Behind the scenes of a school photo day
I thought I would give a little behind the scenes peak into how a school portrait session goes – well, on our little island anyway. Whether you are part of a large modern campus or a little country school, some of the basics stay the same. The process varies quite a bit from “Behind the scenes of a family photo shoot”, for one thing, it’s much easier for the parents as the school does 90% of the organisation.
The school chooses a portrait week depending on what is best for the school calendar and allowing enough time to book the photographer and give the parents plenty of warning to have their child ready and at school on their day. There is normally one of two options that a school will choose to run their photo week; using paper forms or going with an online ordering system.
Some schools use the paper form system – a form is sent home to the parents giving all the details of the photography day; the cost of the photos and asking the parents to fill in the details of the size and quantity of photos they want. Sometimes a predetermined package (collection of sizes and set prices) will be set up by the photographer. Paper form orders work on a pay before viewing system, and extra photos can be ordered through the photographer after the initial order and delivery of the prints. The photographer then only photographs those children whose parents have requested photos. It’s very important for the form to be easily understood and for the parents to fill it in correctly. I must say I was super guilty of completing the forms last minute on a Monday morning whilst rushing the kids to the bus and searching for coins under the sofa cushions to pay for it.
The pro of the paper form system is that the photographer knows beforehand exactly which and how many photos have been ordered and there is no additional editing of images needed.
The con of a paper form system is that the parents have to pay and order before even seeing the images. It can also be a lot of extra work for the school to manage the forms and payments from the parents.
For online ordering, all the students are photographed, unless otherwise specifically requested not to be. The images are put online by the photographer, the website link is then forwarded to the parents to view and choose which photos they would like to purchase and have printed.
The downside of online ordering is that the photographer does all the work not knowing which photos are going to be ordered. The cost per print can be higher as there is an online payment fee required by all banks.
The pro is that it is easier for the parents to choose and buy the images once seen online and it takes the work load off of the school system of having to remind parents to fill in forms and to track payments.
What’s expected from you and your child
The great thing about school photography is that not a lot is expected from the parent or child. It is all pre-organised and set up by the school. If your school has decided to go with the prepaid system then your biggest responsibility is to fill out the form as neatly as possible and return it to the school as soon as possible. You wouldn’t believe how confusing some of the completed forms are and then we need to work out what exactly has been ordered.
On the day of the shoot, children are brought to the photographer by their teacher. Each child takes their turn in front of the camera. I have a list of names from each class and I tick off as I go. The way I work is to first take a photo of the child with a little black board in front of them with their name, year and class written on it. This is for my reference to be able to later connect the child’s photo with the order form.
Depending on the age and personality of the child I take a series of photos until I feel I have the winning shot. Some kids take a while to warm up in front of the camera whereas others are relaxed and happy straight away. I try to get that wonderful natural smile with a twinkle in their eyes.
The most popular photos are those of siblings in school together. Be sure to let your school and school photographer know that you would like a sibling photo taken.
Ordering and collection
If your school is going with the online ordering system you will just need to get the link from your school once the images are ready to be viewed. It will look something like this – online school ordering. Schools have their own system of sending photos home. Some will arrange for the prints to be given straight to the parents so that the photos are not bent and damaged on the way home in school bags.
Whichever system your school chooses, there is also the option to buy the digital file. A digital file is more expensive as the digital image remains the copyright of the photographer but if you intend on printing a few copies of the same image and/ or sending a copy to friends and families overseas this is a good option to take.
Children’s school years are a special time in their lives – from starting school in uniforms too big for them and bags that seem nearly as big as they are, to young adults proudly holding their heads high with their futures ahead of them. Take a moment to document this stage in their lives, one day they will look back on these images and be glad you did.