Traditional School Photos The good, the bad and the other problems of school photography


We all know what traditional school photos look like, yes? 

The ones where your child sits on a chair. Straightening their back so much that there is an ache in the middle of their spine. And they hold onto their bright smile for what seems like an hour; long enough for their cheeks to start shaking. 

Yes, those school photos. 

The ones that every parent hypes over, because why shouldn’t you? You are capturing memories of your child. But you have to admit, these school photos can be a bit repetitive and simple – perhaps even plain in some way.

Always looking the same. Yet, it is a tradition. You take these photos once every year. And your parents did exactly the same. These school photo services have been around for so long, it would seem strange to stop using them. To break tradition. 

In this article, we will cover a number of areas when it comes to traditional school photos. Such as:

    • What are the reasons for having school photos?
    • The problems that can happen with traditional school photos.
    • How are these photos kept safe?



What are the reasons for having school photos?

When we were younger, none of us really understood what the reason was to have these photos. All we knew was that at the start of every year, a photographer would arrive and take our school photos. It is a tradition that we have grown up with. As you become parents, you start to realise the reasons for these school photos. And no matter how much stress these school photo services give you, you praise them, as they are capturing your child’s smile. 

Nowadays, we love to take photos for one main reason. The memories.

That is exactly why having school photos is amazing. It’s a way for you to remember how your child looked like when they were at school. For you to be in your forties, fifties or sixties, and to find these old school photos of your child at the age of eight with a missing tooth. It isn’t just for your memory. It’s also to show your child, when they are themselves adults, how they looked like at school. And you both then get to laugh together when seeing how crazy their hair was. Even after you spent half an hour in the morning, combing it. 

We all love spending hours poring over past photos, wishing to be younger. These school photo services are the reason we are able to recall these memories of our school life. In some ways, we should thank them for allowing us to store these memories.  

When school photos are taken they are also used in your children’s yearbook. This links with giving your child the memory of school through photos. With one look, they can remember how all of their friends looked like when they were twelve. Or even blush with the embarrassment of seeing the face of the person they first had a crush on. Yearbooks are great for the memories. And it’s the school photos that help fill the yearbooks with these memories. 

Not only are school photos great for memories, but they also make the perfect gift for your parents. Especially when they live far away from you and hardly see your child. Every grandparent loves to see how their grandchildren are doing and school photos are perfect for this. Not only is it a great way for your parents to see how their grandchildren look, it also makes them feel even more included as a family; they will feel that they have a prominent role in your child’s life.


The problems with school photos: 

The cost

We all know school photos are expensive. You always ask the same question every single year, as if it’s some sort of tradition: Why are school photographs so expensive? There are many factors that affect the cost of school photos. 

It’s the school photo service’s equipment that’s being used. And if the camera or tripod is damaged in any way, they will then have to spend money on more equipment. 

They also need to be paid for the time they are spending to do this. Driving to the school. Setting everything up. Taking the photos. Although it’s part of their job, it is time-consuming. 

And, finally, it is known that many schools receive a percentage of money; this makes the tradition a fundraiser for them. 

Yet, it is frustrating to see how expensive it is. If you have more than one child, the price soon adds up. Sometimes, it’s unaffordable. Come to think about it, why should you have to pay for school photos, when you have the ability to take unlimited photos of your child? You have a phone, and on that phone you have a camera. So why should you spend maybe £100, when you could, potentially, take better photos on your phone?



Bad photo / bad photographer

This leads us to this next point. What happens if your child’s school photo comes out bad? You can’t do much about it, can you? School photo services state that they will provide great school photos. However, no one can 100% say that every day will be their best day.

Unfortunately, the school your child goes to might end up with a photographer who is having a bad day. Everything for them is going wrong. From the lightning to making sure the photos are uploaded. Or, the school photo service just happens to send a bad photographer to your child’s school that day. Maybe they’re in a hurry or on a tight deadline, and can’t take time to get the perfect shot. 

Whatever the reason, sometimes you end up with bad photos. It’s not nice, and there isn’t anything you can do, except wait for next year. 


Taken only once a year

The reason school photos are given a big hype is due to them being an annual tradition. You remember when you were younger, being told that the next week will be the school photos. The excitement that bubbled inside of you. The sick feeling that swayed around your body the moment you sat in front of the camera. Then with a few simple clicks, it was all done until next year. 

Now, you’ve realised, as a parent, that you wish it isn’t just once a year. It doesn’t help that if you don’t have the money to order the school photos straight away, that you’ll miss out and have to wait for a whole year. Not only that, but your child can change a lot within a year. They might have a hair cut in the middle of the school year, but you still have to wait six months for the next lot of school photos. By then, you might not be able to tell that they had a haircut. You can’t help but think, how great it can be if school photos can be taken throughout the year.


Too formal-looking

Every single school photo looks the same – with the same plain background. Your child sitting on a chair. Or standing up with their hands on their hips. Ultimately, they all look the same. Even if the school photo service’s photographer is taking pictures of your child’s school football team, it is still in front of the same background. The only difference is they have a ball in their hand and they’re wearing the football kit. There is no creativity. No snapshots of your child training with their school team. No school photos of your child rehearsing for their school end of year play. The photos are always the same. 

Which is a shame – it’s a missed opportunity. School is filled with your child making many memories. Which you don’t really receive with just one photo in front of a white screen. 

We can all agree that traditional school photos where your child is sitting down are great. Yet, we can also all agree that school photo services could vamp it up a bit. Or taking school photos of the football team actually playing. These make great memories for you and your child to remember when they are older. 



Having to look a certain way when school photos happen can cause unnecessary stress. We’ve all had school photos, and we can all agree that we were nervous. Anxious that these photos might come out wrong and then having to have them in the yearbook anyway. Or knowing you will have this photo on the register next to your name for the rest of the year. It can be a stressful time for some – parents and children. 



Keeping school photos safe. 

With one quick scan on a school photo service’s website, you can clearly see the importance of keeping school photos safe. When you allow your child to be a part of the school photos, you are giving trust to the school photo service they are using. You trust that these photos of your child won’t be seen by anyone else but yourself,  and they do this. You need to have a barcode that is given by the school photo service to be able to order your child’s photo. 

School photos also fall under the Data Protection Act 2018. One of the points it states is that the photos are kept for no longer than is necessary. Which makes sense as to why you only have a short time period to order your child’s school photos. 



It is understandable as to why school photos are important. They help create memories for everyone. Yet, it is also clear to see that there are many areas that could be better. School photo services do try, mostly, to make the experience as wonderful as possible. But there are so many elements when it comes to school photos, that the whole experience can easily become a negative one.

Many people – parents and schools – agree that it is time for an alternative, where school photos can be stored safely and where parents can decide if and when to spend the money to print them. 

A system that is more flexible, more encompassing and created around the needs of parents and children today –  not those of 50 years ago.

A system that, as well as being able to take school photos of your child more than once a year, can capture memories of school all year round, and not just at the traditional annual sitting.