Turning 18 is a milestone birthday that brings your children into adulthood. We frequently work with parents who want to do something special with their photos to commemorate this event but are often stalled by their unorganized photo collections or they don’t know what they’re looking for. I’ve put together a list and some personal examples of our 18 most common photos that are considered necessary for the first 18 years of your child’s life.


There are a lot of bases to cover for the early years of your child’s life but it’s important to remember that you don’t NEED to include everything. Some things, like first words and first laughs can’t be captured by a photo. If you’re using these for a photobook project you can add captions and stories to go with them.

First day home

My parents and I on my first day home from the hospital in 1987

First Portrait

This is the turning point in my life-long love of having short hair

First photo with new siblings

My brother Christopher, born 1992, is one of my best friends but we used to be mortal adversaries.
My sister Ashley. It’s not always easy being only 14 months apart.


Spending time with family was the best part of my childhood and we’ve found that our clients have some of the most difficulty choosing photos that have a lot of family in them. In the end it comes down to which photos really matter to you but when trying to make your selections keep in mind that blurry photos, people not looking at the camera or making good faces generally don’t look good in photo projects.

Extended Family

Make sure that the photos you decide to save, especially when making a photo book or slideshow, cover a wide age range.

Blondes in front!
~10 years later…

Close Family

These are ultimately the best photos in your collection and you’re going to save more of them than anything else. My best advice for you is to be ruthless and trust your instincts about which photos have the most value.

I saved this photo because it’s the only group photo we have at our old house.
This is a good example of a judgement call. Not everyone has a good face, but we only did one shot and there aren’t many photos of us after this dinner before my grandma passed away.


Any comprehensive photo selection projects include the big milestones like birthdays and school photos, but my favorite part of any photo project are the small milestones that matter to the family. These are a couple of milestone moments that we see frequently, big and small.

Potty training

This is called potty training with style

Learning to read

I will always fall asleep reading a book and I’m ok with it.

The School Photos

We can’t escape them. First things first, get rid of any duplicate school photos. You don’t need to hang onto those sheets, cut one out or save the largest and throw away the rest. Photo books and slideshows are an amazing way to highlight 18 years worth of school photos and it is a really fun way to look at how they’ve grown! If you have them, don’t forget a photo from each first day of school.

This was probably a first day of middle school, before I cut my hair off.

The formal events and photos

Professional photographers return dozens of amazing photos and choosing your favorites is incredibly difficult – but you have to do it! Keep 10 – 15 maximum for each professional shoot or event depending on its importance and use 1-3 for photo projects.

My sister isn’t drinking real champagne, but I am for sure drinking real coffee.
My very first formal dress


This one should cover several different graduations and it’s good to keep a couple for each one. We recommend keeping graduation photos from preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and high school.

My high school graduation


This list wouldn’t be complete without a prom photo. Make sure you get some photos of the whole group too!

Cape not pictured.


We all have hundreds of photos of holidays, birthdays, graduations and important moments in our lives and we’ve written a lot in the past about the best ways to tackle photo selection. The following photos don’t have to be limited to a single photo, many of them require one for each year, but they are important to include in any selections you make for photo projects or just to stay organized.


Birthdays are one of the instances where it makes sense to have at least one from each year. Try getting all the cake photos or present photos together and use a couple extra for milestone birthdays like 5, 10, 13 & 16.

I still get this excited for cake
I think my sister wanted to blow out my birthday candles!

First Communions/Bar or Bat Mitzvahs

Wearing that veil was the best and I insisted on wearing long after my communion.

Beach days

Babies and children look impossibly cute in swimsuits and water but you only need a couple of beach photos to capture the feeling of those days.

Growing up on Cape Cod means we spent A LOT of time at the beach.

Snow days

If our brightly multi-colored snow suits didn’t give it away – this is the 90’s.

Vacation photos

It’s not about the beautiful beaches you were on, it’s about the fun you had while you were there.

Our grandparents took us and our cousins to Disney World twice. There are several embarrassing photos of a hair wrap that was not a good look for me.

Halloween costumes

18 years means 18 costumes, so only highlight your favorites. If you’re considering a photo book, you can pick 5 or 6 of your favorite costumes and make a great spread!

I insisted my we couldn’t both be princesses, so I made her wear a veil and be a bride.

The big holidays

Holidays were the time where all of us were together because we were spread across New England so there were always a lot of pictures taken (usually by me) and this is very common among families we work with. Keep the photos that really speak to your holiday and photos that capture really special family moments.

My grandma’s Christmas tree was the best part of Christmas and I use her ornaments every year for my own.
We weren’t allowed to open presents until we found the slipper my Dad hid in the house.

The Candids

Not all candids are created equally. You can’t keep or use them all so trust your gut on which photos are truly meaningful.

This is basically the best photo ever taken.
I’d pay good money to see my brother in onesie pajamas again.

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