Kate Livingstone: Why school photos are picture perfect

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It’s school photograph time.

Taken in that brief window of time between setting off for school in shiny new shoes, smartly pressed trousers and dazzling white shirt and a month later when pasta bolognese has made its mark on the shirts while the trousers have slid down grassy slopes and been splattered by muddy football pitches.

As for the shoes – let’s not even go there. Suffice to say I’m not sure why anyone bothered inventing brakes for children’s bikes when expensive school shoes do the job so well.

I can smile at all this now that it’s my daughter Emma’s problem, of course.

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And I most definitely do not raise even an eyebrow when I hear her chastise her children for things that it seems like only yesterday she was doing herself.

I often thought Emma, as a child, would have been great in a soap powder advert – the before bit, obviously.

Mind you, the idea of Danny Baker turning up in my kitchen unannounced put me off volunteering her.

I digress, of course, but isn’t that the joy of those annual school photographs? The way the memories come flooding back.

Giant grins with no front teeth; hair that began the day combed and flat but somehow ends up vertical; ties that end up anywhere but where they belong – these are the stuff that school photographs are made of.

But are they as special as they once were?

I can think of only a handful of photographs of my mother as a child.

One is clearly professionally taken and is precious because I can trace my own face – and my daughter’s – in hers.

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In my childhood, photographs weren’t rare but they were still reserved for special occasions – first day of school, weddings, birthdays. The school photograph showed how we’d grown and changed.

But children today seem to have their photographs taken almost every day.

Does that make them less precious? I don’t think so.

Making silly faces, eating ice-cream, riding a bike, playing on a beach – these are all memories you can’t buy.

So, do we need the formal school photographs which cost an arm and a leg?

Emma threatened not to buy one this year and I found it hard to argue with her logic.

But, no, I can’t resist them – squint ties, missing teeth, hair sticking up and all.

Besides, you can never have too much ammunition for their 21st birthday...