Say goodbye to school photo stress

School photo day can be one day of the year you’d rather forget, or a smooth day of laughter and fun. Your choice of photo provider makes all the difference.

I remember standing as still as possible with a grimace like smile on my face, wondering if I had dirty smudges all over my face, which I always did.  A surly, bored-looking man would snap a few photos, and then nod at me, and call out, “Next!”. The day was often a shambles of missed lessons and cold tuck-shop, punctuated by frantic demands over the loudspeaker for families to corral for sibling photos, or the third call for “Year 7B Hockey to report, immediately, in full sports uniform, to the gymnasium”.

Photo day can be anything but fun for teachers and school administrators, but an organised, well trained, and professional school photography provider can turn that mayhem into a well-oiled machine. Zachary Kendall from advancedlife Photography told School News how a dedicated customer service team can make all the difference, by working with schools in the lead-up to the big day. 

“Our customer service team have the experience to guide schools every step of the way from identifying the best location in wet or dry weather all the way down to working out how the traffic will flow; they liaise with school and plan for minimal disruption to normal school activities.”

advancedlife photographer, Burt De Campo takes group shot of delegates at the 2016 SBMAQ Conference
advancedlife photographer, Burt De Campo takes group shot of delegates at the 2016 SBMAQ Conference

Traditional or large group photography requires certain expertise, and without the benefit of experience these organisational feats can go very wrong. Traditional school photography shots may involve coordinating hundreds of children and staff, while school anniversary photography could mean arranging up to a thousand people into precise formations. Undeterred by the challenges, Mr Kendall tells me, “it’s one our favourites”, and, actually, it does sound like fun.  Children are arranged into specific designs to reflect the commemorative occasion. Cherry pickers are used to elevate the photographer and provide a bird’s eye view, the photographic crew strap on harnesses, and up they go. “It’s quite specialised, and when you go to all that effort you want it looking sharp”, Mr Kendall added.

Making photo day fun

Health and wellbeing is always paramount for schools, and school photographers also take this very seriously. Students can expect care and sensitivity, minimal lining up in the sun, (absolutely no surly, bored-looking photographers), and teacher stress levels considerably lower than explosion point.

Photographers from provider My School Days are passionate owner operators, and all fully trained to work with children. The training includes all aspect of school photography from preparation, to photography and processing, and importantly, customer service. The photographers are adept at relaxing their subjects to maximise smiles, and minimise strained grimaces, and have to clock up experience and expertise before working with schools. 

School photographers seem to be fun-loving folk who are convinced that photo day can be both enjoyable for kids, and simple and straight-forward for the families and schools. Geoff Hunt said My School Days captures a ‘fun class photo’ (teachers included), which are always a much loved part of the process.

“We want the day to be fun and relaxed and being flexible and extremely organised are the key attributes to achieving this”.

The production timeline

A school can expect the whole process to take around four to six weeks. School photography has come a long way from the days when the photo was printed on a 10-by-8, laminated and tucked inside a school folder back at school. Professional design teams craft the look of each school’s packages; images and associated data are proofed and inspected by schools, to create individual packages unique to every student. The photos also pass through multiple quality checks, ensuring that they’re right the first time they come back. Once everyone is happy with the quality, photos have to be packed for easy distribution.

Photos in a digital world

With digital photography, providers are able to capture the best photo of your students, by retaking and discarding more images than we realise.  “We take a photo every 20 seconds” Zachary Kendall from advancedlife revealed. Digital photography means that schools and families can place their school photo orders online and access electronic copies of their images. “An online archive preserves a timeline for future access,” said Mr Kendall, adding that he wishes he could access his formal photos but they are “gone forever”. All providers I spoke with included digital photos in their packages, and digital copies of all photos are provided to the school, which, according to Geoff Hunt can then be incorporated into a school’s student management systems.

Broader printing solutions

Providers can also offer a more wholistic business service, which caters to the modern paradigm of ‘school as a business structure’, responsible for publicity and maintaining their public image in the community. Mr Kendall said many schools now look to them for help with printing and branding.  “Designing your prospectus, and promotional images of schools, that can all be taken care of”.  Geoff Hunt of My School Days said, “some schools request ‘funky style’ photography or playground shots for promotional use. We can incorporate that into photo day as well.”

 School photography has changed dramatically over the last few decades, and all for the better. Principals, teachers and administration staff need not wake to school photo day with a shudder. Providers are focused on customer service, seamless organisation, accessible and intelligent photo distribution and, believe it or not, fun.

Suzy Barry

Suzy Barry is a freelance education writer and the former editor of School News, Australia.

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