The School Picture Day Do’s and Don’ts of What to Wear

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I am Neyssa Lee a Seattle area photographer, mom of 6, planning obsessed, and who help you see the beauty, love and joy, in your own family’s chaos. I also use my super power of time management to help fellow photographers take control of their businesses. Learn more by heading to my ABOUT ME page.

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Hi, I'm Neyssa

What should your child wear on school picture day? School photos and bad photos go together like coffee and creamer. But what if they didn’t have to be bad? What if school photos could be beautiful, timeless, portraits you were proud to hang in your home and share with family?

Well they can. The Fine Art School Portrait uses a black backdrop while not asking your child for forced smiles. The process is about the photographer drawing out their true smile, or their personality during these short sessions.

As a Seattle family photographer, my approach is different. No strange marble or bright blue background. No turn your head at this unnatural angle and say cheese.

With a black background, it may seem like you cannot dress your kid in anything that will clash. However, I’m here to help you with the “Do’s and Don’ts of What to Wear” for school photos.

A quick note about my do’s and don’ts list. The don’ts build (like they are all things to avoid). However, the do’s are more of suggestions. For example, your child shouldn’t wear neons or blacks, but she could wear solid earth tones or subtle prints.

Okay ready?! Here’s the list of Do’s and Don’ts for school picture day.

Don’t wear bright or neon colors on school picture day. Do wear rich earth or jewel tones.

Avoid bright or neon colors. They may look cute to our eye, however in a photograph they are distracting. They overpower the frame and even worse, they can leave color casts on their skin. In other words, the bright pink can make your daughter’s skin look bright pink around her chin and neck.

School picture day dos and don'ts, what to wear for school photos

Don’t wear black. Do wear color for school picture day.

Black is a great classic color. However, black tops on a black backdrop means your child looks like a floating head. Instead go with color (remembering to avoid bright/neons). If you like neutrals, grey, tan, cream all photograph beautifully against the black backdrop.

School picture day dos and don'ts, what to wear for school photos, avoid black

Don’t wear tops with words, characters or prominent logos in school photos. Do wear subtle prints.

Once again, anything that distracts from your child is something to avoid. Tops with sayings or characters distract. If you want to add a little more than solids, consider subtle prints.

A good rule of thumb is to have your kid try on the shirt and take note. Does it compliment them or draw your eye? The goal is to compliment.

Another quick note. Notice how she’s in a tank top above? Tank tops are okay, however, avoid spaghetti straps or low cut tops. The tight frame can leave it looking like they are not wearing a shirt.

School picture day dos and don'ts, what to wear for school photos, avoid  words

Don’t wear hoodies. Do wear t-shirts or polos (with stripes even!)

Hoodies not only are bulky around your child’s neck, they provide an opportunity for them to play with something. When I asked my son to participate by taking a quick photo with a hoodie, the first thing he did was pull it up over their face. He was completely unprompted.

While the opposite of hoodie isn’t stripes, his shirt offered a great opportunity to show you how dark colors and stripes photograph beautifully for school photos. Also notice how the t-shirt compared to the bulky hoodie photograph. The T-Shirt allows him to stand out instead of get swallowed up.

dos and don'ts for school picture day what to wear, photo day tips

A few final do and don’t tips for what to wear on school picture day.

A couple more things include:

  • Don’t use large bows or headbands on your kids. (Another thing that will distract. Also the frame is tight and most of the bow will be excluded anyways).
  • Do dress in black if you have a small child being photographed. You may end up holding them in the frame. This will allow you not to be seen.
  • Don’t have your child wear a hat. The brim of the hat will put their face in shadow and/or cause uneven lighting on their face.
  • Do let your child help in picking out his/her outfit. A comfortable kid who helps is happier for picture day.
  • Don’t stress the bottom half of their outfit. (Unless it’s neon). If your kid wants to wear sweatpants with a dress shirt or dinosaur rain boots, don’t fret. They may be happier yet it won’t be captured in the frame.
  • Do dress your child in a top that fits. This is not the time for sizing up for room to grow. The baggy fit can photograph sloppy.
  • Do be careful with lower tops or thin strapped tank tops. Keep in mind the tight frame of the photo, noting that your child may not look like they are wearing a shirt. 

It may feel like I’ve listed a lot of “don’ts” leaving you feeling overwhelmed. In the end, choose colors that your child looks great in without drawing too much attention, and avoid large/distracting things.

By following these tips, you’re sure to end up with a school photo you’re proud to display!

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