Summer has flown by once again. After a few months of carefree days playing in the pool, it’s time to jump back into the routine and gear-up for another year of school.

And of course, you are going to want to have your camera ready!

But how do you tell the story of a new school year in pictures? How do you speak to the events of the back-to-school routine and make these photos stand out from the everyday?

One of my favorite ways to define special occasions, including back-to-school, is to add simple props. These don’t need to break the bank or distract from the kids. Rather, they are simple additions that add context for my audience and allow me to communicate clearly what makes these photos special.

This list includes items that you likely already have around the house and are easy to add to the mix. Try adding them to your back-to-school photos to document the moment and capture the memories.


I remember it like it was yesterday. The day I got my first backpack for my first day of Kindergarten.

It had Rainbow Brite on it and as soon as I brought it home I filled it with my favorite stuffed animals and a bag of cookies (because what else could I possibly need at school?!). I felt like such a big kid as I skipped around the house with it on my back.

And I absolutely love watching my own kids with their carefully selected backpacks each new school year. They speak to their ages, stages, and personalities. Having that new backpack signals the beginning of a new year of learning and adventure. We take a photo of each kid with his/her backpack every year and it’s one of my favorite photo traditions.


rainbow brite backpack

This little backpack looks a lot like my backpack from all those years ago and the nostalgia makes me smile! Having the characters that your kids love at this age and stage is a great way to remember what they were into at this age and is sure to make them smile as they head off to school.

reversible sequin backpack

I love this reversible sequin backpack with it’s rainbow of colors and mesmerizing sequins that help keep little hands busy while riding the bus.

herschel backpack

For the older kids, this Herschel Supply Co. backpack is a great option. It’s simple and classic and incredibly durable. This means that it will survive a year of heavy books and being thrown into a locker.

pencils back to school kellie bieser cmblog


Notebooks and pencils and glue sticks and erasers might not seem like photo-worthy subjects on the surface. However, school supplies are such a part of a new school year and these items open the door for some creative photo opportunities.

Try taking your camera to the store and photographing your kids choosing their supplies from their list. Or maybe get a shot of your child writing his/her name on the front of a notebook (because there is nothing cuter than little kid writing!). Or you could even create a flat lay or still life scene with all of the supplies! Test your creativity and see how you can be inspired by seemingly mundane objects.


Number 2 pencils are a standard on school supply lists everywhere and lend themselves well to all kinds of different photos. Whether it be your little one writing her name on a piece of paper or a macro shot of all those perfectly pointy sharpened ends, you should have these on your back-to-school photo list!

composition notebook

Composition notebooks are another classic school supply for the older kids and a great way to signal the start of school for your resident high schooler. A stack of these on a table with his name on the cover or a bunch of them clutched in her hands as she gets ready for her first day of Freshman year  is a great way to add an extra layer of storytelling to your photographs.

stack of books

Whether it’s Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! or a high school literature classic, photographing the books that your children will encounter in school is a creative way to depict their ages and stages. Stack them high and make them a little stool or have them piled high on the table…you can be creative here!

apple on head back to school photo kellie bieser cmblog


I am pretty sure no one gives an apple to the teacher anymore, but apples are still seen as a symbol for school. They are produce of the season and are a great way to add a little extra sign of the start of school.

You could set-up an adorable lifestyle portrait of your child at a desk with an apple on it. You could have your child actually take an apple to his/her teacher and document the event. Or you could play with the alphabet and make an “A is for apple” still life.

It’s a simple, inexpensive item that can add just the right touch of back-to-school to make your photos special.

school building little boy in front of school doors kellie bieser

The school building

The school building itself is a great prop to signal the start of the school year! Whether it’s a new building for your child this year or the same one he/she has attended for years, incorporating it into your photos is a great way to highlight the event of back-to-school.

To create an amazing series over the course of your child’s school career, try picking a place (like the front doors of the school) and taking a photo there every year. It is a memorable way to document his/her growth and include the place where so much of that growth happens.

Also try to photograph the entire building and a sign with the name of the school on it. I know that my elementary school is no longer standing and to have a photo to show my own kids would be so special! These contextual photos can add to the back-to-school story and make it that much richer.

back to school sign kellie bieser cmblog


No one says that you have to be subtle when documenting the first day of school. You can spell out all the details of your child’s first day with a cute sign!

I really love my letterboards because I can use the same one for all five of my kids. But the options for cute back-to-school signs are really endless! You could use a chalkboard, a canvas, or even a piece of paper in a simple frame.

Include the information that is important in marking the occasion: your child’s name, the year, your child’s grade, the teacher’s name, and anything else that you deem important as he/she embarks upon a new year at school.


Felt letter boards are kind of trendy these days and I AM HERE FOR THE TREND! They are nostalgic and sweet and I love that when you are done using them for your back-to-school photo, they can go on the wall with cute sayings for your home.

These little back-to-school chalkboard signs are super cute and I love the idea of a series of images from kindergarten to high school with the same sign. You can give all the details for a first day while also watching your little one grow and change!

kids easel

I love kids’ handwriting and I think it is such a sweet way to show an age and stage (give me all the backwards S’s!). That’s why I love the idea of using a kid’s easy for back-to-school photos. Have your student write her name, age, grade, teacher, the year, and anything else that helps you remember the occasion.

No matter how you choose to document the back-to-school season, the most important thing is that you have your camera out. Whether your child is heading to her first day of preschool or he is going to be a senior in high school, these are days you will want to remember. The details will fade from your memories too fast.

So work with intention in telling the story of back-to-school and include items that make that story richer. I can’t wait to see how you use these items and if you have more great back-to-school prop suggestions, be sure to share them below!