School photographers have to work hard to tackle such a monumental task as taking photos of easily excitable students, from kindergarteners to high school seniors. After all, these photographs will be hung on the walls of family homes and tucked away in school yearbook albums, and the significance of students looking good cannot be stressed enough. It is an exciting time for parents, too, who are just as invested in the outcomes of a school photography session. So what makes a school photograph stand out and memorable?
The first important thing to note is the photographer's mindset and how comfortable they feel. Understandably, photographing children is not easy, and it takes a lot of practice patience to find all things joyful, innocent, and professional in one frame. But if you are tasked with photographing the entire school, you will not have the luxury of time.
Whether it's yearbook photos or special events, here are a few tips for school photographers to make sure they have a successful and exciting picture day regardless of the project's scope.
1. Be Prepared and Well-Informed
The first step to create a happy client and work professionally is to gather all the requirements from the school. You need to know the number of students you will be photographing, the amount of time you have, any special requirements, and most importantly, the school's aesthetics.
If the school has a specific style, you should enquire about the background colours they want. Other factors such as the poses, and the crops should also be considered. You also need to see the location of the shoot and how well-lit it is. Only after you know what you have to do and where you will be doing it can you start setting up your equipment.
2. Create a Set, Adjust Lighting and Camera Settings
You need to set up a background and there are four easy and incredible options that you can choose from.
You can go with a collapsible background that is lightweight and portable. We offer a wide range of double sided and anti-crease backdrops in different colours. Even though the size options are limited, it is perfect for taking photographs of a single subject. A 1.5x2 meter background is ideal for children, while a 2x2.3 meter is well-suited for high school photo shoots.
There are more colour options available in paper backgrounds that create a seamless effect. Even though they are not as portable, they can easily be adjusted in car boots. For one student, a 1.35x10 meters long background works perfectly.
If transportation or the weight of your background is not an issue for you, you can go with a vinyl background that is easy to clean, available in more colours, dual-sided, and hard-wearing.
While these backgrounds are more suited to single-subject photographs, you can also use our fabric backgrounds available in size of 3x6 meters for group photos. One disadvantage of using a fabric background is the folding marks that appear on it but we recommend using a garment steamer to remove those marks.
You will need to set up studio lights to illuminate the shooting location and your subjects. Since most of the school photos are taken in school halls, main power studio flashes are ideal for them. Some schools prefer outdoor shoots, and if you are looking to prevent tripping hazards, we recommend a battery flash. It has gained popularity in recent year as school photographers no longer need to use gaffa tape.
A few lighting kits we recommend are:
- The battery powered, one light setup PIKA200 PRO Single Subject School Portable Portrait Flash Kit
- The main power, two light setup LUMI200II Flash Portrait Twin Kit
- The battery powered, two light setup PIKA200 PRO Flash Portrait Twin Kit
- The CITI600 manual is often used for outdoor photography because of its ability to overpower the midday sun.
As for your camera settings, you can increase the ISO as far as 800 or more as long as the resulting images are not grainy. You can set the aperture at f/2.8 to f/4 and a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/60 seconds.
If you are outside, you need to reduce your ISO speed if there is too much light and exposure. For a typical sunny day, ISO set at 100, aperture at f/16, and shutter at 1/100 seconds is ideal.
These are only general guidelines, but you have to keep in mind that lighting and brightness is the most fundament component of your photography.
You have to customize your white balance at the start of your indoor shoot. For example, the auto white balance can work for daylight, but you have to use another pre-set indoors to make sure the colours are well-balanced.
It would be best if you kept your exposure and lighting consistent throughout the photoshoot. Make sure you are using the camera in manual mode and adjust exposure only if required.
You need to bring various lenses and even require a telephoto lens if you take pictures of young students outside. This is because you might need to vary the zoom distance and move for some students.
To remove any shadows from the images or tempt students' sparkling eyes, you can use a strobe or flashlight with a diffuser. This will remove any imbalances in the photo and add a lot of life to it.
5. Bursts and Focus
The first rule is to make sure both eyes are in focus. And the second is to use bursts and capture multiple photos. You can also increase the shutter speed and ISO as long as it does not affect the image's brightness.
Light bounces off of subjects. If the students wear a bright colour such as orange or fluorescent green, it may be reflected on their chins.
You can suggest a specific pose with a slightly tilted head, so the highlights and shadows favour the image. If your background is not ideal, use a wide aperture at f/8, and the background will no longer be as dominant.
A good tip is to follow the rule of thirds when preparing to take a photo. This means photographing so the image can be equally divided into thirds, and the student is at the intersection of these dividing lines.
You can excel at any craft, and being a school photographer certainly puts your skills to the test. To work with varying locations and lighting, students of different age groups, and still making sure each shot comes out spectacularly will require you to understand balancing colours, exposure settings, and how to guide the students for the perfect pose. You can learn all about photography equipment and guidelines at our website.