Before, During, After-The Last Day of School

I always like to capture simple "first" and "last" day of school pictures of my kiddos.  It's crazy to see how much they progress all these years and I have this great vision of putting them all together to display at a high school graduation party someday!

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Yesterday was Madelyn's last day of school, time to capture the traditional photo.  The photo doesn't show what actually happened when I tried to capture this photo. But I want to share some of the before, during, after with you. 

Before: I like to have my kids hold a little sheet of paper with the words "last day" on them.   Yesterday was a crazy  morning but I found the time to create a simple sign with markers and had Madelyn fill it all in.  My idea was that she would write her name at the top, a good way to record how she can write her name.  This turned out to be the worst.idea.ever.

I guess I didn't leave enough room.  Or maybe it was too much room.  Either way, she wrote her name big and crazy (she wasn't as into this as me) and didn't leave enough room for the "N."  I tried to have her squeeze it on the side.  This worked for a bit until it was time to go outside and take photos.  At that point, my sweet little baby took the paper, crumpled it up into a ball, and yelled that she did NOT like her name and she would NOT let me take her photo.  Then I lost it and yelled at her and she started crying, all perfect conditions for taking a photo.  I decided to let it go and we left for school.

During: We decided to try it again after school.  This time I made the sign, making sure I left space for the "n."  We went in front of the house and I put her in some open shade under the tree.  This girl makes the best facial expressions.  She was more relaxed and happy at this point (I may have bribed her with a TV show) and I was able to record my sweet girl in all her glory.

While taking the photo, my cute little neighbor boy was out and he requested that I take his photo.  I turned to my right, snapped a quick shot, and I realized I liked the background and lighting where he was standing much better.  So, I moved Madelyn over to that spot and shot a couple of frames.  Unfortunately, she was over photos.  

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After: There's a lot to learn here.  

One, these things should not be rushed.  I had a lot of stuff to get ready before we left for school (everyone dressed, food prepared for the pot luck, me dressed, looking relatively decent).  Adding in a photo session probably wasn't the best idea.  

Two, just because a photo matters to me doesn't mean it matters to my family.  Really, Madelyn should be able to picture herself at age 18 going through a beautiful collection of photos that show how she's grown over the years…but she just didn't (of course).  

Three, I need to take my time thinking about background and lighting.  I liked the idea of having our house in the background.  We move so much that I do think it would be cool to see each of the places she has lived.  However, in the way that I shot it, we can't tell what anything is.  Photos in front of the shrub on toward the side of the house have a cleaner background.

I did some minor editing on this photo.  You might notice that the sign is a little overexposed.  In order to get her face properly exposed, the white sign was a bit overexposed.  In the future, I might use a light colored piece of paper to get the tones between her skin and the paper to be more in the same range.  

The crazy thing…seeing how much my baby has grown up this year!

Do you attempt first and last day pictures???  How do they go?