It is that time of year again. The days of relaxing evenings, late bedtimes and manageable morning traffic are about to come to an end. A new school year is upon us.
The start of a new school year brings a bevy of activity. The first official school activity occurs when everyone heads to meet the teacher at their respective schools. This is a night that consists of filling out tons of paperwork and then asking everyone who their child has, followed by saying, “Oh, he will love Mrs. Smith. He is going to have a great year!”
But, it is what takes place on social media a few days later that you need to be prepared for. That is the back-to-school picture avalanche. They will start early and last throughout the morning on the first day of school. There are all kinds of pictures that will be posted. Let Not My Boys walk you through some of the different back-to-school picture categories you are most likely to see.
This back-to-school picture is one that has been around since the golden days of waving a Polaroid frantically to reveal what you captured. I always love how the classic begins: “Alright kids, time to get a picture on your first day of school. Let’s step out here to the front steps so I can get our door in the background.” Nothing says back-to-school like the front door. The Classic does not have any added props. It is just the child or children standing fully erect, backpack double-strapped, lunch bag to the side.
Rain locations can include: Stairwell, Kitchen, Dining Room, Fireplace
The Classic can give away little hints of how the morning has gone. This is especially noted in the male. First, look at the hair. This is where great battles can take place. You may have the nicely combed hair. This is rare. Another variety you will see is hair that looks pasted to the forehead. This occurs when the mom is about to take the pic and realizes the hair has not been brushed and rushes over to the child in full panic because they have seven seconds to capture this picture before there is a 98% chance one child goes into a meltdown. This is where the mom calls on a special anatomical feature found on a mother’s tongue. It is the special gland that releases hair paste. With one lick of the palm, a mother can fully glue a boy’s hair to his scalp. You may also find the pictures with the uncombed hair. This is a tell-tale sign that the mother had other battles to fight that morning, which leads to our next back-to-school picture category, The Compromise.
I am not sure at what point in the history of our time on this Earth that the wearing of a collared shirt or anything other than athletic shorts could induce anaphylactic shock in young boys, but that is where we are today. The Compromise picture begins with the mom mistakenly setting out khaki shorts and a collared shirt for the child to wear. This is a huge mistake. You might as well have set out a tuxedo, becauses in the eyes of your 8-year-old this is formal wear. We will not get into the negotiations that take place for the Compromise picture to become a reality, but let’s just say the Cold War came to an end easier and more peacefully.
The Compromise picture is easy to spot. The child is wearing a collared shirt with athletic shorts that have some neon color on them that in no way or form matches the shirt. You can look at the face of the child to see how smooth negotiations went. Red puffy eyes and messed up hair can tell you rolling around on the floor and screaming “I can’t wear collared shirts” took place at some point that morning. Messed up hair with clear eyes tells you the mom did not even broach the hair topic in fear of all talks going south.
This is a special class of back-to-school pictures. You pay money for these and they are done by either a photographer who knows what they are doing or by someone who bought a camera at Costco, hung some textbooks from a tree, and started advertising mini-sessions on Facebook. The mini-session begins with the photographer and mother sitting down and discussing where to take the most unrealistic picture of the child to capture the beginning of a new school year. Market research and years of study have shown us that the best unrealistic location is a field at sunset. It is here that a vintage school desk is placed, because we all know the most special fields are the ones that at one time had a school in them and that only this one desk has survived through time. Let’s not stop with just the desk though. Grab some old textbooks to place on the desk, because nothing screams third grade science like a 1960s high school biology book. Also, how in the world would we be able to navigate third grade without a globe? This leaves very little room left on the desk, but there is one final prop that separates the professionals from the amateurs. That is the lone apple on top of the textbooks. I can’t count the times I have had to yell at my children as they are leaving for school, "Did you remember to pack your apple?" So let’s review...desk, textbooks, globe, apple, and amber waves of grain.
If you want to capture the desk shot in the field, but modernize the desktop, may we suggest placing a gallon of hand sanitizer and a Chromebook on the desk.
Let’s be honest; the field shot is not for everyone. Some like a more urban setting. Don’t worry, this location is just as unrealistic… it’s the railroad tracks. This is a great location once you get past the idea that a train could run over you or the fact that it is against the law to take pictures on railroad tracks.
This one is simple. Non-smiling, cold staring through camera, child holding chalkboard at chest height with grade level written on it. Statistics show that these children are three times more likely to complete Pre-Trial Intervention before graduating high school. By typing that last line, my children’s chances of completing PTI before college have increased tenfold.
This is a variation of The Classic. The location is the same, but here we introduce homemade props. You know these pictures. The child is holding a string with each letter written on a different piece of cardstock, dangling from the string, spelling out the grade level.
Chalkboards can be used here. These differ from the Mugshot, as the grade level is written in calligraphy with some sort of flower petal drawn in pastel colored chalk on the female child chalkboard. The male chalkboard is the same, but instead of the flower, you will find a sports theme.
In rare cases, the chalkboard is ditched and the grade level is written on the driveway in sidewalk chalk. This requires the parent to climb up a ladder to take a picture looking down on the child standing next to their concrete masterpiece.
The Made The Effort
Also known as "My Kids Don't Know the Difference", this is more thoughtful than the Mugshot, less unique than The Pinterest. An example is the downloaded grade-level template sign, color printed on copy paper.
The School Spirit
This picture takes place in front of something school-specific. This used to be reserved for the actual school sign, but now you will find this in the wild with a school mascot and increasingly even at home, as schools now give out signs for the kids to use and for the parents to feel bad throwing away.
The Modern Family
Pet in picture.
The Had No Choice
One parent is in the picture, otherwise it would not happen.
If you are looking at a back-to-school picture and everything feels very random, a dad took it. No signs will be involved; just children holding up the number of fingers representing their grade level.
The Combo Meal
The Combo Meal is a supersized version of The Classic. Not only will you get the Classic, but you will get a carpool picture, a picture walking into the front door of school, a picture of child with teacher, a picture of child sitting at desk, a picture of child with friend in class, and for dessert, a picture of the new moms participating in Tissue Time in the library...er...media center.
The Working Mom
Known to many of us as the “I Don’t Have Time For This,” this picture starts as one that will not be taken at all. Then only a “regular” picture will be texted to close family, but about mid-morning it goes up when the guilt sets in. You will know this picture because the caption will be long and explanatory - the picture will give no trace as to what is happening.
The Lee Greenwood
Made famous by Ann Sherard. Front steps with American flag waving in background.
The Close Call
Most pictures in this category are easily spotted. The picture takes place with the carpool line in the background. The parent has completely forgotten to get a picture because they just got their kid out of bed approximately seven minutes before the picture took place. The parent does not care what the child has on and, in most of these pictures, the child’s clothes are wrinkled because the child slept in them. The child is horrified because this is happening in front of their peers and any child smiling in these pics was promised a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge.
There are some who try to cover-up the close call. The picture still takes place at school, but they have positioned the child in front of the school or at the school rock to make the picture look like it was planned. The trained eye will not be fooled though. Always look for the crumbs on the shirts in these shots. The crumbs are from the piece of toast or pop tart they ate in the car because they rushed out the door in full panic.
We hope this tutorial will provide you some guidance as you navigate your social media channels on the first day of school. Don’t forget to like or heart every picture you see, because the struggle to capture that shot was real.
Filed/BG; updated by RS