Picturing Perfect Preschool Portraits

Your school picture is a memory you treasure for life – or something that you will never live down.

Trust me, I am the queen of awkward class photos. We’re talking missing teeth, bad perms, braces and butchered bangs. That hack job was courtesy of my sister, who convinced me she knew what she was doing.

She didn’t.

Kaimana Joaquin' s 2013 school pictures  |  PortraitEFX of Hawaii

Kaimana Joaquin’ s 2013 school pictures | PortraitEFX of Hawaii

To be fair, I didn’t do everything wrong. I was voted best dressed in my high school senior class. But here’s the deal with that: Sometimes the more on point you are with fashion trends, the more ridiculous you look down the road. It doesn’t help that I grew up in the 1980s. Seriously, didn’t we all look ridiculous back then?

Well, I don’t want my kids to look back at their school portraits and wonder what in the world I made them wear or what was up with their hair. It’s my first year getting my son and daughter dressed and groomed for their pictures, and I don’t want to make a rookie mistake.

So I went straight to an expert for advice.

Professional photographer Nikki Doo, owner of PortraitEFX of Hawaii, has been doing preschool portraits since 1998. She has a talent for capturing a child’s natural smile and personality on camera.

Here are Nikki’s top dos and don’ts.

Do treat it like a normal day. “Don’t over-practice with your child how to smile,” warns Nikki. “Anytime a parent makes their child practice too much, they don’t have a natural smile.”

Another huge thing is to let children choose their own outfit. Don’t have a fight over it. Many preschool photographers allow kid’s choice, and parents’ pick.

Nikki says a common mistake is to bring your child to the shoot with dirty faces, or “makapiapia” in their eyes.

Clean nails also are important. Preschoolers usually do a full body and head pose. With that in mind, cute shoes help put their best foot forward.

Choose vibrant colors to make your son or daughter stand out. Avoid shirts with words that may get cut off.

For hair, make sure it’s neat. If you opt for a ponytail, make sure it’s high enough to see.

Finally, Nikki never says “cheese.” Instead, she uses her secret weapon, Elmo. Nikki distracts her young subjects with a puppet show so they forget about the photo shoot. As a result, it’s more “candid camera” than cheesy grin.

Nikki adds that “preschool photographers love what they’re doing and the patience pays off with adorable memories of their young days.”

I wish I could say the same about my news publicity head shot. My son actually gave me pointers. He suggested his “go-to” poses. You know, like propping up my face with my hand or crossing my hands over my knee.

Now, that would make us all say “cheese.”