5 easy ways to photograph back-to-school memories

  • back to school photo by Tiffany Kelly 1

It’s almost time for school to start!

Who is rejoicing with me?!

My daughter adores pre-school and I miss our little school-day routine. I’m so excited for her to get back to school with her friends and I can’t wait to see what she learns this year.

Let’s chat about five easy and fun ways to document this joyous back-to-school time!

1. Say it with chalk!

I love using signs in milestone photos for things like the first day of school! You can either write on a chalkboard (chalk markers are so fun!) or be lazy like me and just write on the blank sign using the text tool in Photoshop. I think this will be so awesome to look back on this series of photos after a few years. If your little one decides to be silly with the sign like mine did, just roll with it and then have some fun in Photoshop later!

first day of pre-k picture with chalkboard by Tiffany Kelly 2

2. Capture new school details

New shoes, new backpack, new lunchbox, new supplies? Capture it all! Just think of how these things will change over the years as your children grow and their tastes and favorite characters change. My daughter is in part-time pre-k so she doesn’t need a “real” backpack, but when she starts kindergarten I love the idea of taking a photo of her wearing her new backpack. I am sure she will look so tiny in comparison! Make sure you get in close and really capture the details of new shoes and fresh school supplies. And if your kiddo is like mine and loves her new lunchbox so much that she keeps hugging it, make sure you capture that too 🙂

new shoes and lunchbox picture by Tiffany Kelly

girl holding her new school lunchbox by Tiffany Kelly

a girl and her Sophia the First school lunchbox by Tiffany Kelly

3. Document their handwriting

This is another  thing what will change drastically in these early years. I love the idea of having your child write their name at the beginning of each school year. Even how they hold their crayon or pencil is a little detail that will certainly change from year to year.

girl writing with an orange crayon by Tiffany Kelly

box of crayons by Tiffany Kelly

girl drawing on paper by Tiffany Kelly

4. Capture back to school traditions

Do you have any fun back to school traditions?  Maybe you have a special breakfast that morning or go out for milkshakes after school? These special traditions are certainly worth documenting! I haven’t yet decided what to do this year but you can bet I will take photos of it. If you have ideas for a fun back-to-school tradition please let me know in the comments!!

5. Create a classic headshot

I love the idea of taking a close-up, classic headshot every year as they start a new school year. Just think of how much they will change from year to year, and how incredible it will be to compare these portraits over the years. My daughter actually missed BOTH picture days at school last year, so this is my version of the DIY school portrait 🙂 Try to find a blank neutral backdrop for this photo – I simply used my wall in my dining room. I tend to like flat, non-dramatic light for these types of traditional photos, so I opened all the shades and let in the bright afternoon sun.

simple headshot of child by Tiffany Kelly

I think these images would make for an amazing album, along with photos of school celebrations and her artwork from the school year!


About the Author:

Tiffany is a portrait and fine art macro photographer who lives near Atlanta GA with her amazing husband, two adorable daughters, and one loyal rescue pup. She loves finding beauty in the mundane and capturing little details.


  1. Christina Aug 06 2015 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    I love all of these ideas!! As my oldest is starting kindergarten in about a week, I’m looking for creative ways to capture her first day. I didn’t think to capture images of all the new school supplies, clothing, etc. Thanks for sharing!

    • Tiffany Aug 17 2015 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      thank you so much! I hope you have a great time capturing your daughter’s first day! <3 Kindergarten is big one!!

  2. Bethany Aug 06 2015 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Great ideas…especially love the writing their name one!

    • Tiffany Aug 17 2015 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      Thank you! I so love her imperfect little writing!

  3. Beth Alon Aug 06 2015 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    I really need to start doing this!! I love your tips! Thanks for posting the great information and your daughter is adorable!!

  4. Jessica Aug 06 2015 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Fabulous info, Tiffany! LOVE this! The images are stunning as well. I have one going into 2nd grade, one starting kindergarten, and one starting preschool. I plan to incorporate all of these tips!! Now I am feeling guilty that my 2nd grader will not have as many memories as my younger kids!!

    • Tiffany Aug 17 2015 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      Thank you Jessica! Well it’s never too late to start capturing these things and I am sure you have plenty of other photos of your older kiddos 😉

  5. Meredith Bernard Aug 06 2015 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Love these ideas, Tiffany! I’m going to do this, this year!! <3 Thank you friend. And I have no tradition…we do well to get to school on time with something in our belly. So, I’ll be thinking on this one. 😉

    • Tiffany Aug 17 2015 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks Meredith! Yeah I am thinking the tradition will either be night BEFORE, or afternoon AFTER school starts haha! We will probably be mad dashing to get to school on time too 🙂

  6. Amy Aug 06 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    Wonderful tips, Tiffany! Thank you for sharing these! I’ve never thought to photograph their handwriting!

    • Tiffany Aug 17 2015 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks Amy! I seriously love her imperfect little writing!!

  7. Jenn Aug 07 2015 at 2:49 am - Reply

    These are such great ideas – you have totally inspired me Tiffany!

  8. Amanda Aug 07 2015 at 7:51 am - Reply

    Tiffany, these are great! I have been okay about checking off a few of these over the years, but this year I really want to be intentional about creating traditions, as now all three of mine will be in school for the first time! It’ll be pretty crazy, but I don’t want to miss a detail! Your little girl is so adorable!!!

    • Tiffany Aug 17 2015 at 1:09 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much! So exciting to have all three of yours starting school! I know you will capture some great memories for them! <3

  9. Stephanie Rawcliffe Aug 07 2015 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    You’re so talented. I love every bit of this article. Can you come shoot my boys getting ready for their first day?

    • Tiffany Aug 17 2015 at 1:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much! Yeah, I bet your oldest would LOVE me following him around and photographing his backpack hehe 🙂

  10. Christie Wingo Aug 08 2015 at 12:24 am - Reply

    Tiffany, these are fantastic! Can’t wait to try some of these!

  11. Julie Brack Aug 12 2015 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Love these ideas Tiffany! I just took the classic first day of school pics for my 5th, 8th grader this am, but may have to take more! Love the chalkboard idea in PS too.

  12. Tiffany Aug 17 2015 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Thank you! Definitely try to capture some details if you can! <3

  13. Sam Sep 04 2015 at 11:26 am - Reply

    Great ideas beautifully executed. I can’t wait to get started!

  14. Laura Aug 03 2016 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    Love this!! I was just looking for something to do for the first day! Can i ask you what font you used on the first one with the writing on it?! Thank you!!

    • Tiffany Kelly Aug 11 2016 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      Thank you! I don’t remember offhand, but I know eraser is one that I use for chalkboards. Sketch block and return to sender are another couple good ones!

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