Why I dont buy school pictures.

All of us parents know exactly what that order form looks like when we conduct backpack inspections… The School picture order form is almost unchanged in the last 25 years… and sadly, so is the  school picture.  Now, half  of the parents have nicer cameras than their school photographer, and although they are making some advances in school photos ( green screen backgrounds to digitally add scenery later) , its still, well,  a school picture.

It’s not necessarily the photographers fault. He has a room of unruly children. He has 1-3 minutes per child to get a photo, then its on to the next kid. This is the result of working in that environment:

weaksauce school pictures

Properly exposed, Kaitlyn is looking, smiling, and didnt blink. check, check, check. But who is this kid? Thats not the little girl that I raised. Maybe I’m just taking crazy pills, but a portrait of someone is at its best when it reveals something about their character. ANYTHING. Just show us a glimpse of what the person is like through a photo. Needless to say, we didnt order school pictures this year. I have tons of pictures of my kids already, doing kid things, being themselves, reminding me of who they WERE, not just what they looked like.

Still, I felt compelled to experiment with the thought of shooting Kaitlyns “school” pictures. I could spend more time. I could get her to be expressive. I could choose the location. I could do it for free. All good reasons to give it a try! Here is 5 minutes of driving and 10 minutes of shooting:

my daughter is beautiful.
my daughter is beautiful.
my daughter is beautiful.
THATS my girl (=

Since I am teaching Kaitlyn how to take pictures, we brought along a kid from the neighborhood to be HER model while she practiced. Right now, I am tackling camera settings, I’m just asking her questions to figure out what she wants in her photo, and changing settings accordingly. We are focusing on the art for now. (she wanted sunshine in the back and coming through her hair, and a blurry background) Here are a couple of hers:

Kaitlyn has already decided that she will be doing portraits instead of babysitting when she wants extra money as a young teenager.

Thats my girl (=

Much <3,


  • Courtney Wilson - April 1, 2011 - 11:27 am

    I absolutely LOVE this post! Great points and such a great visual to see the difference!

  • Shanna - April 1, 2011 - 2:00 pm

    I love this too! Thanks Courtney for the link! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you are teaching her about photography. I think I need to be doing more of this with my 8 year old! Thank you!

  • Jessica - April 2, 2011 - 1:32 am

    Dave, she is so incredibly gorgeous. You make gorgeous kiddos. <3 that little girl.

  • Jessica - April 2, 2011 - 1:36 am

    p.s. The first two images…I know these expressions. I’ve seen the two of you together and know those expressions are a result of the relationship you share with her. She thinks you’re funny and completely adores you. You’re an awesome Dad Dave!

  • Melissa Vossler - April 8, 2011 - 7:33 pm

    awesome post Dave!! I didn’t have “traditional” school photos (raise your hand if you were homeschooled!), but seeing them in other peoples homes always made me cringe. I’m with Courtney, seeing the comparison drives your point home. I shall share this 🙂