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Tips for a successful preschool picture day

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Just say cheese

Ready, set, shoot! It's time for your preschooler's big debut with school photos. Are you ready to send them off to have their year marked with an image?

PreschoolerRemember picture day? The bright lights, obscenely blue background paper and the weird arm rest . . . Times have changed but a lot of the school photo experience hasn't. Here's how to prepare your preschooler for the big day.

What to wear

You're first thought might be to dress your child up in their fanciest clothes, comfort be damned. But that might not be the best decision if you want your child's photos to be their very best.

"Color-wise, remember that darker complexions are set-off better with lighter colored shirts, and lighter complexions are set-off by darker colors. Also, consider if the photos will be in color and/or black and white - bold colors and whites will stand out best in [black and white] photos," says Angela Garbot, owner of Photos by Garbot.

Linda Russell, owner of Mugshots Photography, says to save the trendy graphic shirts for some other time. Instead choose "simple classic clothes that FIT. My personal struggle this year has been sweet sundresses that have growing room so they end up with a plunging neckline. I end up trying to tie the straps up in the back with a bobby pin. You can imagine how popular that is with a 3 year old," Russell said.

How to coach kids to smile for the (stranger's) camera

It's been ingrained that saying "cheese!" is the best way to have a camera ready smile at the drop of a dime. However, that advice is just old. Photographers these days would rather see a genuine smile or laugh.

Russell says that parents need to stay away from picture day so kids can be themselves. "Please don't coach your child to a fake smile. Share with them it will be an exciting day at school tomorrow. A grown up whose job/profession (like a fireman or a princess) is to make photos of each child. Everyone will be wearing their clean faces and shirts. It will be fun, teachers will get their photos made too! Remind them to be polite, listen and tell them you can't wait to see the results of their photo session," Russell said.

How to choose a photo package

Bigger is better, right? Well, not necessarily. When choosing which photo package to order, consider how many school photos you will really need and want to give out.

"Before you chose a photo package, make a list of what size pictures you want for family members and yourself. Next read all the packages first. Compare your list to the packages and see which package matches best. Also some photography companies are now offering photo CDs with some of their packages, which may be a cheaper way to get a lot of pictures for less money," says Tracy Wimberly of Any Occasion Photography.

What to do if your child misses picture day

If your child misses picture day, don't panic. You have options and your child won't end up with a "No Photo Available" indication on the class photo page.

First, check if there is a make-up day planned at your school. If not, several photographers suggested calling the photographer and seeing if he or she would be willing to photograph your child at another school or privately. If both of those are no go, you can use a professional studio to have yearly photos done. Although it won't be a school photo, it will still serve as a remembrance of your child's year.

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