When it comes to school photographs, we all know their particular function: to act as a reminder of what your child looked like at different stages of his or her upbringing. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the benefits of school photographs often end.
Whilst you can look back at school photographs and get a decent sense of what your child looked like at that age – and, perhaps, what their peers looked like too – the likelihood is that this style of photograph is unlikely to capture more than one tiny snapshot of your child’s school years.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to belittle the art of school photography – it no doubt plays an important function – as it’s better than not having any printed photos of your child’s time at school at all!
But in order to remember other facets of your child’s life, it may well be wise to invest in alternative forms of child photography that go beyond the static school photograph.
When considering what type of photography to invest in aside from the standard school portrait, here are a few key things to keep in mind:
1 – What are your expectations for child photography?
The first question that you should ask yourself when you’re thinking about child photography is: what is my aim? What am I trying to achieve in having this photograph taken?
If your only aim is to merely record the appearance of your child, then perhaps a standard portrait from their yearly school photography day is for you. No judgment there!
But if you do want more – if you want to commemorate your child’s natural smile, their favourite toy, the mischievous face with the twinkle in the eye or the face of excitement – then you need something else.
That’s where investing in a studio portrait or an outdoor session with a family photographer comes in.
2 – What do you get from a studio portrait that you don’t get in school photography?
I often hear on parenting forums that school photos are boring and often dull. Which makes sense, when you think about it, right?
I mean, often these photographers are hired for the day to shoot photos of hundreds of children, back to back. They have a handful of minutes, if not, seconds to capture your child in a timely manner, whilst trying to get in decent portraits of individuals and classes across the entire school. So suffice it to say, the resulting images aren’t going to portray your child in the way you know them best.
When I’m running a child photography portrait session, I let the shoot evolve organically as they’re built around the character of the child. Over almost two decades working as a family photographer at my studio, I’ve learned that even if I have the same plan each time, every experience shooting a child is different as I learn into the child’s character. I play off the dynamic of their energy and go with the flow of that – which allows me to capture more spontaneity than I would if I only had a few seconds with them.
The result? My clients always walk away with more than a handful of beautiful images of their children that they’re proud to print and share with loved ones.
3 – What childhood moments will you miss in between school portraits?
It’s ironic to me that our children are easily the most photographed generation – yet we rarely see printed images of them in our homes. Not only that, but by discouraging parents from sharing photos of their kids on social media from school functions, we’re missing out on everyday moments like prize givings, ceremonies and the like.
To me, a photograph is a powerful tool that can convey an awful lot. A picture can tell a story and it can tell the viewer a lot about the subject. As time goes on, and as the individual changes in appearance and character, the photograph begins to mean more and more, as it develops from the reality into a memory. If you’re a parent then you’ll recognise what I mean.
Childhood changes and goes by so quickly. And if you don’t have a record, it can be easy to forget exactly what your son’s natural cheeky smile was like, or what your daughter’s face looked like as she unwrapped a present.
These are the things that I look to capture in the photo that you don’t often see in a stiff, school photograph. The moments of innocence, discovery, wonder and joy as your child grows are the ones you’ll treasure most as they grow older.
Again, I’m not here to tell you that school photography is all bad – it serves a time-honoured function.
But wherever possible, complementing your child’s photo album with professional photography will help you document the meaningful moments in between once-a-year school photo days.
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About the photographer: Sue is a professional portrait photographer based in Harlow, Essex and she specialises in baby and child portraiture. Being a parent, she understands just how special your child is to you and her aim is to produce a collection of images that are natural and meaningful to your family. No two moments are ever the same and she wants to perfectly capture those early precious memories and the natural character of your child. For more information please call 01279 433392, visit the Sue Kennedy Photography website and follow Sue on Facebook or Instagram.