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How to Take an Adorable School Photo

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The editors of Martha Stewart Living in their school photos.

We all remember school yearbook pictures from our childhood: the good, bad, and the Holly Hobbie-meets-Pippi Longstocking hairstyles (see the blasts from our editors’ pasts, above). And since our own kids’ school pictures are just around the corner, we turned to photographer (and child portrait expert) Karen Forsyth of Tallulah Lane photography for a few tips.

Should you let her wear a princess outfit or try to coax her toward trendy Breton stripes? How do you encourage the sweetest toothless grin? Find out.

Stick to Classics (with a Twist)
Says Forsyth: “If they aren’t comfortable, then nobody’s comfortable and the yearbook photo is in serious jeopardy of even having a shot (no pun intended). Kids want to express themselves and they should. Parents want a great photo. So, how about a compromise? A soft-wash plaid shirt for boys can be new and edgy in a hip color scheme like blue and vivid orange (and here, sleeve rolling is cool). For girls a sweet romper, dress, or outfit with a simple design and a modern print works well. I always find fun, comfortable, and reasonably priced options in the Tea Collection or Peek.”

Color is Key
Choose bright hues to light up little faces. Adds Forsyth: “It’s okay to use pattern, stripes, or plaids mixed with solids. Just make sure they compliment each other.”

A pulled-back hairstyle keeps the focus on the face. Photo by Karen Forsyth

 

Hair “Do’s” are a Don’t
As a general rule of thumb, try not to draw too much attention to your child’s hairstyle — remember, says Forsyth, “it’s about the sweet changes of their faces from year to year.” To wit, she advises staying away from drastic changes right before the school photo (“for boys, if he’s sporting a ‘Beiber do’ and you decide to go for the crew cut, wait”). She recommends tailored braids or loose top knots for girls with long hair; shorter hairstyles like a bob or pixie look sweet with a simple barrette or clip.

Mixing plaids and solids can work for school shots. Photo by Karen Forsyth

Stay Calm
Just like grown-ups, kids feel (and look) better after a great night’s sleep. “Keep the stress low surrounding photo day,” says Forsyth. “Select and decide on what to wear the night before. Don’t wait until the sun peeks over the horizon to hit the panic button. Things can go from serene to chaotic quickly, at least in my household.”

Practice Makes Adorable
The last thing you want to do is make your child self-conscious. But as long as you keep it relaxed, practicing his or her expressions can be fun. “A fun activity for the breakfast table may be to ask your child to show you his/her school photo face to lighten the mood,” says Forsyth. “Silly, Crazy, Fun. A genuine expression will come from this conversation, I promise. It always ends in a giggle!”

Photo by Karen Forsyth

Don’t Overthink It
Says Forsyth: “The bottom line is to have fun and enjoy seeing your child grow over the years. Yes, trends will always be changing and we can do our best to strive for the perfect photo, but isn’t the metamorphosis half the fun when looking back at the past? Embrace it for what it is and cherish these years. Actually, what made some of my school photos seem dated, now makes them cool. Yes, wayfarers, neons, and ankle boots are back!”

Happy 2012-2013 school year!

Karen Forsyth, owner of Tallulah Lane Photography, is a photojournalistic family photographer. Karen currently resides in the Northern Chicago area with her husband Michael and their three spunky daughters.

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