School photography is changing. No longer limited to the formal line up against a blue backdrop, today’s school photographs are clearer and brighter – and no one should ever be stuck with an image of themselves with eyes closed.
In this age of digital wizardry, there is no excuse for poor quality images. School photographers typically take a series of shots of each grouping then scrutinise the results for the best image, using technology to swap heads between images if need be.
Beyond this, you can expect a light retouch, such as a clean-up of runny noses, dirt marks on tops, and elimination of unwanted items in the background.
Increasingly, photographers are offering a range of styles for class, team and individual portraits. Schools can select a style that is in keeping with their culture whether traditional or contemporary. Some schools are asking for more casual posing with children sitting on the floor, under a tree or draped around the playground. Others want silly shots or black and white.
Photographers report that parents want more than individual portraits of their children, they want sibling shots and friendship groups. Team photos are no longer only available with children posing in strict lines, they can be fun and casual, some students sitting and others leaning, back to back.
Innovative learning space groupings are a challenge for photographers; it’s a lot of people to get into one shot. Some suppliers have changed their approach to ease the process and offer the option to photograph students individually then digitally create a class photo. In this way, each student’s face is clear, eyes unblinking, and the group is evenly spaced. It also means that students who are absent on photo day do not have to miss out as they can arrange a makeup session with the photographer.
As with all big occasions, planning is the key in keeping disruption to a minimum. Ask your supplier to do a site visit before the event so they can be clear about space, layout and best venue according to the lighting. Create a photo day timetable so everyone knows when and where they’re expected.
If yours is a big school, ask whether there is more than one team of photographers available to work simultaneously.
Clear communication is paramount – between the photographer and the school, and between the school and the parents. Find out what sort of preparations will be required; will the photographers need before-hours access or to have the school hall cleared? What about contingency for a rainy day?
You can also ease the process by keeping parents informed about when photos are due back. In a world when so much is available at short notice, there is an increasing expectation for instant access to images. Explain to staff and parents that the production process is fairly long-winded, with checks and double checks, printing and processing.
Check too what happens if a parent is not happy with the product, is there a money-back guarantee?
The day before
Remind students that photo day is tomorrow, and explain how they can best present themselves. In schools without uniform, some classes agree on a class colour or style, jeans and white t-shirts for example. Schools with uniforms should remind students to have the correct attire.
Encourage students to wash their hair the night before so it will be clean and shiny for their photos. They may like to take a hairbrush for a last-minute groom before the shoot.
On the day
Check that sure students are clean and neat before they leave the classroom. Encourage them to look at one another to make sure clothing is buttoned properly and faces are free of food smudges.
Let the photographer run the show. School photographers have worked with thousands of children and are experts in eliciting the best expressions.
The ordering process
Today’s parents don’t want to be bothered with paperwork, they expect to be able to view and order images online, and they also expect to be able to buy digital files. This is hugely beneficial in reducing the administrative work for school staff, making photo day an altogether more enjoyable occasion.
Many suppliers run photography events as a school fundraiser with a portion of the profit being returned to the school. Ask your photographer for terms; photo day fundraising could buy a lot of books for the school library. Some companies offer parents the option to order images on a wide range of product, diary covers, key rings, mouse mats and coffee mugs, for example.
Capturing the school spirit in pictures
Sue Allman started taking school photographs in 2011 after 13 years as a portrait photographer. Her business, sueallmanpeople, operates in Wellington and the lower North Island, and specialises in adapting to the culture of the school.
“Schools love the way their community is captured whether it is a small country school, a Māori immersion class or the school rock band; they all have their own style.
“Our sessions can be adapted to suit the mood or culture of the group, for example, staff photos can be traditional or silly – the results are a lot of fun.
“Parents love to see the personality of their child conveyed in a more relaxed manner, and children are rarely missed from class photos even if they’re late or absent because we can take their photo separately and Photoshop it in.
And there’s relief from staff who no longer have to line up children in height order on a very tight schedule.
“Our shoots are customised and have become a special occasion for many school, the children like posing with their friends.”