When did the ‘first day back at school photo’ trend start? I know my parents never did it.
They bought the annual school photographs – the ones that were taken at school in our uniforms, complete with gappy teeth and funny expressions (they hung them going up the stairs at home – much to our embarrassment as we reached our teenage years) and they took plenty of photographs at Christmas, our birthdays and on family holidays, but the trend of taking photographs at specific times of the year to see how children change and grow is a new one.
And it’s a trend that I love.
I think it originally came about as the phone camera / digital camera revolution took off.
All of a sudden, we all had the ability to take instant photographs. We weren’t limited to the 26 snaps on old cameras and we could actually see the photographs as we took them.
Digital and phone cameras meant that we could now take eleventy-billion photographs on our front doorsteps, 3 minutes before the school run on the first day back at school.
Not only that, we could then sift through ourselves in a few minutes, deleting all of the ones where they weren’t looking in the right direction / they were scratching their nose / pulling strange faces at their siblings.
We could take eleventy-billion photos, pick out the good three, post online and email to Grandma. All in the space of half-an-hour.
I love my annual photographs and what started with First Day Back at School photos has now grown.
I’ve started to take photographs at key points of the year. I can see how they physically grow and change, but I can also see how they develop as individuals.
I can see how their taste in clothes changes, I can see what they were really into when they were X-years old.
I look for as many opportunities as I can, because as cliché as it sounds, it really does go way too fast (for me anyway). One second, they’re standing on the front porch steps clutching a Jellycat bunny and the next, they’ve morphed into a young adults, making decisions about Universities and their futures. It’s all so scarily fleeting.
So, for any other amateur picture-takers, album lovers and memory makers, here are a few of my favourite annual occasions that are perfect for snapping your children as they grow:
- New Years Day – January
Whether you believe in New Years resolutions or not, New Years Day always feels to me like a opportunity for a fresh start (silly really, as it’s no different to any other day of the year).
New diaries, new calendars, making plans and keeping our fingers crossed. It’s the first Day of a brand-new year which can make for some really fun photographs.
If you’re stuck for new year’s day photo inspiration, think sparklers, party hats, balloons, glitter confetti blowing (if you dare) or even just holding up a sign showing the new year.
- World Book Day – March
Here in the UK, World Book Day has become something of a phenomenon over the last 10 years. It really is pretty new. When my eldest started primary school a decade ago, it really wasn’t a thing. In fact, I don’t recall him having to dress up at all until he close to leaving!
Book Day costumes are something I’ve never minded buying – mostly because they were always been used over and over again after the event and in my case, passed down to younger siblings to get enjoyment out of them too. Some years we’ve made them.
Celebrated in almost every school, dressing up for a day of book-themed fun at has become an annual event.
Now, whether you’re a DIY costume kind of parent, a “make it together” parent, or a “let them choose something from the supermarket” Mum or Dad, it’s definitely an occasion to stand them on the front steps as you run out the door to school and take a quick snap.
- Annual Easter Egg Hunts and bluebells – April
What’s not to love as we head into Spring and leave the gloom of winter firmly behind us?
It “might” be a little early for summer dresses and t-shirts and maybe Easter bonnets aren’t your thing, but Easter egg hunts can be found almost everywhere at this time of year.
Many are run by local authorities and local businesses and are very reasonable, or maybe make your own! Cute baskets (even for grumpy teenagers), chocolate eggs and sweeties.
If you’re lucky enough to live anywhere in the vicinity of a bluebell wood, it’s definitely worth a visit. It’s lovely to explore for a few hours and see the wonder on little faces looking at the carpet of purple-blue flowers.
The National Trust, Woodland Trust and Wildlife Trust have lists of all the well known UK sites.
- Strawberry picking - June
Strawberry and raspberry picking have been getting a little hard to track down in the last few years with many closing because they aren’t really profitable, but if you do have one near to you, it’s worth a trip. There are so many wonderful photo opportunities as the children rush around filling their baskets and popping ripe berries into their mouths as they go (they will occasionally do this before you can ever stop them).
A fun few hours and once you get home? Jam, syrup, strawberry pie, ice cream and fresh strawberry shortcake. More photographs (while they’re so busy they don’t even notice you taking them). Yum.
- Sunflower and Lavender fields – July.
Flower fields have been growing in popularity for years now, but whereas they started off as wedding venues, they are now more widely visited by people who just want a nice day out with tea, cakes and the opportunity to take stunning professional-looking photographs. Usually, if you do purely want to take photographs, there are set times you can go when the fields are not so busy, but we’ve never had a problem.
People are well aware of the appeal of the lavender fields to families and photographers alike and they’re usually very considerate.
Paper bags for collecting lavender are provided, along with scissors to carefully cut the stems. Lavender crowns are really easy to make whilst you’re there and are super cute. Sunflowers are easily picked and sold separately.
Once you get home, you can make everything from lavender wreaths to lavender soap and bath bombs – which of course is an excuse for more photographs.
- Summer Holidays / Vacations – July and August
Whether you go away or not, the long sprawling summer holidays give us plenty of opportunities to take a myriad of different photographs. Glorious sunny days, trips to the seaside and to small animal farms; or staying close to home. Paddling in streams, fishing, playing in the park and late evening walks.
Come July, it’s not worth putting my camera away. Even in the garden, with our few flowers and butterflies dancing on the breeze, there’s always something to snap.
- Back To School – September
Throughout the year, I take a lot of “back to school” photos. After Christmas, after Easter, but September is a chance to join in with the rest of the world, taking photographs of children returning to school and going into their new school years in crisp new uniforms, organised bags, looking reasonably tidy.
Whether you choose to post on social media or not, it’s a trend I like and the photographs are often so much nicer than the organised ones the school takes further into the school year. For one, you have more time to take eleventy billion-photographs to make sure you have at least one you’d quite like to keep.
- Halloween Costumes - October
Halloween is another day that seems to have exploded in recent years. It isn’t just one day anymore either! Gradually, we’re starting to see decorations being put up in windows and in front gardens a good week before hand and pumpkins seem to linger until December (probably because of all the effort that went into carving them).
For us, Halloween is the time to get creative with the face paints and with so many tutorials available on Youtube and Pinterest, you’ll be a dab hand before you know it.
- Halloween Pumpkins – October (again)
Another Halloween themed photo, but going pumpkin picking has become something we really look forward to here. The last chance to get some gorgeous autumnal photographs outside with them all having fun in the sunshine before the winter weather really sets in.
Woolly jumpers, bobble hats, wheelbarrows, and happy smiling faces. What’s not to love?
- Christmas Under The Tree - December
Christmas photos are always very special, but they can also be kind of tricky. Christmas is the time of year for parties, family get-togethers, gifts, outings and all sorts of chaos – none of which is conducive to snapping beautiful photographs (especially of over tired, over excited children).
Four Christmas photographs seem to work for us every single year.
a. Take them out to choose a real Christmas tree, all cosy in their winter coats, wellies, hats and gloves. Even better, dig up your own Christmas tree (if you can find somewhere to do it). If you’re more of an artificial tree kind of person (I empathise), you could let them go and choose a new decoration. Just some tinsel or a bauble.
b. Decorate the Christmas tree all together and then sit them underneath it for a photograph. They’ll be happy and excited, but not over tired. I always get mine to wear their party clothes when we decorate and we make it into a bit of an event.
c. Get busy with the glue and glitter and get them to make something with a Christmas theme. A card for someone special or a decoration that they can hang up in their own room.
d. Christmas baking. Think gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, Christmas cup cakes or snowflake sugar cookies. Flour everywhere and sticky fingers make for very cute photo opportunities.