It’s the first day of school and the kids are lined up on the front step for a few snapshots.

Unfortunately the sun is right in their eyes, they won’t stop pestering each other, and to top it off, the camera battery is dead. Sound familiar?

School plays a big part in a child’s life, and that first day of school, whether it is preschool or the senior year of high school, is a significant milestone; it’s one of those moments that you want to capture. Here are tips to snap a great back-to-school photo, one that reflects your child’s personality at that very instant.

1. Plan ahead.

Set out your camera the night before so you aren’t scrambling for it in the morning. Charge the battery and check available space on the memory card. Wake up your children a little bit early on that first day to allow time for picture taking.

2. Create a tradition.

Take a photograph in the same place every year to document your child’s growth next to an unchanging object.

Photographing your child by the front door or using the same brick wall as a background allows you to gauge the gains in height or count the bricks to determine growth.

3. Include the school.

Stand across the street from the school with your child to create a close-up shot with the school in the background.

Instead of placing your child directly in front of the school building, pose him or her about five feet in front of the camera with the school building in the distance. Use the wide-angle end of your zoom to include your student and the school building. This technique makes your child stand out in the photo while all of the other children blend into the background.

4. Document your children’s interests.

Take close-up photos of the characters on their backpacks, lunchboxes, or notebooks to record the things they love this year. Whether your child is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, Tinkerbell, or Transformers, it will be fun to look back someday. Also, once they hit high school, you can use the pictures of the Barney backpack for blackmail.

5. Get sentimential.

Take a picture of your children as they walk away from you or as they board the bus.

6. Pay attention to the background.

Eliminate clutter or distracting elements; afterall you want your child to be prominent in the photo not the tires on the minivan or the crossing guard’s legs.

7. Get to their level. Taking a picture from above the subject makes them appear smaller and more vulnerable.

Photographing the subject from a low vantage point will make them appear taller and more capable. Photograph your student from each perspective to experiment with different feels.

8. Document the fun stuff, too. Photograph your student surrounded by newly-acquired school supplies. As children progress through the grades, the required supplies change. By the time their own kids head off to school, a laptop computer might be the only school supply needed (that and the obligatory two boxes of Kleenex).

9. Don’t embarrass them. If your children are reluctant to pose for you at the school, agree to return to the school for a photo session when the school is closed and the grounds are free of peers. Staging photos outside of the school day is better than embarrassing your young student and definitely better than not taking any back-to-school pictures at all.

10. Catch the teacher later. The first day of school can be hectic for students and teachers. Save that picture of your child with the teacher for back-to-school night.

Many school have strict policies concerning photography in the school. Find out what your school’s rules are.