They say a picture is worth a thousand words… and for good reason.
High-quality photography is one of the strongest assets you have for setting your school apart from the crowd, but it’s also something many schools struggle with.
Great photos draw in your audience and have them looking for more… whereas low-quality imagery instantly make your school seem less professional (no matter how good your website, copy or brochure design is).
Luckily, we have something very special for you this week: 27 tips on how to get the most out of your school photography from professional photographer Andy Catterall.
Award-winning Andy is one of the best school photographers in the business, and with these tips, you’ll learn:
- How to take better photos for your website, brochures and other marketing materials.
- How to find great photographers to work with (i.e. what you should look for in a partner)
- How to get the most out of the powerful visual media at your disposal.
Whether you end up working with a professional or handling the job yourself, there’s plenty of valuable advice you should keep in mind.
Consider the following:
- Remember that the goal of all school photography is to sell prospective parents on your school… and you do that by communicating positive emotions in your imagery.
- Having photos that show students enjoying themselves, engaging in various activities, being inspired – that’s what you need in order to occupy the correct position in the minds of your audience.
- Your goal with eye-catching photography is to get prospects interested enough to consider attending an open day or otherwise interacting with the school: don’t forget that creating this emotional hook is your top priority.
- To stand out, you need to figure out what sets your school apart from the competition. Whether that’s a strong academic tradition, the local scenery, or a winning sports team, ensure that you showcase your USP in your photos.
- Most parents will be viewing your images on their phones. To keep them interested, ensure the images are big, simple and stylish – avoid cluttering them with too much text.
- Black-and-white photography is popular because it works across a wide variety of mediums & looks classy – don’t be afraid to use it for your school too.
- Don’t place too much emphasis on your facilities/buildings: unless you have something truly exceptional to showcase, this isn’t something most prospective parents will be interested in.
- Having a large, eye-catching image right inside the school reception can be an excellent ice-breaker for potential parents to talk about. This doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can check out local print shops and/or consult with your photographer to get a standout piece at a very reasonable price.
Take a DIY Approach
You won’t always be working with a professional to take your photos (i.e. if your budget is limited, or if the project is small). With this in mind, here are some useful tips for taking high-quality photos on your own:
- Bear in mind that you may have to crop your images, depending on where they’re being used. For instance, your website navigation bar will cover over the top of any image you use at the top of a page: make sure to leave extra space to accommodate this.
- If you’re taking photos in classrooms, consider investing in a fast lens (search “28-70mm 2.8 lens” for options). These are great because they put the background out of focus, ensuring the child/children take centre stage.
- Use bounced flash, not direct flash.
- Ensure there’s nothing in-frame that will cause glare or look out of place. Water bottles, picture frames, other reflective items: all of these should be removed before taking your photos.
- Have someone interact with the subject/subjects off-camera to give the photos an authentic feel.
- Strangely, the brightest months of the year are not great for outdoor photoshoots (as sunshine without adequate cloud cover can be problematic). Early autumn is often best for photoshoots due to the compelling background colours and more favourable lighting.
- If you do take photos in the brighter months, ensure that they don’t get washed out by too much direct sunlight (i.e. make sure the sun is behind the subject).
Working Well With A Professional
Having worked as a school photographer for many years, Andy has seen what kind of behaviours make his job easier – and which ones make it a whole lot harder.
If you hire a professional to work with you, consider the following tips:
- Get your photographer to shoot short (10-20 second) video clips in between photos. This will allow you to put together a quick “day in the life” style video for your school, showcasing the best of what you have to offer.
- If you have the budget, consider working with an agency that specialises in school photography, as they’ll typically deliver the best work (albeit at a higher cost).
- Make sure the photographer you’re hiring has experience working with schools and is happy working with children.
- Ensure that the photographer you’re working with is fully vetted for working with children (i.e. that they’re DBS checked).
- Send your photographer some images ahead of time so that they’ll be able to get a feel for the kind of photography/style you like. This can be as simple as a few images or detailed as a full-scale mood board.
- Give your photographer some scope to be spontaneous. The most compelling photos are taken during times when students are relaxed and engaged in something else (e.g. break times).
- Pre-plan interesting activities before the photographer arrives: there’s no point in telling them when they arrive that something great was on the day before!
- If there’s any children that can’t be included in photos, make it obvious to the photographer (e.g. ensure they have a special sticker on their jumper).
- Don’t get too many people involved in the creative process – things tend to get complicated when there’s eight different people all offering their opinions!
- Trust in the experience of your photographer. If you’ve chosen wisely, they probably have a good idea of what will work best for your school.
- Feel free to make suggestions (as a marketing professional, you have good insight), but remember that giving them some creative licence could go a long way in getting the eye-catching shots that will set you apart from the crowd.
Don’t underestimate the impact that great photos could have on your school marketing efforts. When used properly, they’re a powerful addition to your marketing mix… but if used poorly, they’ll limit the effectiveness of everything else you do.
The tips you read in this article came courtesy of Andy Catterall, an exceptional school photographer based out of Windsor. With over 10 years’ experience in the industry, Andy has delivered his award-winning services to dozens of schools all around the country.
All images copyright of Andy Catterall. Images reproduced by kind permission.