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shadowox frame filled with school portraits displayed on desk

Shadowbox Frame DIY for Annual School Portraits

By Brenda Ponnay

Let’s talk about school portraits. Relatively speaking they are horrible… yet I STILL LOVE THEM!

I adore seeing portraits of first-graders and little ones awkwardly posed in front of one of those cheesy school backdrops with unkempt hair and usually missing front teeth. So what do you do with those school photos once you’ve ordered them diligently every year? I guess you can hang them framed, down the hallway in a giant gallery, and also distribute them to relatives. We decided to display them in a shadowbox, cool time-lapse style!

I think this would be a great gift idea for grandparents for the holidays or any day….

overhead photo of shadowbox frame and supplies to display school portraits

Supplies needed to make this School Portrait Shadowbox Display

  • a shadowbox frame (we used these 11×14 frames but I think even bigger would have been nice, bonus if you can get the kind with an opening door (we found one by Umbra that comes with a clip line, too)
  • twine
  • school photos (we resized our photos too 2×2.5 to fit the 11×14 so definitely go bigger on the frame if you are using traditional 2.5×3.5 wallet-size photos)
  • tiny clothespins (we used these)
  • tape
  • scissors
  • white glue (optional)
  • tiny labels (see our printable below) (optional)

triptych of hanging photos on a background for shadowbox framed display

Let’s get started.

How to make this School Portrait Shadowbox Frame

First, disassemble your shadowbox frame and layout your photos on the background. If your student hasn’t completed all her grades yet, use some white paper as place-holders for the remaining grades. Once you have them so they will all fit, lay down four pieces of twine with enough overlapping the edge to wrap around and affix to the back with tape. It’s a good idea to use tape on the front to hold down the twine until you get everything situated so it doesn’t move. Then once you’ve flipped it over and taped down the twine on the back you can turn it back over and remove the for-placement-only tape pieces on the front. Our frame came with a linen background to which it was easy to adhere and remove tape, but if you are working with a paper background you might want to use painters tape that removes easily.

triptych of supplies for gluing labels onto clips for photo display of school portraits

This step is optional. If you would like to put labels on the tiny clothespins that will hold the school photos you can print out our handy label sheet here or make your own. Attach the tiny labels to the clothespins with a dab of white glue. Allow to dry and then put your cover on your shadow box and you are done!

picture of shadowbox frame filled with school portraits over the years

Pretty cool, right?

It’s really fun to look at school photos of years past side-by-side and watch how your student has changed.

Hang the frame of school portraits in a hallway or upon a mantle, and we are sure this will spark many lively conversations and recall memories!

More Photo Crafts from Alpha Mom:

1. Summer Vacation Map Art Keepsake
2. Best Friend Photo Shoot for Friendship Day!
3. DIY Thanksgiving Family Photo Cork Centerpiece

About the Author

Brenda Ponnay

Brenda Ponnay is an author and illustrator who loves to craft and make big messes when she’s not working on her books. Whether it’s painting, baking, drawing, making castles out of card...

Brenda Ponnay is an author and illustrator who loves to craft and make big messes when she’s not working on her books. Whether it’s painting, baking, drawing, making castles out of cardboard boxes or just doing the laundry with flair, Brenda Ponnay has learned that what really makes her happy is being creative every single day.

You can read about all her crazy adventures on her personal blog: Secret Agent Josephine.

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