Back to school - Photographing for Storytelling


So this is a little late. Or  really early depending on how you look at it! All kids have pretty much gone back to school already. But you can bookmark this for next year!

Back to School, or in our case this year - the FIRST day of school, is a pretty big deal! It's a milestone worthy of remembering and a memory that you will want to relive and a story you will want to retell.

But your back to school storytelling starts before that first day of school. It begins when you get that letter from the school from your child's teacher. With the invitation to the open house. And when that first school supply gets purchased.

This is where the story begins. Don't forget to start from the beginning.

Henry's first back to school shopping was full of Crayola colors! We picked out markers and paints and crayons (which I had to individually label. I mean, come on! Overkill. much?) We loaded up our basket and also used the shopping trip to find a new shirt to wear on the first day.

These little details really round out the story. Instead of just one moment in time, these show the rest of the story that leads up to the big day! You don't have to make it a big production. Use the aisles to make your composition more interesting - leading lines directing attention to your child or by framing your subject. The color in the school supply aisle will make your photos pop alive! And finding all the items on the list will keep your student engaged while you snap away.


Speaking of details don't forget your part of the back to school story. The end of unstructured summer days and the start of packing lunches and backpacks. I included a self portrait of me the morning of Henry's first day of kindergarten. I woke up extra early, like I always do, to get ready before the rest of the house wakes up. I carefully packed Henry's lunch box and thought about how it wasn't only Henry who was experiencing a milestone, but also how I was too. The whole family actually! New routines and priorities. New schedules and activities. I had never packed a school lunch before but I knew that this was a new part of my morning routine from here on out.

Disclaimer: The photo os Henry's lunch was actually taken weeks before the first day. We had just purchased Henry's new lunchbox and he wanted to pack it. But I included it as part of the story because it actually is part of the story!

And then everyone was awake and dressed and even dad went into work late so that we could walk to school as a family! You don't have to have a sign, but I do suggest taking the picture next to something of reference so that you can see your child's growth each year. As a military family, we won't always live in this building, so this won't always be our front door. But the sign will remain consistent and tie his school years together.


Henry's school is right up the street so we get to walk to school each morning. I wanted that to be a part of the story as well. That way when we look back at these photos years from now, it triggers a memory and launches all the stories about meeting up with friends and riding scooters through the neighborhood!

And of course I had to get little sister in the story too! She donned her backpack right along side big brother! We will tell stories about how she always wanted to be like him and how she always needed to participate in the big kid events too!

And don't forget the details of the details! I was walking beside him on our way to school and looked down. He just looked so small and so big at the same time! His backpack looked so heavy on his shoulders and he still felt so small by my side. But he carried it with pride and strength and it held his tools to be ready for this big day! 

On the first day, parents were allowed to walk their kid into the classroom. It was a madhouse! Parents and kids everywhere! No one knew where to go! But Henry found his cubby and I stood with him as he navigated his new routine. Then we found his desk and bucket of school supplies. When we left him, he seemed pretty overwhelmed! As you can see on his face!


But we got a good report after school was over so I'm sure once all the parents left and the noise died down, the kids were able to get their bearings! 

I wish I would have brought my camera to pick Henry up from his first day. That would have helped put the finishing touches on the story! But life happens and my brain doesn't always work when I need it to!

To sum it up, when capturing the story of your child's first day of school, remember the details. Start before the first day and don't forget the rest of the family!

I'm looking forward to next September already!