What Your School Portrait Backdrop Said About You


My brother looking pretty darn 90s.

If you had lasers, you were probably totally rad, in the parlance of the time. You were fashion forward and a bit of a risk taker. Or, you were really into technology, robots, and science. I don’t know why lasers were ever even introduced as a school portrait backdrop, when I think about it. They’re not really relevent to any kid’s experience. “Oh, you know Becky, she just loves shooting lasers!” That’s something no parent ever said. And they weren’t a general, neutral motif, even in the 90s. As an adult, laser portrait kids are probably style pioneers – you favor bright colors and eye catching patterns. At the workplace, you are on the cutting edge and willing to go out on a limb to get noticed. Or, you are really into technology, robots, and science.


I still remember this picture day. What I do not remember is why my mom thought scraping my bouncy childhood ringlets into a messy ponytail was an OK idea.

Your parents picked your backdrop. You grew up in a traditional household of rules and regulations, and your family stayed away from anything too flashy. Or, the other backdrops all cost extra, and your parents thought that something like unnecessary school portrait scenery was a waste of money. They may have also been very concerned about what your grandparents would think. If you chose the cloud background yourself, you were probably Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties. Today, former sky backdrop kids could go either way. You may have rebelled big time in high school and college, turning to some sort of counterculture that required outfits. I don’t care what — goth, hip hop, extreme country music fandom. It may also be that you kept your family’s values, and prefer a streamlined, tidy look. You try not to draw attention to yourself, and avoid displaying obvious status symbols. And when you have kids, you’re not going to throw your money away on stupid laser backdrops. Or whatever the equivalent of lasers is in the 2010s. One of my nephews could have chosen tie-dye, so maybe that.

Some years, my school offered this weird backdrop that looked like you were in a mahogany study, with bookshelves and a roaring fire. There may have been a Christmas tree with stockings hanging. At the time, this probably meant that your parents wanted a Christmas portrait to send to relatives, but were killing two birds with one stone by making the school picture the Christmas picture. If you chose it, it’s because you wanted people to think you lived in a mahogany-paneled estate. Either way, this translates well as an adult. Either you or your parents knew how to get what you wanted without paying out the ears, be it by combining Christmas and school portrait costs or by faking wealth. Now that you’re an adult, I bet you’re great with budgeting and cost-saving measures. You mix up all of those homemade cleaning ingredients on pinterest and are awesome at refinishing secondhand furniture.

That Gray Marbled Situation

My adorable nephew, who probably would have preferred lasers. Poor guy.

It was the only option your school had. Or your parents were very serious and hated fun and frivolity. Or you, yourself, were very serious and hated fun and frivolity. You probably have a super-serious occupation now, and avoid decorating or dressing in colors. Your 401K is probably bigger than mine.

The Double-You

My cousin, with face obscured because she never asked for this.

This option had mostly been phased out by the time I was a child, but lo and behold, one of my nephews had this done in the past year or so! What happens is this: The main photo is the kid looking head-on into the camera and smiling. Then, superimposed above the kid, is the same child in profile, staring inspirationally into the abyss. These pictures are one of the creepiest things I can think of. First of all, the inspirational profile kid is just a disembodied head. Second, it is just straight-up unsettling to see two of the same person in one frame. Presuming you don’t have an identical twin, I would FREAK OUT if I saw you and your double, standing one above the other. It’s like The Shining or The Poltergeist, or any other movie I watched on TBS and freaked out about for a week. So, who chose this backdrop? I think parents who wanted to be “artistic” or kids who always wanted a twin. The parents who went with the “double-you” option thought their kids were gorgeous, smiling or not. They thought relatives and classmates were missing out if they didn’t see your profile as well as the front of your face. Whichever way you cut it, your parents thought you were a stunner and wanted the world to know it. So where are you now? You might be really stuck on yourself and think you’re just the most attractive person in every room you’re in. You make it a point to angle your head up and to the side in conversation, so that people can get the full effect of your perfect profile. Or, I guess maybe your parents just instilled a high sense of self-esteem in you, and you have that.

Neon Blinds

Other brother, also spectacularly ’90s. I now understand why my dad called me “[brother] in drag” as a child, as I looked EXACTLY like this with long hair. Also, not cool, dad. Not cool.

If you wanted the flash and glitz of lasers, but they were a little too busy, then neon blinds were for you. You were probably fairly up on your trends, with at least somewhat lenient parents. I bet you were cool in high school. What does that mean now? You keep an eye on what’s new and trendy, but that doesn’t mean you follow every fad that comes along. Now that your parents are older, they probably are planning on traveling a lot in retirement, but think more Italy and less Bolivia.

3 thoughts on “What Your School Portrait Backdrop Said About You

  1. Pingback: What Your Childhood Halloween Costumes Said About You | cookies + sangria

Comments are closed.