how to take better school marketing photos

Activities are everything if you want natural photos.

Why? They get children (and adults) to relax and forget they are being photographed. Activities also buy you time. Ask a child to smile and you have 5 seconds at the most to take a photo, get them to do an activity and you have 5 minutes and often more!

It takes time to make real, unposed school marketing photos and activities guarantee you will have that time.



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Find a good background .

Backgrounds ruin so, so many otherwise lovely photos with a strong subject and great expressions. Good backgrounds consist of one continuous tone ie all dark or all bright and NOT mixture of bright and dark areas. Be disciplined and don't even start to take photos until you have found a good background and encouraged your subjects to spend time infront of it.  There are some situations , a small, cluttered, classroom where there is simply no clear background available. What do I do?


Blur the background

To blur you background 1. move the subject forward and away from the background ( most people will choose stand with their back almost touching a background) 2. move your camera closer to the person 3. if your background is still sharp then zoom in  a little 4. Choose Portrait mode on your iPhone( iPhone 7 or above usually have this feature). Portrait mode works well 50% of the time.

The image below has students in the background but the emphasis is put clearly on the boy in thought by simply moving closer and zooming in a little.



pause for thought

Find good light.

Indoors this means a big window ideally with soft light from a cloudy day rather than harsh light streaming in. Frontlight flatters people so if you sit in the window and get them to face you you will get more good photos. If you're outside then cloudy weather is best as it avoids harsh dark shadows in the eyes( the most important facial feature). If it is a bright day you MUST go into shade. Working in shade feels counterintuitive at first as it seems dark, but the light is soft and even and infinitely better than trying to take photos in the bright sunlight. A little time processing an image taken aim shade can give beautiful, colourful, evenly lit faces.

In the images below taken in an outside nursery space beneath trees when the children were running through shade we got beautiful faces in the soft shady light but when they went into patches of harsh sunlight they did not look nearly so good.



airplane racing
girl playing with lego

OK, so you have found a good background, in some shade and you are thinking about an activity....here is a little more detail on the best activities an how to choose who to photograph....


Choose an activity that encourages children to stay on one spot ( within a foot or two) Why? Because it is much easier to focus on eg a child blowing bubbles than a child running (or walking) round a playground. Water play, sand play ,lego building all fit the bill. If its sunny set the bubbles up in the shade. This keeps your subjects in the area of good light and stops them running into the bright areas where its almost impossible to take good photos of faces and expressions. A big container of water in the image below keeps children in one area( again, in the shade) having fun and exploring with water.



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Identify your subjects.

When I walk into a room I always head  either the people who are  having fun or those who are concentrating hard or those who are clearly characters.   Children in flow, who are concentrating hard and applying themselves to a problem  never notice you and always make great photos. Those who are having fun and laughing obviously look good and there is never any need to ask them to smile. Remember to shoot lots of photos if people are laughing and to keep shooting after the laughter ends. Often it is the smiles and expressions just after laughter when people look their most relaxed and natural. Characters are usually easy to spot, the guy in the photo below was so excited and enthusiastic when it came to sharing his artwork in the form of a book about dragons, he made great images!


boy surprised in talk with art teacher about his work

These tips were based upon a workshop given to 5 marketing co-ordinators from Wishford Schools group. If you would like me to do a similar workshop or to photograph your school click the button below to get in touch...

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