Published - Sunday, November 6, 2016
Every school needs high-quality, engaging photography to use in its marketing materials. Getting the right shots hinges on finding a great photographer who understands the school environment but there is a lot that you can do to prepare so that you get the very best out of your photo shoot. We’ve put together some top tips to get the best from your shoot.
There are three main styles to choose from and knowing which one will best suit your school marketing will help inform your choice of photographer and how much time you need to allow for your shoot.
This is where students are shot against a backdrop, usually black, green or white. This takes longer to set up each scenario but is great if you need images without a background. It’s also suited to the use of props and can deliver great results. Because of the equipment, it is often more expensive.
With this style the photographer will capture natural, candid shots around your school. Students are not disturbed and the aim is to record school life as it happens. This can yield a higher quantity of photos but the quality of the images is very dependent on the skill and creativity of the photographer.
Similar to reportage this style relies on pre-arranged scenarios to shoot, usually with a hand-picked group of students. This is perfect for capturing practical subject-based photographs such as science, sports, and technology. It can be used in combination with some reportage time to give you the widest choice of images.
Every shoot is different. Make sure you understand what you are trying to achieve, thinking carefully about the images that you want to capture. By writing down a wish list of shots, or shot categories, you will start to get an idea of the number of scenarios you will need to set up to facilitate this and you can start to plan how the day could work.
School photo shoots need to fit in with your school day. Invariably this means working around your lesson changes, lunch and break times, and any other interruptions that can occur in normal school life. Although professional photographers who are used to school shoots work quickly they do need time to travel to each location, assess the light, and set up the shot so allow some extra time for them to do this every time they move to a new area. Photography is an art, not a science so they will usually take around fifteen to twenty shots to capture the one perfect photo for each scenario. This is different with reportage, where they are capturing what is happening in front of them at that moment in time, although they will still take more than they need. The photos that you get back will already have all the out-takes removed so don’t expect to have hundreds of images from a day’s shoot. We are usually happy if we can come away with around 20-30 usable images from a one day shoot.
For scenario and studio shoots it is important to select students that are confident enough to be in front of the camera and responsive enough to be directed by the photographer. Consider that many younger students will have never been involved in a professional shoot before so they might be nervous about what to expect. Sometimes the more confident students are the same ones that can get themselves in trouble so think carefully. We have gone to work on more than one marketing project to be told that the images that we selected as the best ones to work with featured students that had been excluded since the photo shoot!
Whilst this is fairly obvious, do make sure that every student has given consent for their photo to be taken, especially when considering a reportage style shoot. Not being able to use an amazing image because there is a student without consent in the background can be frustrating. At best this can be rectified with post-production retouching but this adds cost to your project that can be avoided with prior planning.
Ask your photographer to capture details from around your school to give you some images that you can use to support your main marketing images. This can range from architectural details to close-ups of classroom objects such as equipment. Think about areas of school life that would be nice to capture and allow a little time for your photographer to go around and take the shots. Bags hanging on coat pegs, books in the library, attractive plates of food from your canteen are some ideas of images that show another layer of your school’s personality.
Ask your photographer how long the day can last and try to plan in some after-school activities. This is often part of the photo shoot that gets missed, leaving a gap when it comes to promoting your extra-curricular offerings. If your school is particularly strong in this area then it is worth paying for a longer day to make sure that you capture this important part of the education on offer.
There is a lot to organise when planning a photoshoot but the more you plan, the smoother the actual day will go. You will get the best images when your students are relaxed and happy so make sure that you explain why they are being photographed and what you want to achieve. A good photographer will help you plan the details of the day and will be able to put your students at ease. If you plan accordingly the whole experience should be enjoyable for all involved.