Say cheese?

Say cheese?
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While school pictures are only a minor consideration in the scheme of the school year’s activities, let’s be honest—they can have long-lasting impacts. “Cheesy” school headshots have this funny way of coming back to haunt you. They get showcased at rehearsal dinners via slide shows, attached to “Hello” lapel pins at high school reunions and posted to friends‘ Facebook pages. Ironically, that school photo you try to forget, everybody else loves to remember.

Elementary schools around the country are currently underway snapping shots of their students, so now is the best time to prevent your kid’s school photo from becoming the satirical subject of some future Throwback Thursday. Here are some simple tips for taking the kind of school photos you and your kid can be proud of for years to come.

How to Wear: Hair

Many factors are at play on photo day that are out of your control. For instance, the scheduling of your child’s shot. If that timing is after recess and lunch, well, better luck next year. But seriously, things can get dicey at afternoon photo shoots—that’s why Mugsy Clicks (the company that takes the majority of school photos in the US) has the process down to a real science. They have “primpers” on-hand to help tidy up stray hairs before photos. Even with all this primping there are still things moms and dads can do to ensure their child has a good hair day.

Get a haircut: Anticipate the start of school and photo day and schedule your kid a haircut a few weeks before school commences. A slightly grown-out hairstyle always appears more natural-looking, while a freshly cut or over-cut hairdo gives off a slightly dorky or wig-ish look. (I still get razzed over my third grade school photo taken the day after my dad—my first mistake—cut my bangs so short I resembled Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber.)

Take a shower: If he or she can swing it, have your child shower the morning of the shoot. Doing so eliminates “bedhead,” makes hair more manageable and appear shinier.

Tie back long hair: For a girl with medium to long hair, consider pulling it back into a low pony or a single braid. Styles like these put the focus on the right place: her lovely face. Likewise, steer clear of distracting, plentiful, overly bright or oversized hair doodads.

What to Wear: Clothes

For most school-aged kids, their school photos are the only opportunity for a professional shot in a given year. To make the most of it, employ a touch of advanced wardrobe planning. Help kids style their look the night before the photo shoot. The best place to start is in selecting what they will wear on top, since school pictures are either head (from bust up) or “three-quarter” shots (from hips up).

Keep it classic: Choose classically inspired pieces like sweater sets or button-downs, as these looks are timeless. Classic looks can be found for girls and boys at stores like the Gap, Crew Cuts, and Janie and Jack. Avoid trendy pieces, as they will “date” kids’ photos even before they hit the next grade.

Choose flattering colors: The best pieces to wear are in those colors that flatter your child’s skin tone. Colors such as lavender and navy blue look good on almost everybody, while neons and black amplify dark circles and sallow complexions.

Make looking good, easy: Fussy clothes and accessories and light-colored separates are tricky to keep camera-ready, and you won’t be there to tweak your kid’s wardrobe malfunctions or to perform spot-treatments.

Avoid patterns, brands and characters: Busy patterns overpower, brand names come off as commercial and cartoon characters quickly lose their relevancy. Tops and dresses in solids, stripes or mute patterns work best.

Smile, widely: Tell your child to think of something happy when the photographer is taking his or her shot. This will produce a more natural smile. Remind him or her to smile widely to show his teeth (or lack thereof).

The above tips can make all the difference between a photo that is a classic shot of your child and well, one that is a “real classic.” However if all else fails, there’s always Photoshop.

Piece originally featured in the Pacific Sun