13 Tips for Photographing School Portraits

Youngsters are back to school, and you know what that means—annual school portraits. School portraits can be challenging for both the kids and the photographer. Here are a few tips to hopefully help school picture day run a bit more smoothly.

how to take school pictures

Captured by Yuryimaging

1. Talk to the Kids

Many of them will be frightened, and a conversation can make them feel more comfortable. I know this is obvious to most people, but it matters. Try to befriend them while you install your setup. Making friends with some of the kids can earn you a VIP card. Make jokes! (But only if you’re certain they will understand and like them.)

2. Don’t Neglect the Children Waiting in Line

Ask all of the kids to participate, show them the images, ask for their help.

children waiting in line for school pictures

Captured by Syda Productions

Watch how they play when waiting, and catch some of their laughs. Even if those photos don’t make it into the graduation album, they will be successful and will boost their self-esteem. Small kids can have big egos, too, so be respectful.

3. Bring Your Favorite Lens, But Also Pack a Telephoto

The zoom will allow you to stay further away and get a glimpse of their play while being less intrusive.

4. Don’t Over-Polish Them

Make sure the kids brush their hair and clothes, but don’t overdo it.

girl school picture

Captured by Darrinhenry

You want to capture their essence and inner beauty.

5. Arrive Early

It will be a long day, so getting there early will be helpful, especially if it’s an outdoor session. Last time I had a school session, the temperature was upward of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so we started at 8am.

6. Find a Comfortable Location

Unless a studio photo is a must, try to shoot in a spot familiar to them—perhaps outside or in their classroom.

classroom portraits

Captured by Monkey Business Images

Twenty years from now, the background will matter more than the photo itself. Try several places. Some kids will be happier in the classroom, and others will act natural on the school’s field.

7. Get Some Group Shots

Remember – the teacher is very important to primary school kids.

school pictures with teacher

Captured by Monkey Business Images

Don’t overdo it, though. If the teacher is omnipresent, some will feel intimidated.

8. Use Bursts

Facial expressions will change often, and you don’t want to miss the perfect shot.

9. Use a Higher ISO

Any movement can result in blurriness—fast shutter speed can also help.

10. Go for a Wide Aperture

Remember to always check your background.

boy school portrait

Captured by Tsyganek

Don’t rush to choose f/1.4 or f/2.8 if you have your models posing in a line. If one of the kids is moving along that line, his/her face will be blurry.

11. Make Sure Both Eyes Are in Focus

Experiment a bit.

focus on the eyes school pictures

Captured by Murali Nath

Wide aperture is important if the background is unattractive. Choose f/8.0 if you want it partially visible. Experiment by moving further or closer to your model.

12. Choose Various Lenses and Angles

Go for a low angle if you want to increase height and make the kids look taller.

13. Shoot RAW

This is already old school and goes for any kind of photography. RAW format can improve quality and save you a lot of headache in post-processing (despite being slightly more time consuming overall and requiring more storage). P.S. You can also sell RAWs at higher prices on Dreamstime.

About the Author:
Serban Enache is the CEO and Founder of Dreamstime.

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One response to “13 Tips for Photographing School Portraits”

  1. Ivy Baker says:

    I remember as a kid that I used to hate school picture day. It always seemed to take a long time and it was so awful to have to wait in line for a long time. So, I like the idea of having a photographer who didn’t forget about the kids waiting in line. If a photographer could find some way to help the kids waiting in line have fun too I think it would help everyone have a better experience.

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