or let them make their ‘silly face’ for a photo or two. Having your child put their special touch on the day will also allow you to document who they are right now, which makes it really neat to see how their fashion, interests, and personality change over the years.
6. Include the littlest littles. If your school-age child is leaving a younger sibling at home while they start this new chapter, try to include them in the process as well. Snap a photo of the kids together before school and be sure to capture the little one’s excitement as big brother/sister arrives home from their first day. Sit back (with your camera, of course!) and watch them talk about the details together over an after school snack. Not only does it make for some adorable photos, but it also helps the younger kid(s) feel part of all the excitement while getting them thinking about their future first day of school too.
7. It’s in the details. If you’re like me, you can get consumed in photographing the little things, and I say there’s nothing wrong with that! Again, make sure you have a lot of memory card space and start shooting anything that is special to your child’s first day of school experience. I love the story-telling aspect of photography, so I recommend starting early in the day to capture your child’s morning routine (breakfast, getting ready for school, putting on their backpack). Shoot a close-up of their perfectly laid out clothes, their monogrammed backpack, their shiny new lunch box with theneat little lunch (and note!) you packed. If your kiddo rides the bus, snap some photos of them climbing up the steps and smiling out at you from the window. If you are lucky enough to get to walk your little one into school, photograph their name tag on their locker, their freshly sharpened crayons, and keep shooting as they find their way to their desk. You may risk looking or feeling like a member of the paparazzi but if it’s important to you, then photograph it!
8. Join in on the fun. Be sure to get a photo with your child and their teacher on the first day of school, but don’t skip out on all the fun yourself. Jump in there and get in a photo too! As moms, we oftentimes find ourselves behind the camera rather than in front of it and these special moments are the perfect time to be a part of the action, even if only for one photo. I will even go so far as to tell you to snap a quick selfie with your iPhone if you have to, so long as you get a snapshot of you with your baby/babies — I don’t care how it’s done, just do it! You will cherish those photos like you wouldn’t believe, even if you are sporting your favorite pair of yoga pants and baseball hat. I promise.
9. Don’t be afraid to be a spectator. I know it may be easier to imagine yourself right in the middle of the action, capturing Pinterest-worthy detail shots at every turn, but taking on more of a spectator role can yield some pretty incredible images too, and it can make your child feel a little more relaxed and at ease as they embark on this new and exciting experience. This is particularly true for the older kids who don’t usually want their parents snapping 100 photos of them on their way in to school (soooo not cool, Mom!). To be able to capture close-up shots without having to physically be so close, consider using a zoom lens or even a fixed lens with a longer focal length. You can get nice depth of field (aka blurry background) in these photos and experience some great candid moments that will help really tell the story of your child’s first day from an interesting and unique perspective.
10. Be in the moment. I can’t emphasize this enough. Photos can be so precious, but if your child is feeling too anxious or excited and is finding it hard to cooperate and enjoy the experience, put the camera down. Likewise, if you can’t see through the viewfinder of your camera because of the pools of tears welling up in your eyes, or if your hands are shaking with nerves, put the camera down. Seriously. It’s okay. It’s far more important to be present for your child and go through this milestone together than to risk not experiencing it. If you can do both — shoot and be in the moment — then that’s fantastic. But please choose the latter if faced with the decision. As a mom and photographer, I am constantly battling this dilemma but I always put my camera away or hand it over to someone else if it means I can be fully present in whatever it is I am doing, especially where my child is concerned. Remember, you can always recreate the “first day of school” tomorrow, or later in the week when things have calmed down a bit. The backpack, name tags, and crayons will still be there and you will probably get a lot more smiles out of your kiddo after they’ve settled in 🙂 After all, who is really going to be able to tell the difference between the ‘first day’ of school photo and a ‘first week’ of school photo anyway??