School Photos Ruin Lives: A PSA

I know a thing or two about babies. For instance, one cannot simply put them to bed. You can’t just be all, “There are clean towels in the closet and help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge” when you put them down for their first night in your home. I tried. One must jiggle them and sing to them and contort one’s own body into the most uncomfortable position ever just to get them to sleep. Raindances will occur.

I also know that babies don’t take bad pictures. They may take funny pictures, but never bad ones, and this is because you (AKA their parents/guardians) are with them when they get snapped. You are there to protect them from the hobgoblins that lurk within the flashbulbs of the school photo session.

Beautiful, smiling babies. Photo sessions, for them, are occasions of fun and amusement. They are not interludes of woe between math and reading.

Case in point. Here is me when I was about a year and a half:

Baby Emily, 1983

Cute.Wittle.Baby. Completely unsullied by the horror that is school photography. My parents were obviously in sight when this portrait was taken of me within the safe confines of a photo studio that did not also serve as a cafetorium. It was likely just me, my parents, and a photographer in that room when this delightful photo was taken back in 1983.

My infantile spirit had not yet been marred by the soul-crushing rite of passage that is the school photo.

Now, getting your picture taken at school isn’t something that destroys your innocence all at once. It’s insidious, and like water torture it takes time to lay hold of you, the victim. By the time I was in second grade with two prior class photos under my belt, I still looked OK to the naked eye.

2nd grade

Dressed in a lovely dress my mother had made for me and with my hair in braids, seven-year-old me is still protected by that parental sheath. But the seed has been planted. Too many rectangles of cafeteria pizza and the insipid fumes of oil pastels in art class have already laid claim to my soul. I have seen the Trapper Keeper of destiny and am willing to sell my soul for it. The downward spiral commences.

Only two years later, and the damage is obvious.

4th grade

Why have I selected a jogging suit with black Keds as my photograph uniform? And why am I sitting on the floor? Even the baby from before is civilized enough to know that photos are meant to be taken either in a chair or standing, and that one must wear something that does not date her to the MC Hammer-era of puffy dayglow pants.

So many questions. So few answers.

Middle school is expectedly disastrous. I have elected to have my hair cut with bangs several months before the photo is taken, only realizing one moment too late that it’s not a good look for me. But instead of pinning the bangs back, I have completed the look with (adjustable) overalls. These glasses were a striking accessory for post-Beatles-era John Lennon, but not so for eighth grade me. The look on my face is of dumbfounded resignation. The school photo demons have clinched my essence.

8th grade

Within three years, I have fallen so far into the depths of school photo possession that I am now ready to start taking souls myself. Eleventh grade. The seductress is here. Don’t be fooled by that cross around my neck, for that demonic grin tells the tale of a baby whose soul was eaten by the imp of the school photo. I am a regular Nathaniel Hawthorne character.

11th grade

The moral? Do whatever it takes to keep your child away from the school photographer. Walmart photo center exists for a reason.

Link up with us! Here’s how to do it:

1. Write your post. Remember, it can be ANYTHING about school photos. Just try to stick with the whole “back in the day” vibe ;D

2. Grab the badge and place it at the bottom of your post.

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3. Add your link below and come back to see all the other great posts your blogging pals have written! Comment on them and tweet and share your favorites using the hashtag #RTTbloghop.  The link-up closes at 11:59pm EST on Sunday, so get your link in before then.


  1. I hated school pictures….

  2. And yet, as you demonstrate, the school photo is an excellent marker of a progression through time.
    As awkward as it may be…

    1. That’s true. *Grumble grumble*

  3. My son had his first preschool photo taken last year and it was horrible! I thought in this day and age with digital cameras that the horror would be over. At least I have 20 million other pictures of him to prove he’s cute. I love your lilac MC Hammer outfit! :)

    1. That is a good thing! I probably take 100 pictures of my daughter every week, so even if the school pic doesn’t work out, we have those. Also, I *loved* that outfit. I got it for Christmas in in 4th grade and distinctly remember getting my mom to wash it like every other day so I could wear it as often as possible. I don’t even know….

  4. My entire grade/middle school experience took place in a little country school in Montana. Every single year, first through eighth grade, the same area photographer showed up with his tub of plastic giveaway combs and his tiny store of stupid and sticky smile-inducement phrases. Emily, your writing may be brilliant, but today’s subject matter disturbs me. I’ll have you to thank all day as the evil sentence, “Look at my curly green ears, look at my curly green ears” plays over and over in my head like a frightening LSD flashback.

    1. I hope that guy came to your graduation and gave you and your whole class ice cream since you all kept him steadily employed!

      And there’s a reason that some cultures fear that cameras will eat your soul. They’re onto something. That’s all I’m saying.

  5. Great post, Emily! Oh, the school photo – every year, more torture! And then – the driver’s license photo. I swear, those people go to special training to get worst possible shot!

    1. I agree! I have to admit that it’s hard to get a good picture out of kids, but when I was teaching in Korea, the school photographers actually worked a tad bit harder to get our students to look nice. Maybe they were just more afraid of the parents ;D

  6. I hate all my school pictures. I want to throw a burning-picture party. UGH!! p.s. I want to write like you :)

    1. Yes! Let’s have a class photo bonfire and make s’mores! And thank you for your kind words. This was a fun one to write.

  7. I can just hear the swish swish swish of your awesome pastel pants!

    1. Great comment…too funny!!!

    2. Clothes shouldn’t make sounds. This is probably a law in Texas or someplace.

  8. OMG, that sitting on the floor shot. It was the 80s. They were trying stuff.

  9. I have copies of my early school photographs but not my later ones. I presume my mother still has those somewhere :o

    1. Better be careful or she’ll break them out when you’re least expecting it! ;D

  10. I cannot believe you are brave enough to share those…I’m NEVER sharing mine. The last one is very good though! You look wise beyond your years.

    1. Hahaha! Not so much brave but just shameless.

  11. The only thing worse than Picture Day was FORGETTING that it was Picture Day and showing up in a “Charlies Angels” T-Shirt!

    1. You sound like you speak from experience here.

  12. Oh so funny, this made my day!!

    1. Awesome! I’m glad you liked it! Consider this your invitation to link up with us anytime ;D

  13. Great, Great, Great…and love the pictures ! I remember pillaging thru my grandmother’s drawers and finding my school pictures thrown in there with twists ties, rubberbands, screws,nails, and cracker crumbs. I found one of my pictures with ” WHO IS THIS ” ? written on the back…….nothin’ good comes from school pictures…

    1. You are absolutely right. Mr. B is lucky I did not post pictures of him in this post. They bring me too much joy.

  14. Bwahaha! Cafetorium is the bet thing I have ever heard. And you are so beautiful! This reminds me of the most hilarious school photo of Nick when he was about 7. His calsses were crooked, his hair was standing straight up, and he looked a little deranged. I think we all thought what a shame it was that the picture didn’t come out better…but knowing Nick, he was probably just trolling us all:)

    1. He probably was. He was likely photobombing himself. I wouldn’t put it past him ;D

  15. Okay, I cannot spell before 8am. Sorry about that!

    1. I can spell never, so no worries.

  16. […] I’ve joined a blog hop!  Click here to learn more about “Remember the […]

  17. I am not gonna lie…I would have died for a pair of those adjustable overalls.

    1. Best part? They were actually shortalls. Most useless waste of fabric ever invented.

      1. Did you ever used to wear them with one strap unhooked. That was the shiz-nit back in the day…and exactly how I wore them in all the pictures from my 8th grade field trip. I thought I was Jodi Watley.

  18. Funnily enough I appear to have LOST most of mine :)

    1. Did you accidentally lose them in a garbage can or more permanently in a bonfire?

      1. there was little accidental about the .loss. I have a couple of goodies saved but the rest, blagh

  19. Oh my gosh I need to have my mom send me a scan of my 5th grade school photo. The bangs and flannel are TOO awesome.

    1. Yes! Please do! This linkup will be going on until Sunday and I would LOVE to see your flannel.

  20. Stop the madness!

  21. AHAH omg. The track suit. So amazing. I feel the urge to share my unbecoming school photos as well.

    Your junior year photo is hot though. I like the piercing eyes!

    1. I would love nothing more than to see you in your elementary school glory, Lils! Yeah, I was kind of a hot commodity when I was a junior. And by hot commodity, I mean that I ate tacos a lot lol

  22. Love this post! Going to dig out my old photos as well.
    You have received a Versatile Blogger’s Award nomination.

    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate it!

  23. My daughter’s are tomorrow and I’m already stressed out about it! Partially because she’s missing 5 teeth. :)

    1. Poor kiddo. I don’t think I had the bravery to do a teeth-baring smile until I went to college. Braces :/ I just realized how ironic that is because you can see the crowns on my back molars in my Gravatar.

  24. Dude, overalls and those silver hoops in middle school…..we would have been besties.

    1. Clearly we were both extremely fashionable.

  25. […] I saw the blog hop over at The Waiting was about old school photos, well, I couldn’t […]

  26. […] Check out the original post here and read through the rest of the participants’ blog posts for more School Portrait memories. To participate yourself, follow the instructions at Emily’s site. […]

  27. Haha I love the progression you showed! I bet you loved that track suit though! I always wore my “coolest” outfits at the time in my photos, which of course turned out to be the most embarrassing ones to look back on.

    1. You are onto me. I *loved* that stupid track suit. I got it for Christmas and wore it constantly.

  28. Um… This was hysterical! So funny! I remember practicing my smile the night before.

    1. Thanks! If you can believe it, I used to practice too. A lot of help that was.

  29. The lilac jogging suit is my favourite by far! Do you know where I can pick one of those things up?

    1. Pretty sure they are available at Grandmas ‘R Us.

      1. My favourite shop, obviously.

  30. […] week, the Blog Hop subject over at The Waiting and Are You Finished Yet is school photos. Now, I’m not going to lie and […]

  31. Thankfully, most of my early photos have been “mysteriously” destroyed. Lucky for me, by High school, I had learned well enough to be “sick” on picture day.

    1. You were really wise! Those “photo not available” clip arts were always about a thousand times better than the photos they replaced.

      1. Yes, I must agree.

  32. Oh my gosh, I’m so glad it’s not just me. The very last picture killed me. I try to show my childhood school pictures to as many people as possible so they appreciate what an ugly duckling I was then compared to the respectable mallard I am now.

    1. LOL! “Respectable Mallard” sounds like an indie band, ;D

      1. That’s what I’ll call a book someday. “From Ugly Duckling to Respectable Mallard: A Tale as Disappointing as this Analogy.”

  33. […] how I landed on a topic for the school photos blog hop being hosted at The Waiting. I want to share a list of things I wish I could have comprehended at the […]

  34. […] how I landed on a topic for the school photos blog hop being hosted at The Waiting. I want to share a list of things I wish I could have comprehended at the […]

  35. […] how I landed on a topic for the school photos blog hop being hosted at The Waiting. I want to share a list of things I wish I could have comprehended at the […]

  36. I forgot how odd (I mean awesome) my style was way back when. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed my time in grade school, but it certainly taught me a lot about life. I wonder, if I went back in time and talked to my 14-year-old self, if she’d understand how much she is learning. At the very least, I think she’d be proud of me. That counts for something.

  37. Hilarious post!!! I am with you on this one. I feel like all photos taken of me from the age of about 11-14 are simply tragic and cringe-worthy! Thankfully, we seem to have recovered!

    1. That is the best age range for awkwardness. Everything is growing, but at seemingly different rates. Don’t even get me started on my teeth. I looked like a monster before braces…. but then I had to have braces for 6 years… (that should give you an idea of how bad my teeth were 6 YEARS!)

  38. This was a great idea! Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out how to grab the badge and don’t know how to do a pingback, but I added a link above in inlinkz, and it’s here:

    What a dopey dinosaur.

  39. Omg I feel for you! My photos were horrible.

  40. *shudder
    the horror. the HORROR!
    I laughed very hard at the post name – then, I started remembering – middle school photos damn near ruined my life.

  41. LOL! With a newborn ourselves, I read the first paragraph to my husband. (We’ve been raindancing a lot lately!) A few minutes later he asked what I was laughing at… I can totally relate to the sitting on the floor picture (mine was 7th grade) and the John Lennon glasses (I believe that was 8th for me).

  42. […] School Photo Day According to Nicole and Emily […]

  43. I think your photo from grade eleven was all right. I mean, you were wearing what looks like a Catholic school uniform, but by then, you’d grown out your bangs and gotten contacts, and at that point, you looked more “young woman” than “adolescent.”

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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