5 Pro Tips to Avoid a School Picture Day Disaster

girl in pigtails getting her picture taken
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For many families, school picture day is just around the corner. We all want our kids to take the perfect shot, but most of us have enough school-photo fails to know that doesn't always happen. Since you can't be there in person, we've consulted with professional photographers for some tips on getting the best school pictures ever. With these tips and a little luck, this year's photo will be good enough to display on the wall, not hidden away in the junk drawer.

  • 1. Choose an outfit they can look good in all day long.

    The most important thing to think about isn't their smile -- it's their comfort. "Kids in uncomfortable clothes look, well, uncomfortable in photos!" says Jeanne Sager of Jeanne Sager Photography. That dress with the hand embroidered flowers is beautiful, but ask yourself if you think your child will really be comfortable wearing it for a photo. "If you want a photo of your child looking like themselves, remember that a stiff collar isn't going to help," reminds Sager. Instead try colors that complement your child in fabrics they can move in.

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  • 2. Rethink that Pinterest hairstyle.

    While you hope that your child will get her picture snapped early in the day, there's no knowing when the class will get called down for photos. "Keep complicated hairdos to a minimum," suggests Sager. This morning's perfect braid could be a crown of tangles come picture time. "If it comes flying out in gym class, they won't be able to fix it themselves, and the photographer won't have time to help."

  • 3. Skip the crazy photo backgrounds.

    Sager recommends you think twice before promising your child free rein over the photo background selection, as it can have a big impact on the overall look of the photo. "Choose the background wisely," she says. "You don't want your child's outfit and the colors behind them to clash. If you want to go with one of the more fun backgrounds, opt for a simpler outfit."

    Have a child who loves to wear clothes that make a statement? "If your kid is going all out with colors and patterns on top, you may want to choose a plain Jane background," suggests Sager. Now we know why our mom never let us get the laser background.

  • 4. Use this trick to get an authentic smile out of them.

    As for avoiding a forced smile or the dreaded deer-in-headlights look, Crystal Kells of Kells' Natural Photography says try appealing to your kid's funny bone for the best shot at a natural smile. "Tell them when the photographer tells them to 'Smile' or say 'Cheese' the child should say, 'I have stinky feet!!' -- works great for young kiddos!"

  • 5. Remember, even an awful school photo is still a keeper.

    Try not to stress too much over school pictures. Even if a school photo is less than mantel-worthy, that doesn't mean it was a waste of time or money. "A bad school photo is still a good school photo because it will be a hilarious memory!" says Elizabeth Reagan of Elizabeth Reagan Photography.

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