No Editing on Our School Photos, Please


It happened, of course. The weekend before my son’s very first school photos at preschool found us outside waving goodbye to our friends who had just visited us from out of state. My bubbly, intense four-year-old boy was stomping around like a dino and waving goofily on our front concrete step. His bounding energy halted with a sudden wipe-out across the pavers. A slow bleed started from a scrape scaling right up his little nose, and tears burst down his face as he lunged into my arms. Six days out, his first-ever school picture would now capture a large scab covering his tiny button nose.

A year prior, my older son cut his own hair right before first-grade pictures. Thankfully we were able to get the hair blended well enough in time for picture day. Back then, a friend of mine who has worked with young children for a while made a comment to me that preschoolers in particular are notorious for showing up to picture day with self-cut hair or a new boo-boo on their face. I had to laugh as I recalled this comment since we had yet again fully proved the accuracy of it.

I tried though!

I daily, religiously, covered this little hurt nose in boo-boo cream leading up to preschool picture day. I tried to remind my son not to pick at the scabs when they started forming, to no avail. By the time the big day arrived, my baby’s nose wasn’t quite as red as Rudolph — but definitely competing for the title. I had done what I could and accepted reality. This boo-boo would be captured for all of our eternity.

kids taking photosA few weeks later I had the photo and order form in my hands. Though I knew he’d be sporting a new accessory on his face, I was eagerly awaiting this moment to see how noticeable it would be. My eyes went right to his little nose in the photo, and it looked really good! …too good, actually. In fact, there was no boo-boo on his sweet little face at all! I thought, “What a great picture! He smiled so handsomely too!” But then I considered again, coming to the realization that his preschool picture had been edited. I hadn’t requested any editing, nor was there any way to even do so before receiving the proofs.

It was such a good picture!

But it wasn’t a real picture.

It’s really incredible that we have these options to edit out a big scab or blemish on photos these days. I have had photos of myself edited, and probably will in the future. Although it’s really nice to have the option, the thought of editing my child’s school picture didn’t sit well with me. In an age of social media, where everything we portray to others is usually edited to some extent, I don’t like the idea of making that decision for my children, especially at this young age. I want them to know they can always show up as their real selves, blemishes and all. And I want them to know that I love every ounce of them and their imperfections.

So with that, I sat down to contact the school photographer about seeing the unedited version of my preschooler’s photos. The photographer was gracious, understanding, and quick to get me the version I requested, emphasizing their desire to provide parents with what they prefer. And as soon as I laid eyes on that unedited photo, baring every pixel of that scrape, my mouth turned upward with a goofy, unhindered joy upon beholding my real, fierce, rough and tumble preschooler. I knew in an instant: this photo was the one I wanted, with the middle of his face all shades of pink.

Moving forward, I’ve resolved to adamantly ditch the idea of editing my children’s photos. Even a boo-boo that’s not usually a part of them instantly brings back memories of our days together at this age. It reminds me of my child’s personality, and how he handles tough moments. It prompts the fond memories of our time with friends and the haphazard ways of my little one leading up to the fateful boo-boo. This leads me to think of all of his fierce and loving tendencies, and all the little things I adore about him.

I just want the real him…mess and all.

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Amanda is an upstate New York girl who married a Tennessee guy in 2011 and moved to Charleston the next day. They have adopted two toddler boys from South Korea in 2017 and 2019. She loves to share her heart ponderings and humor lent by beginning motherhood with her toddler who spoke another language. She has a social work degree and background in non-profit work, but currently stays home with her boys. She enjoys her awkward floppy hound, assertive cuddly cat, but can't keep plants alive. In her "spare time," she loves to create, serve as drummer at her church, dance around the house, or provide harmonies/percussion for her sister's music.