Photographs of your school play a key role in your marketing strategy, getting it right is crucial.
It’s that time again, the prospectus needs updating and the Photographer is booked and due to pay a visit. As always it’s been met with moderate hostility by the teaching staff and some unlucky soul has been delegated to chaperone the photographer round on a fantasy timetabled schedule.
I’ve been a photographer now for some twenty-err-humm years and photographing schools for marketing requirements for the last ten. During this time I have learnt much about the pressures and expectations of working with schools. It’s unlike any other area of work that I undertake. Over the coming issues I will be giving some insight from my experiences (both good and bad) from the other side of the lens, on how to achieve photographs that are honest, accurate, relevant and aspirational.
Great marketing originates with great planning so let’s look at this from the grass roots up.
This starts with the schools admissions policy. Ensure you have an ‘opt OUT’ policy regarding publicity photography. In my experience asking anyone to make a special effort about anything will result in a low return. Therefore asking them to ‘opt out’ suggests that anything other than participation is not the norm. Equally asking parents to opt in will require the same effort and low results. So make sure you have the correct policy in place.
Speak to the photographer or agency prior to the visit to discuss your expectations and even the style of photographs that you like or want to represent your school. Sound obvious? You will be surprised at how often this does not happen, you must remember that photography is a totally unique art form and not all photographers are the same! How one photographer portrays a subject might be completely different to the next.
Of course the object of the photography is to market the school to prospective parents. To achieve aspirational images, I have found a candid approach with the photographs taken during the actual lesson provides the best results. However, there is always a degree of subtle staging and direction required and the skill is to seamlessly combine staged and natural photographs.
One week before the photographer arrives, ensure that all teachers and staff are briefed that the photographer will be on site and consider what will make a good photogenic lesson be it sporting or academic. Bearing in mind it is important to get a good mix of practical and theory based lessons.
One day before ensure that the students are briefed about conduct towards the photographer and that strict uniform policy should be observed, especially over break and lunch times.
Teachers also need to be briefed that they will be expected to be photographed. Needless to say some teachers don’t like being photographed. On occasions I have had the odd teacher publicly announce, “I’m not being in any of the photographs!”
The student teacher interaction photographs are crucial to marketing, so teachers make sure you are ready! Besides, having your photograph taken isn’t that bad, (and can actually be quite fun). Putting these few steps in place will put you on the right track to improving your school photograph.