#379 Bad school photo trends

Everybody’s got a classic.

Buried in the basement, brass-framed in the family room, you’ve got a dusty 8×10 gem of a bad school photo featuring a bad school photo trend:

That laser background. Remember when the studio hired an acid junkie to paint that pink and blue laser background for a couple years? There you were buck-tooth smiling in front of the light bright abyss. Kids, this is what we thought the future looked like.

Old school trendy hairstyle. Whether you got the Nike swoosh carved in the back of your buzz cut, rocked a mushroom with a middle part, or had a wispy rat tail down to your shoulders, the point is you were at on top of the sixth grade social circle. And who knows: maybe crimped bangs, sideburn steps, or glittery headbands will come back one day. They could be huge.

Forgot it was photo day. This is the kid with the sideways bedhead, black eye from a playground dust up, or simply a thin fraying T-shirt with a classy ketchup stain crusted across the collar.

Posing with props. In addition to teddy bears or keyboards, there was always the picture of the new grad smiling a big gummy smile holding a rolled-up diploma beside their head like a freshly caught trout. In case you couldn’t tell by the black robe, square paper hat, or encyclopedia bookcase background, someone just got their last biology credit.

• Braces smiles. You could always tell who had braces because their smile was an awkwardly forced, big-dimpled, tight-lipped beauty. Personally, I was always jealous of these kids since their physical deformity was easier to hide than a bumpy forehead full of bright red zits or a set of thick, Coke-bottle glasses. Hypothetically, I mean.

• Too dressed up for photo day photo. This is the boy who’s mom dressed him up with a brand new haircut, classy sweater vest, and crisp red bowtie. Or it’s the girl with perfectly braided hair, a frilly pink dress, and knee high socks. These pictures are especially hilarious when the kid looks really angry or accidentally blinks.

Yes, there’s something sweet about pulling out old school photos and sharing a laugh with the you of yesterday. Because between those chubby cheeks, side ponytails, and low hairlines is a blurry, faded version of the person you are today… in a tiny split-second moment of growing up…


The French translation of The Book of Awesome is now available through the publisher, Chapters, Amazon, or your local bibliothèque.

Photos from: here, here, here, and here

48 thoughts on “#379 Bad school photo trends

  1. First of all … c’est magnifique! French version! Congratulations; that’s such a huge deal! :D

    Second of all, this made me laugh so hard. This year (my first year as a TEACHER) is the first year I’ve really ever had a decent school picture. I think that somehow, through the years, I’ve been a participant in most of these trends (minus the braces one and forgot-it-was-picture-day one … Mom never let that happen).

    Though I DID have a few that were sporting the “We had P.E. outside in gale-force winds and a slight drizzle right before this picture” look.

  2. My picture days in elementary school were horrible. One in particular was grade 4 and my mom had me wear a new dress (that I had to change into, in the bathroom at school when my grade was called down. Guess my mom didn’t trust that I’d keep clean), and she gave me a hairstyle reminiscent of a late 80’s news-anchor. It was 1995.

        1. I’m looking at that site right now

          And I must say it’s pretty funny. It has pretty much all the things mentioned above.
          The hair, the clothes, the goofy grins, big glasses, funny accessories, props to lean against, etc.

          1. Hi! Thanks for checking on the site.

            I’d be great if you could link that picture up to the site as to give credit to the person who originally submitted it.


  3. This one made me laugh so hard.
    It’s so true.
    What about the one that was supposed to look like paint that had spilled?
    What about the moms who dress their kid in boyscout uniforms?

    1. One of the families down the street from me distributed pictures of their kids posed in front of the “paint spill” background wearing colored overalls and wielding paintbrushes and a fake can of paint. Feathered bangs included.

  4. Really, what is the deal with the props?
    I guess they’re supposed to make the picture look casual … like you just happened upon someone leaning against a stepladder in front of a screen of lasers. ha ha ha

  5. I’m just ugly and unphotogenic, so I’ve never had a good picture ever, let alone a decent school photo. It really worries me for when I get married. >.< I remember at a graduation party at a classmates house, I overheard a few jerks make fun of my photo, and the classmate did nothing to stop them. Not awesome!

    1. Don’t say that: You are not ugly. Beauty is superficial, skin-deep, and objective.

      When you get married, your smile will shine through–when you’re happy and full of love, that is genuinely when you’re the most attractive; please don’t let anyone tell you differently (even those obnoxious classmates–what do they know, anyway?). I’m sure that someone finds you stunning just the way you are.

      I can’t take back that awful memory, or all the teasing you were put through, but I can tell you that you are beautiful and that I, too, am unphotogenic. In spite of my lack of looking good in photos, I still find a way to smile–I hope you do, too.

      1. Aw, Christine, you are awesome!

        Jenni, I hope you read this and take Christine’s words to heart. She is speaking the truth. Joy is the most beautiful thing of all, and if you let that shine through, well…we’ll all be dazzled.

          1. hahaha, so glad i’m not the only one!! i absolutely thought jdurley was pulling out the bedazzler (not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

    2. I went to your blog……you are a very pretty girl. And you look very photogenic in your profile pic. Very happy too.
      don’t let anyone get ya down. Be your own person and love yourself and that alone will make you beautiful, even though you clearly already are.

      1. ditto this – love the pic, and love your entries! you’ve got quite the writing style going on there girl :)

  6. …and you know what’s awesome about today’s school photos? The kids who were away for picture day but got digitally inserted into their class photo anyway. Watching your 4 year old look at themselves in a picture they know they weren’t part of in real life and try to puzzle through the time/space implications is almost as fun as finding your own old school pictures.

  7. Felicitations pour le livre en francais! C’est formidable! Et puis, vous avez utilizer le mot francais favorit de ma mere: bibliotheque. Magnifique!

  8. :-)
    My kindergarten school picture……I was wearing this really lacey pink shirt with huge poofy bangs. Oh, and my huge glasses that took up half my face.

    And all my weird phases throughout high school…oh wow.

  9. I’m homeschooled, so I’ve never had a school picture. But I hate getting my picture taken wherever I am. It’s like ok-i’m-smiling-now-take-my-picture and let’s move on to the next ride at Disney World. The worst is when Mom takes 10 pictures while your mouth is cramping and the sun is in your eyes! Haha.

    1. I feel you. My mom took a photography course at college so she’s a total perfectionist when taking pictures.The photo routine goes something like this:
      1) My sister and I are positioned in front of The Scenery.
      2) Mom takes a picture.
      3) Mom steps back and takes a picture.
      4) Mom steps forward and takes a picture.
      5) Mom adjusts the flash and takes a picture.
      6) Mom moves a little over to the side and takes a picture.
      7) Mom squats down and takes a picture.
      8) Mom stands on something and takes a picture.
      9) Mom tells us to move over to the left, a little bit further, no, too far, back to the right, closer together, not that close, not that far apart, stop looking bored and smile, and takes a picture.
      10) Mom waits 3 hours for the sun to move around until it’s in the right position and takes a picture.
      11) Mom steps back again, trips on something, falls, and hurts herself.
      12) We gang up on Mom and forcibly remove the camera from her grip so we can move on.
      13) Walk for 30 seconds.
      14) Repeat.

  10. I have a laser background school photo from either the 7th or 8th grade. Terrible. Made worse by my bad hair-cut and worse-than-ugly sweater. Made my akward years even worse.

  11. My favorite is my little sister who was in an eye-rolling phase in kindergarten and she dramatically rolled her eyes in her school pic. All the other moms were APPALLED that my mom didn’t make her get it redone on picture re-take day, and mom wasn’t going to make her smile.

    Oh no – my mother had already decided that was the picture of the year, and that this picture would be displayed forever, especially whenever my sister brought home any special friends, prom dates, boy friends, etc. And it has been. It’s turned into one of the biggest family jokes :)

  12. Oh, yes, I completely relate to this…. My hair was always curled in some ridiculous style and I had a frozen smile…. Btw, I love the title of your French edition. Everything always sounds so much more literary in French!

  13. “Pictures of you, pictures of me
    Remind us all of what we used to be”

    Sorry everyone, that song is stuck in my head after reading this one.

  14. Love the post. however…
    “point is you were at on top of the sixth grade social circle.”
    Also, the french book looks like pure class to me.

  15. The thing I hated the most during school picture time was the random parent or volunteer or whatever, who was always around and would ALWAYS spit on their hand and try to adjust your hair to their liking.

  16. Totally remember the lasers! And the paint one as well. What about the space theme? The kids would stand with their hands on their hips. Then there was the library background. Somehow the fake books in the background made you a bit more sophisticated.

  17. We each have a favorite.

    Mine – I’m black, before my hair was chemically straightened, my mom would straighten it with a hot comb. I wore my hair down for picture day, but the picture was taken AFTER recess. I must have gotten a little sweaty. My hair is a GIANT PUFF.

    My sis – Burger King dress (we do NOT know why) and a busted lip. Not cute.

    My bro – sick. Looking like a 3 year old who needs oxygen. You can just look at the picture and tell he’s breathing through his mouth because his nose is stopped up. In fact, when you look at the pic, you start breathing through your mouth, like you’re in his head. Weird.

  18. I don’t show anybody most of my childhood pictures anymore. The last time someone saw the way my mother dressed me for “special occasions” like picture day, they said, “oh, that’s so cute – so 50’s!” I said, “uh, yeah, pity it was 1988 at the time.”

    And she just couldn’t understand why half the class wanted to beat me to a bloody pulp…

  19. Ok, maybe I’m just too close to my school years to have this connection to my own old school photos. However, I do enjoy looking at other peoples’ from years prior. Although, I suppose actually some of my elementary school and baby-preschool photos look kinda late 80’s-early 90’s baby style. Sure I didn’t have crazy hair, but I did have a daisy that I’m staring intently at in one, as a toddler. And my brother (3 years younger than me) has one where he’s sitting on a bench next to a fake paint can spill on a white carpet. :)

  20. there’s also one 80’s trend we have of my eldest daughter front view and then a profile, “floating in the darkness” above the other, in the same photo…she says, “And what’s up with that anyway???” we all laugh so hard!

    then there’s the group locomotion too, which my son-in-law and his night shift crew had portraits done at Walmart this past Christmas; hung a poster size in the staff room and handed wallet sie out with Christmas cards at staff party.

    Oh, and then there were the Meryl Norman ones…oh ya’ baby!
    hmmm, maybe they’re still doing those…in which case I AM REAL SORRY!!!

    1. oops sorry, got carried away into all 80’s photo trends basically…in which case, I wish I was techy enough to share the one of 3 single parent’s, very outta’ touch with going out to a night club, but trying to fit in and really thinking we looked HOT…you would laugh until air popped from all orfices! But there were no digital cameras then…our excuse today, when actually there’s no excuse, we were clearly desperate and the intensity of the overall 80’s looks, spandex and hair goop, it’s no wonder “RELAX” was such a big hit!

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