Family life

Why I never buy my kids’ school photos

Tracy Chappell never buys her kids' school photos — here's why.

1photo-1 Tracy's beautiful, but extremely camera-shy, daughter, Avery, doing her best for school picture day.

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

I have only once bought my child’s school photos, and that was for my first born, Anna, her first time out. Were they good? Not really, but I bought them because I thought, in some unspoken way, that you had to buy them. It was just what you did. You got the mugshot, framed it and put it on display, then replaced it the next year with the same looking photo in the same frame, in the same space of honour. This was just part of your job as a parent with a child lumbering his or her way through the halls of academia.

That’s what our parents did. And it’s pretty hilarious to go back and look at those photos — the brown velour, the missing teeth, the glasses. So that’s why I’ve debated, each year since that first one, about whether I should buy these photos just because. They’re never great, and they’re always expensive. The most important thing to me (and now to my kids) is getting the yearly class photo, which every child gets for free anyway. That’s the one that memories are made of.

In this digital age, I wonder if more people take a pass on school pictures. I still get my kids’ photos taken around their birthdays (except the times I’ve forgotten), so really, we get them done in late August anyway, with their sunshiney freckles and summer dresses, which takes the pressure off of needing those school photos to capture that specific moment in time. My kids will still be able to see their growth over the years, it just won’t be from the shoulders up, on those standard blue/grey backgrounds. To pay about $30 minimum (x2) for photos I don’t love isn’t a hard decision. (My favourite school-photo story is from my sister, who was sent a proof of her daughter with pizza sauce all around her mouth. Seriously! They didn’t think to give her face a little wipe?)

Here’s something else that’s made my decision easier. Avery, my five-year-old, hates having her photo taken at the best of times. Put her in front of a stranger making funny faces at her and telling her to smile? Fuggetaboutit. Her pictures are almost comically terrible (I’m not shaming my sweetheart, but a fact is a fact; I should probably buy them for that reason alone). I’m sure some day she’ll be going crazy with smiley selfies, but you can’t force these things (believe me, I’ve tried). She tends to give better smiles when I’m there to make her laugh.


Anna’s pictures are usually nice enough, but still, they’re stiff-looking, and never capture her personality, and I don’t want to buy photos for one child and not the other.

So we’ll never have one of those school years compilation frames, but if the current trends continue, I’m sure there will be no shortage of photographic evidence of everything they’ve said, done and worn at every age and stage of their lives.

Do you buy your kids’ school photos – even if you don't love them?

This article was originally published on Oct 24, 2013

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