7 Creative Ways to Showcase Yearly School Photos

School and September mean “Picture Day!” to many parents in the United States. We sent our kids off to school that morning with their hair combed, and wearing a sparkling new outfit (hoping and praying it still looks good at picture time).

But when we get the prints of the adorable school portraits, what happens next?

Most of us admire our kids’ pictures for a few days and maybe give some to grandparents at Christmas. Eventually, the rest of the prints we ordered accumulate in a box, forgotten for years to come.

What if you rescued those photos out of storage, to display in some fun and creative ways? The challenge: avoiding displays that make your child uncomfortable or embarrassed when people see them.

Here are some ideas for creatively displaying yearly school portraits.

1. Purchase a Digital File or Scan and Digitize Older Prints

If you have a school portrait order form sitting on your counter, read this article from Consumer Reports before you decide on the number of prints. Their advice is to purchase a smaller, less expensive package that includes the digital download of your child’s photo. Then you own the copyright and can print it on your own, and share with family members and others on social media.

If you have older prints, it’s still a good idea to archive digital copies. If you are simply scanning older photos on your own home scanner for the purpose of archiving (not printing or sharing), no copyright is needed. Picture This Organized can help you scan all of your old print photos so you have high-quality digital copies of each print.

Otherwise, we recommend that you ask the photographer for a digital file as professional printers or scanning companies will request a copyright release.

Be sure to file all of your saved images in your photo collection either by year or child’s name, and then back them up!

2. Combine Several Portraits into a Photo Collage

One fun way to display every school year portrait is to put them together in a photo collage. This is an alternative to displaying each year’s photo separately in a regular frame.

You can print photo collages on high quality paper for framing. Another option is to print your collage on an art canvas that is wrapped and stretched around a wooden frame. This is called “gallery wrapped.”

You can find several collage templates and formats on Shutterfly (see example below) and MPix. It’s simple to upload your digital photo files and create a single piece for a wall or table top easel.

Photo Collage Example

MPix has some other creative collage keepsake options, including a Mini Accordion. You can choose the number of photos featured, then display the mini accordion on a table top or store it folded like a small book.

3. Framed Wall Displays

If you want to display your child’s school portraits on a wall, here are some ideas for using frames creatively:

The Standard School Years Photo Frame
These individual frames are available at WalMart, or online at Amazon in a multitude of styles. They usually feature a larger middle image with smaller openings for each year’s school portrait. Hang these on a wall, or display on a table or desk.
But what should you do with the blank openings, as your children grow and move from grade to grade?

This mom created her own gallery and filled the future frames with whimsical printed paper. You can try this idea in the standard school years frames as well.

Growing Up GalleryPhoto courtesy of de Jong Dream House

Other Creative Groups of Frames
If you frame each year’s portrait individually, you can then group them on the wall or on shelf.

To illustrate the passing of time, frame your child’s school photos around the hands of a clock.

Clock Frame Example

Another idea is to arrange small frames in the shape of the first letter of your child’s name, or geometrically around a display of your child’s initials in large wooden letters.

Need more inspiration? This recent post has helpful tips for creating photo wall galleries

4. Picture in a Picture

While every child may have their photo taken, not every parent orders prints. You may choose instead to take (and display) your own “First Day of School” photo.

If you still have children in school, here’s the steps to this “Picture in a Picture” idea:

  • Take a picture of your child on the first day of school.
  • Frame that photo.
  • The next year, have them hold the framed photo from the year before.
  • Each successive year, take a picture of your child holding the previous year’s framed photo.

It will be fun to look back and see how they’ve grown, holding a picture of a picture in each year’s photo.

Picture in a Picture Example

5. Create a Photo Book or Album

Using your digital image files, upload them to a site like MPix or Shutterfly, and create a hardback photo book of your child’s school portraits.

If you would rather create an expandable album that allows you to add pages as your child grows, here’s another idea. We helped one of our clients create a album for each of her three children’s school and sports photos. Each child has a Pioneer 8” x 8” post-bound album. A post-bound album is book bound together by removable posts and screws.

We designed the new pages for our client, then printed them on acid-free pages at the nearest Costco. Our client slides those pages into PVC-free sheet protectors, takes the album apart, adds the new pages, and puts the album back together.

School Album Page Example 1

School Album Example 2

6. Use School Portraits in a Slideshow Video

To mark a milestone like graduation, you can include school portrait photos into a slideshow.

To create the best possible effect, set slides to transition quickly (so that each picture is only viewable for about one second), so you can see how the person has changed as they have grown up.

This previous post has more tools and tips on creating slideshow videos.

If you’re a Mac user, here’s a quick tutorial on how to create a Slideshow in Apple Photos.

7. Store Photos in a Keepsake Display Box

While you may be tempted to store school portrait prints in a box in a closet, a keepsake storage option doubles as a modest table top display.

Available on Artifact Uprising, these brass and wood boxes hold up to 50 same-size prints (5” x 5” in the example pictured).

You can choose to display one photo by sliding it into the top of the box and store the rest inside. Order more prints and add to the box over the years.

Photos Display Box

Whatever You Do, Be Sure to Archive Original Prints

Depending on your life stage, you may be looking for creative ways to display your child’s school portraits, or if your children are grown and out of the house, it may be time to put those displays away.

Either way, you’ll want to preserve one or two copies of every year’s photo — from toothless grins to middle school lip-glossed smiles. You’ll need them down the road for graduations, weddings, or that day when your adult child needs to that awkward junior high school photo for a team building project at work!

We suggest you write on the back (in photo-safe pencil) the name, date, and school, then file the photos in acid-free boxes or in PVC-free plastic sleeves. If you already have a memory box (like this Savor School Years Edition), you can safely file each year’s portrait in an acid-free folder and keep it with other school memorabilia.

Once you safely archive a couple of copies, give yourself permission to throw away those extra copies you no longer need. We think you’ll feel some relief as you thin out your collection.

For more information on preserving your printed photos, read our last post, where we explained how to safely archive your photos.

Let us know if you would like some assistance designing or creating any keepsake albums. We are here to help!

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