Personalize School Photos For a Big Impact

by Amy Renea Posted on September 30, 2013

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School photos are a lot like TBall photos. Remember earlier this year when we talked about eschewing the traditional, boring portraits for something that “spoke” to your kid’s personality a little better (for a lot less??) Well, I am back today to share another way to “beat” the school photography system and help record those cute little faces AND those cute little personalities.

You have probably seen a photo like this floating around the internet:

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

It is simple really. Take a photo of your kiddos on the first day of school, on picture day, any day near the beginning of the school year. Pop the photo in Photoshop or Picmonkey and add a few of your kid’s “favorites”. The way I get them to give me interesting and accurate descriptors is to ask detailed questions like:

  • What is your favorite think to drink
  • Where is your favorite place to go with Daddy?
  • What is the best part about summer vacation?
  • What would you do right this second if you could do ANYTHING?

The beauty of this system is that you are pairing a more natural photo (compared to those stiff, one-pose school pictures) with actual words from your kiddo about what they value at this stage in their life. Both are valuable and both hold a lot of sentimental value.

The problem with these prints is that you have to have the sizing exactly right when you go to print or words get a little too close to the edge or get cut off and it takes a lot of finagling to get your photo aligned correctly to print. My solution? A three photo canvas setup.

The large portrait (up and down) rectangle is for the actual photo, the smaller, top right rectangle for the name and grade and the bottom right rectangle for the “likes”. It is a whole lot easier formatting these canvases than attempting to format one photo with text overlay (trust me — I’ve tried!!)

Here is how I create the text squares. I work on the name first, choosing a font and staying consistent with it throughout the canvases (This particular font is a free font called NeoRetroDraw).

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

To achieve the green background that blends in perfectly with my child’s photo, I took the blurred out green background of the original photo and used the clone tool to make a “canvas” of blurry green.

Not sure what the clone tool is? See that little button below? It will be on the toolbar on your far left in Photoshop. Click it, then hold down the ALT key while you select the area of the photo you want to copy. Then let go of the ALT key, press the left button of your mouse again to <empaste the selection you have made. It sounds complicated at first, but the tool is very easy to use after you get used to it! Alternatively, a white background with a complimentary green text will work too!

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

Once the name is complete, I move on to the likes. I make sure to save this file as a psd (Photoshop file) AND a jpeg so that I can come back and easily edit the same background and font for different children and different years without having to redo the whole file from scratch.

I also like to mix up the fonts a bit in the likes section, so I added the complimentary NeoRetro Shadow to the NeoRetro Draw font.

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

Once you get your photos uploaded into Shutterfly, make sure you check and check again that your photos fit well and are not going to get cut off. Notice the name below? Oops! I needed to make the font smaller as well as making the whole photo a higher resolution (see that little orange warning triangle? Take those seriously and fix the problem before ordering!)

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

See how the text will bleed if I don’t fix the issue? Always make sure to preview your prints before ordering — particularly expensive canvases. You will be KICKING yourself when you get a beautiful canvas and ONE LETTER is drifting off the side — grrrr.

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

Once I ordered my canvases, along with some extra prints of the first day of school, it was time to figure out how to display them. I knew I wanted them in a grouping of some sort, but wanted to keep the kids individually separate as well. I decided on displaying them on these IKEA grids I found years ago in the as-is section.

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

Each boy gets their own grid, showing off the different years of school.

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

The canvases are attached with simple s-hooks, while the prints are even more simply clipped on with clothespins. Both can be easily adjusted and changed through the years as more and more “first day” photos are taken.

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

The beauty of this system is that individual prints can be changed out on a whim, while the pricier canvases remain a constant. The look can change up slightly without breaking the bank every time! Win-win again!

Back to School Canvas Wall Art

How will you capture the memories of each school year?


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more about Amy Renea

Hello! I am a freelance writer and photographer based out of Hershey, PA. I live with my husband, 3 boys, 7 chickens and a feisty bunny named nubbins on a couple acres in deer country. If you ever stop by, I'll have a iced sweet tea and sweet potato chips waitin' for you! You can find the bulk of my work at A Nest for All Seasons. I am also a design writer for the award-winning, a photographer for the Hobby Farms magazines, a blogger for Crafts Unleashed and a contributor to the newly launched magazine, Celebrating Everyday Life.

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