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Think school photos aren’t important …think again!


Mention school photos and I used to think of  false grins or grumpy frowns and strange slicked-back hairdo's never seen before or since. A bright white void behind or a sole-less grey or horrible mottled background. A must-have ritual undertaken each year in schools across the country. Dreaded by most kids and an awkward inconvenience for teachers.


As my army of family portrait supporters grew so did the encouragement  for me to do school photos. "Our photos were awful...you could do so much better" I have heard so many times. However, I enjoyed my creative portrait photography, I liked the naturalness of my outdoor photoshoots and didn’t want to jump onto the conveyor-belt process of shot after shot of the same pose, next child.


When a “part-time” position at a national school portrait company came along I decided to give it a shot (quite literally) . The experience didn’t change my views . Ridiculously tight schedules, rushing from one school to the next, following an exacting formula that could be followed by any non- photographer so that everything could be mass processed. Even one of the managers described it as a “sausage factory”…and “a numbers game” As long as enough people bought the photos and of course they did…it was the school photo…every decent parent has to buy at least one don’t they? Despite the constraints, my portraiture abilities shined through, and I achieved some fantastic sales returns for the company.


However, I knew I could give everyone involved a much better experience and product. As an employee there was no time to focus on the shy girl or the cheeky boy who thought it all a great game to stick his tongue out until his allocated 30 seconds time slot was up . I was frustrated that I couldn’t have the flexibility to capture the shots that really showed these children’s personalities.


Fast forward to 2021 and with the much-anticipated return to schools from March 8th I am now very excited to be finalising details for school bookings and getting to back to one of the most rewarding parts of my business.



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How have things changed??


In 2017 I started offering  local schools with a bespoke photography service. Working outdoors in the natural environment where children are so much more themselves I offered mini-multi pose shoots. The response from parents has been  phenomenal after years of the same obligatory photos they were receiving a professional portfolio of their child capturing, in their words, “ the best photos of their children they had ever had… “ not just the best school photo…but any photo!


Outdoor portraits help to create a real meaningful memory of their school experience, a school wall engraved by past pupils or a favorite old climbing tree. After all, who remembers their school as a white void or a mottled grey?


Each new school I visit sees their photo sales jump and some very nice commission from their once stale school photos. I still have to work fast, of course, but children are much more cooperative outside with a bit more freedom to be natural and I surprise myself how quickly I can get through a school . Things just flow after you have photographed many thousands of children.


I don’t need any gimmicks or long-term contracts to keep my schools coming back year after year.


Using my skills to capture the most reluctant child in the class to get the “best photo” the parent has ever had is a challenge that I thrive on.  Parent’s wouldn’t forgive the school if they didn’t ask me back! There is always excitement in school to see the photos I have taken, whether marketing or individual photos. My photos make everyone in the school, staff and pupils, feel proud of who they are and what they do.


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Headteacher Beverley Thornton at Naseby Primary School calls me a “miracle worker” since she saw her staff photo.


That is what I love about this role, cheering people up with great photos and building their self-esteem.


At another school I asked a parent if I could have her permission to use sons school photo to promote my schools photography. She was over-the-moon . Little did I know how much it would mean to her son who had been having a particularly difficult couple of days with some of the boys at school. He said that it had made his day that I had chosen his school photo. He felt so proud and it gave him a much-needed boost of self-confidence.


To me every individual is special and deserves a photo that shows that. Children should not be treated like a sausage in a sausage factory. My school photos are about individuality. My service isn’t about how fast I can whizz through the school, it’s about the buzz of excitement, the personal connection and the delight on everyone’s faces when they see themselves as the star of a professional portrait that shows them how others see them when they are at their natural best.


Now who says school portraits aren’t important…..