Covid-19 has certainly turned everything upside down, changing the way we live, work and interact with others. Most of my school photography sessions have been booked for the Autumn Term but last week I should have been taking photos of children at a school I have been working at for 16 years. It feels really strange not being able to do that this year and I have really missed the children and the fun we have.
Being a school photographer is intensive and a lot of hard work but I love it and enjoy creating lasting memories. What I like to pride myself on the most, is adding a more personal touch to my school photography as well as providing good quality photography and prints. My experience as a portrait and headshot photographer comes into play with my approach to school photography. My aim is to get to know the children enough to enable me to get the best shots of them that their parents will treasure. I also like to build a good rapport with the school to take the best possible photos for school use, which reflects the school at it’s best and shows the ethos of the school environment.
School photography should be so much more than setting a standard pose and counting to 3 before pressing the shutter. I like to form a connection with each child so that they feel comfortable enough to express themselves and show off their personality. There’s nothing better than fart noises or a few bad jokes to lighten the mood. I just love looking through a lens and seeing somebody smiling back at me. With sibling photos I tend to start with a squish - that always brings out the smiles.
I don’t want children to feel that it’s a daunting prospect having their photo taken and I certainly don’t want it to be a chore for the school, which is why I try and work quickly. Some children thrive in posing in front of all their classmates but there are children who are quite shy and find this difficult. I can judge quite quickly how a child is going to respond so that I can adjust to that. In one school there was a little girl who hated her photo taken. She cried every year and although I tried to take more candid shots of her waiting with her classmates, she caught onto this very quickly. Eventually after a bit of gentle perseverance, she actually agreed to stay behind with a couple of her friends and have her photo taken. It took about 4 years to get to this stage. When she told me that she enjoyed it and liked the photo, I could have jumped up and down with joy. It was the best feeling. I want the children to remember having their school photo taken as being a fun part of school life.
With class photos, it’s great to see how the children interact with one another. I am quite traditional in the sense that I like a class photo to be a ‘normal’ group photo – no posing in small groups and putting together in one big image. Just one class photo showing the children as they are. Okay, it’s good to have them all looking relatively neat as they are representing the school but if there’s a child who normally has one sock up and one down, or a tie not quite done up then they are the kind of things that make a photo special. I always take one ‘formal’ class photo and then a photo where they can all strike a pose or pull a silly face. Of course this is the one they all look forward to.
It’s exhausting jumping around like a loon but more often than not it pays off and not only do I end up with a school photo that the parents love but I also end up with a number of outtakes, which have proven to be just as popular with the school as they have with the children and parents.
I have worked with one particular school for as long as I have been doing school photography. It has enabled us to work closely together and for me to adapt to changes that they have made over the years. I know what works for them and have built on a style of image that suits the school. Being a regular at a school enables me to build a good rapport with the school, staff and children so that I can capture the best images.
I really love the interaction and the involvement that I have in a child’s school life. It’s wonderful seeing the children grow and develop from one year to the next and it’s a privilege to be part of their school journey. I have been called Mrs Farty Pants (you can take from that what you will) but I accept that as a term of endearment. With all the children I have photographed, I hope I have as much as a special place in their hearts as they do in mine. I like to think that having their photo taken at school holds fond memories and that they remember me for all the right reasons.