How to Take the Best Back to School Photos Using Your Phone

Soon your Facebook feeds will be full of smiling kids with over-stuffed backpacks. Summer break is over! It’s time for the first day of school and the tradition that comes along with it: the first day of school photo!  

I take all of my photos using an iPhone and I know with the morning rush of the first day of school, most parents end up using their phone, too.  I’ve put together some quick tips to help you take better phone pictures.  I’ve also gathered up some creative ideas for your back-to-school photos and sharing my favorite editing apps.How To Take The Best Back To School Photos Using Your Phone

Quick Tips for Taking Pictures with Your Phone

Clean Your Lens

This sounds like an obvious tip, but I tend to forget this. When I notice that my photos aren’t the quality I’m used to, it’s most likely that my lens is dirty. 


If you’re finding that your photos turn out grainy on your phone, it’s probably due to poor lighting. The less light you have, the grainier your photo will be. Be sure you’re shooting next to a window or outdoors. You don’t need a ton of lighting because that can be fixed with the editing apps I have listed below. Try to avoid harsh sunlight.  If it’s a really sunny day, find some shade.  Of course, there is the magical “golden hour” that takes place just before sunrise and just before sunset, but when you’re taking picture of kids, ain’t nobody got time for that!  So, just play around with your light.  Sometimes a simple “tap” of your subject on your phone screen will automatically adjust the lighting for you.

Just Say No to the Zoom & Flash

The zoom feature on phones typically produces graininess in photos and the flash can be too harsh.  If you want to take a close up shot, just get as close as you can to the subject rather than using the zoom. As much as you can avoid using flash, the better.  Again, natural light is the best light!

Take LOTS of Photos

I usually just shoot a bunch of photos of my kids and wait to look at them until I’m ready to edit.  I may scan through quickly to make sure I have something to work with.  But when you’re taking photos of kids there’s not much time before one of them is rolling their eyes, running away, or crying because someone’s breath stinks. If we are doing a posed picture, I’ll snap 5 or 6 pictures to make sure we don’t have any closed eyes or blurry faces.

First Day of School Photo Ideas

School Shoes

When I was growing up, I always looked forward to two things at the start of the new school year: fresh school supplies (nerd alert) and picking out new shoes! If your family has a tradition of getting new shoes at the start of the school year, get low to the ground and snap a picture of the new shoes each year. My kids like looking back at their old first day of school pictures and checking out the shoes they picked out. I love it too because it’s fun to see their style at each age.

How To Take The Best Back To School Photos Using Your Phone

Standing In Front of the Same Spot

I like the idea of this. If you use the same background each year (front door, by a tree, the school sign or playground) it’s easy to see the growth and/or changes in your child. Or take a picture of your child getting on or off the bus each year.

Using Chalk

Use sidewalk chalk to write your child’s grade level and have them stand near it or lay down on the sidewalk.  You could also add what their favorite activities are or what they want to be when they grow up.

Using A Printable

There are tons of free printables online that you can print to use on the first day of school. Many of them include grade level and the year. Just use Google or use Pinterest to find some that you like.

School Supplies

We sit around a few days before school starts, double checking we got everything on our list, labeling, and organizing backpacks. If you want a different take on the first day of school photo, these shots would be just as great!


I think that this could be a really cute photo idea. Take picture of your child or children studying or doing homework on the first day of school. This would be a great option for older kids who refuse to have their picture taken because you can sneak a candid shot.

How To Take The Best Back To School Photos Using Your Phone

My Favorite Apps for Editing

A Color Story

I normally start with this app because I love the brightening & curves tool.  A Color Story is great to enhance bright colors and whites.


VSCO is where I typically go after using A Color Story. I use their filters to enhance the feel of the photo and play around with shadows.

I love seeing everyone’s first day of school pictures.  It’s incredible to see how much older the kids look, toothless grins, nervous faces, and future world changers.

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