Why are school photos so important?

In one word, history. School photography is a long and time-honoured tradition that dates back to the early 20th century. While the invention of photography itself predates this significantly, it wasn’t until 1910-1920 that photography technology became much more accessible. While there are pictures of children from the late 19th century, long exposure times required subjects to sit for long periods – not ideal when you are photographing an entire classroom of fidgety kids. The invention of faster shutter speeds meant quicker captures and group photos were much easier to execute. Hence, school photography and school photo day became a regular calendar event.

Because professional photography equipment was, and still is, an expensive investment, school photography has always offered parents the opportunity to enjoy enduring portraits of their children at a very affordable price. This was especially important for families who may not have been able to afford private family portraits or even their own cameras.

School photos
An early picture of a class at Central Station School. Image from Public Records Office.

Nowadays, we have more photos on our phones than we know what to do with. It’s this overflow of images that leave many of our memories lost to the ages through smartphone disasters. Most of us remember to upload to the cloud, but few of us go to the trouble of having our pictures professionally printed. And no, running them through the DIY machines at Officeworks doesn’t count 🙂

So why do school photos endure over all of the other faded pictures in the family memory box?

Remember that school photos and portraits are professionally staged, properly lit and expertly produced to stand the test of time. It’s this quality that makes us go the effort of framing, displaying and enjoying them for decades to follow. We’ve all stepped into our partner’s parents’ house for the first time only to have our significant other cringe at their 13-year-old school portrait on the wall. It’s practically a rite of (hall) passage.


School photos are usually more carefully stored than other photos which help preservation.

The clarity, crispness and truth of a school photo are unparalleled when compared with even the highest-pixel phone camera. The care that’s taken to produce these images is also what drives us to ensure the preservation of these expertly captured memories. When we receive that school pack, we make sure the images are kept safe, sealed and stowed in their original packaging for enjoyment now and well into the future.

Just as properly developed school photos from the 1920s continue to be studied 100 years later, the photos we take now will be pored over by distant future relatives. These images will offer a step back in time where they’ll find true-to-life portraits of their ancestors.

While gaining glimpses into our family histories through school photography is wonderful, the photos also serve an important purpose for schools. Schools use these images to maintain their databases of course, but long after students have left, schools are able to keep an accurate visual record of who attended. For historians, archivists, researchers, legal teams and past students, these records are highly valuable.

The original Arthur Reed Photos location circa 1960 where many early school photos were developed!

Trust Arthur Reed to capture your history

Arthur Reed Photos is a trusted name for professional photography services in schools across Victoria. Please get in touch with us to discuss your class, portrait, sports or team photography needs on our contact page or call 1800 032 028.