Ok, how many of you moms/parents can’t wait to not only take your own kids’ annual first day of school pics (so that you have that fun last day of school photos to compare with) but also can’t wait to see everyone else’s? Let’s be honest, some parents have been getting hilariously creative with first day of school photos.

Now there is no shame in taking this annual tradition on your phone camera so that they can be immediately posted to Facebook (please do, because I can’t wait to see them), but whether you are using a phone or a DSLR, I’ve put together 5 pro tips on how to make this year’s back-to-school photos your best pics yet.

1. Same, same.

It might seem like a drag for some of your kids, but it’s actually brilliant to take the photo in the same place every year. These photos are more about milestones and growth and so the most important part of the photo is who your child is in this moment of your life. Keeping images in the same location, takes away from distractions and really makes some of the differences of your child’s growth over the course of the year or year after year, stand out even more. Plus, you get to see how tall they are getting in comparison to the things in the background that have stayed the same.

Side pro tip: Doorways usually have be-au-tiful light! Unless the sun is aimed straight into your doorway, there’s usually a little shade provided by an awning of some sort above doorways. Stick your kid/s right in there. This often allows for some beautiful bright light to bounce back in kids’ faces in the early morning from the area in front of the door that tends to be even and soft. Don’t have an awning? No problemo. Think about taking the photo at one of the doors at your child’s school.

2. C is for color.

I know a lot of you parents by this point have forked over a good bit of money on back-to-school clothes so let’s pick a first day of school outfit that you want to remember in this still clean/unripped/still fits state, that is one your kid also likes (or they will never sit still for a photo), and that is bright and cheery! Primary colors are bold and always fun especially with the younger kids. They automatically remind us of crayons and rulers and a simpler time in life. Complimentary colors are also a good way to have your kids pop from the background in a photo. Blue backpack? Maybe pair it with an orange shirt (well now those colors just go fantastic together anyway-Go Gators!).

3. Loosey goosey.

Sometimes the first day of school leaves kids in a ball of excitement or heap of nerves. Either way, starting your mini shoot by making your kids do some type of movement, like 10 jumping jacks or shaking their hair/heads like rockstars for 5 seconds, tends to loosen them up or settle them down a bit. Try taking some photos right as they are  finishing the movement, when they still have the giggles. This way you might get some pretty funny action shots as well. A few of these and they might be ready for the more standard image.

4. Don’t forget the details.

The standard photo with your child’s whole body is perfect for showing how tall they get over the years, where are they compared to their siblings, and other details. Sometimes they don’t even grow that much taller in a year but what will always show some change is their face. After you get the full body shot, start making it a habit of also taking just a face shot. You’ll be amazed at the small changes in this image at the end of the school year or for next year’s first-day-of-school photo!

Also, it doesn’t hurt to take a couple shots of some of their favorite things that they are bringing or wearing that day. What is on their lunchbox this year? Is there a bracelet or lanyard (are lanyards back cool again!) they can’t live without these days? Did they pick their outfit, what was special to them about it?

Side pro tip: Always tell your kid they’re amazing. Even if you have to do it in a goofy voice or a mock model photographer voice, if it doesn’t make them smile, it might make them laugh. Plus the extra bonus is that, well, they are amazing.

5. Jump in.

Your presence in this moment of your child’s life is important too. It is easy to forget to put yourself in photos of your kiddos because you get distracted by how cute they are and think “oh, you’re not looking your best today” (or whatever other excuse you give yourself) BUT the reality is that they love you for you and you’re a big part of them actually being ready for the first day of school and every other day of school afterwards, so get in there! Plus, being in the photos makes for an easy reference point on height year over year, as your kids (let’s face it) start getting as tall and then maybe even taller than you.

Hope these tips help for your first-day-of-school photos. I can’t wait to see how they turn out. In fact, feel free to tag them with #AFPhoto1stDay if you find any of these useful!