School Portrait Photography Tips

School photography is a growing niche. The Western culture has started the trend of taking model-like photo shoots with all the glitz and glamour. Photographers have found this niche very rewarding, as there are thousands of children finishing their schooling every year.

In many cities, large and small franchise studios have a monopoly on public grade schools and high schools. However, there are many private schools, preschools, and daycare centers that are open to the idea of using someone new. It’s not only an amazing way to reach many families, but it can be an amazing way to generate a substantial income.

"Kindergarten Graduation" captured by moyerphotos.

“Kindergarten Graduation” captured by moyerphotos.

1. Be Organized

If you are doing this for the first time, make sure you plan and double check everything before you go into action. Use a calendar to design your work schedule. Since you will be interacting with a lot of parents, teachers, and students, there are chances for a lot of confusion. Prepare a workflow that includes touching base with all parties before you work. You can conduct an informal meeting where you discuss your entire plan and service to avoid any confusion.

2. Don’t Overbook

It may be very tempting to add more schools to your client list. But this will lead to nothing but trouble. School photography is a time-consuming process, and you need to give the school 100 percent.

3. Price Appropriately

Pricing is a sensitive topic, and you do not want to lose out on business due to lack of communication. Make sure you tell your clients that this is a special project that requires special investment of your time, money, and resources.

4. Photograph Each Child Differently

Make sure to do something creative in the photo shoot of every child that you shoot. Parents will not mind shelling out extra to get a one of a kind portrait of their child.

5. Make a Story

Get them to giggle, dance, and move around. Parents will purchase more when you have a sequence of shots that show their children having an awesome time. It creates higher sales and makes people talk about you! That is the goal: make some money and get your name out there!

6. Be a Friend, Not a Hindrance

Obviously you will be working within the school premises a lot, so make sure to maintain good relations with the staff, parents, and children. They will provide you with something that you need as well as give you company between shoots.

"Lee" captured by Larry Jacobsen.

“Lee” captured by Larry Jacobsen.

7. Come Back Next Year

There is nothing better than assurance that you will be returning next year to have a photo session. You want families to feel a sense of gratitude that you came to their school. You want them to be excited each year that you’re coming back. When I say different, think of all the things that the typical school portrait photographer does and do the opposite. Use awesome backdrops, take many different shots from different angles, let parents view before they order, and offer a few products that school portrait photographers don’t offer. Keep it simple, yet different!

8. Manage Quality

Keep the quality high, but not as high as your other portrait sessions. At the same time, do not do a poor job on the pictures. For example, understand the essence of the shoot and bring the props accordingly. Instead of taking all your high end props that you use in your studio, take props that are fun and colorful. Make sure the props chronicle the child’s age and personality.

9. Create Magic

Be true to you! Do not conform to what you think families will want. Be true to your style as a portrait photographer. If you like deep, rich tones and colors, then make sure your school portraiture looks the same. If you like light, bright colors then use them when photographing a school. You don’t want a huge disconnect between what you do in a full session and what you do at schools. If people loved what you did at the school enough to call and hire you for a full session, they are going to expect close to the same style.

10. Retouch Your Photos

Make sure to give your photographs to professional retouching agencies. By doing this, you will have time to take more pictures without worrying about retouching them. Also, giving the work to experts ensures the best quality.

11. Keep the Contacts

Since you have worked so hard with the school, make sure all your hard work does not go in vain. Add parents to your mailing list, and make sure to include a little thank you note with your contact details in the final pictures. Send them offers from time to time to keep the communication open.

About the Author
Allison Smith writes for KeyIndia Graphics.

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4 responses to “School Portrait Photography Tips”

  1. Hey great post! Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. I have to agree with not getting too many schools at first. It would be very easy to get in over your head dealing with hundreds of picture orders. A great way to dip your toe into the school portrait business is with preschools. Usually they have enrollment between 80 and 200 children. Also, you don’t have to shoot for yearbook pictures, so you can be more creative with your photos.

  3. I remember taking my high school yearbook photos like it was yesterday! It was the biggest day of the school year because everyone wanted to look nice. I wish that they had taken the picture, showed you, and then offered to retake it if you did not like the way it looked — that would be awesome. Thanks for the information!

  4. Queen says:

    The tips come in handy n are educational for me that has just started

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