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There are many thriving genres of photography but one of the ones that is often overlooked by professionals and freelance photographers alike is the job of a school photographer. Working as a school photographer can be an extremely lucrative role and can bring a great deal of joy to the students and parents alike.
School photography can be a tough business to get into and setting up your own business is not always easy.
What Types of School Photography Can You Do?
One of the main jobs of a school photographer is to take portrait photos of the students. This is reliable work but can often be quite seasonal. Most schools take portraits of their students at the end of year before they move up to the next year. This means that you may have a huge amount of work for a few weeks but find there is less available for the rest of the year.
Once you have taken the photos the parents can buy them. This is usually done through the school and in some cases, the school may even take a small cut of the fee.
Sports play a major role in the life of schools and colleges and there are many opportunities throughout the year to document the teams. Most school and college teams have a team photo at the end of the season and if the team has won a major competition or tournament they will most likely want some photos of the players for the school’s records and the parents.
As well as portraits and team photos many coaches want their teams games, and even practices, to be filmed so they can go over the moves and strategies later with the players. This is an easy job to do for the school because you just need to set up your camera and film one angle, usually from the sideline, of the action. This footage is then given to the coach without any editing or post production work.
This can be regular work on weekends and if you enjoy football, or whatever sport you are filming for the coaches, it’s a fantastic gig.
There are many companies that specialize in school photography.
It can be difficult to break into the school photography market and so it might be worth considering working with an established company that specializes in school photography. These companies have the pre-existing connections with the school and provide photographers when they are needed. You can work for one of these companies to make it easier to get work in the education sector.
In order to be eligible to apply to work with one of these companies you will need to have a good portfolio of portraits to demonstrate your abilities. Once you have secured work with the company they will let you know when you will be needed.
One major advantage of working through a company is that they will already have connections with a number of schools in your area and will be able to provide you with more work than you would be likely to secure on your own.
Many schools also prefer to work with established companies that do full background checks on their photographers and vouch for their appropriateness for the work.
However, if you do prefer to work in a freelance capacity then don’t be put off because you can make a great success working as a photographer with schools, colleges and technical schools.
Top Tips For Setting Up A School Photography Business.
A few things to keep in mind.
Make a Website.
The first thing you need to do is to set up your own personal website where you can display your portfolio, advertise your services and use as a communications hub to arrange your work schedule.
You should also make some business cards that you can either deliver to parents directly or drop off at the local schools.
Don’t forget that as well as working through the school you can also get extra work taking family portraits for the parents of the students. This can really help to boost your income and keep your calendar busy.
Join forces with a printer.
Once your website is up and running you will need to create a business relationship with a local printer that you trust. After you’ve taken the photos of the students you will want to be able to order large quantities of photos at a time.
The printer will be able to provide you with presentation packs, frames for the photos as well as a variety of sizes, mattings and so on. This will allow you to focus on the photography and customer engagement while leaving the printer to deal with the production of the finished products. Working with a good partner will speed up your workflow and help you to maximize your success.
Locate and contact the schools in your area.
Once you have located the schools in your area you’ll have to decide how many you want to work with and then start contacting them. There are many different types of schools in the USA and all of them will have different requirements.
Working with a variety of schools will ensure that you have plenty of work and avoid periods of dry patches with little to no work available.
What Types of Schools Are There?
- Public schools.
- Private schools.
- Religious schools.
- Charter schools.
- Neighborhood public schools.
- Magnet schools.
- Special education schools.
- Home schools.
- Technical colleges.
As a freelance school photographer you can work with any type of school but you have to tailor your services to suit their needs. Keep an open mind to make the most of the opportunities in your local area.
Important Things Every School Photographer Should be Aware of.
- Establish a Pricing Structure: Once you have identified potential schools to work with you will need to create a pricing structure. You can work with the printer to work out a set of fair rates or look to see what other school photographers in your state are charging for their services.
- Children and Student Portraits are Difficult to Get Right: It’s not always easy to get a good portrait photo of a student. They may be nervous or camera shy. In these cases, some school photographers use props to make the students feel more comfortable. If you do manage to get a great photo that really shows the child’s personality their parents will be very grateful and not only buy the photo but possibly book you for future family photoshoots. It can be helpful if you can make the child laugh to bring out their personality but different school photographers develop their own techniques to get the best out of their photoshoots.
- Grow Good Relations with the Schools and Their Staff: Once you have set up your business it’s vital to create good relationships and maintain good communications with the teachers and staff at the schools you work with. Make sure you have an effective scheduling system set up and are available when you are required by the school. It can be a great idea to send a short letter or card to say thank you after you’ve finished a big job, such as end of year photos.
- Effective Marketing will be the Underpinning of a Successful Business: It’s not only a good website and some business cards that you need! Use any personal connections and networks that you can to help you find new jobs as a school photographer. You can also attend local trade shows and events aimed at school administrators to meet people working in the education sector to help you get your foot in the door at new locations. Try to upload regular content on your social media and use it as a platform to showcase your work.
- Use Product Samples: One method of drumming up new business is to send product samples to schools and other educational institutions. This can give people at the school an insight into what you can provide and the types of services you can deliver.
- Offer a Wide Range of Packages: Of course your bread and butter might be based on portraits, class photos and team photo shoots but you can also offer classroom photos, group shots, work at school sports days and music concerts. Parents love to have photos of their children engaged in all types of activities and if you provide photography packages that cover a wide range of options you can develop long lasting relationships with the families of the children and the schools they attend.
- Upgrade Your Equipment as Your Business Grows: As your business grows then you can begin to invest in new and better equipment to help you deliver the best services possible. If you become more successful then you can consider employing an assistant so that you can continue to expand your operations. In the meantime, if it’s necessary, you can rent equipment as and when you need it. When you can afford to though you should certainly upgrade your equipment as soon as possible.
School Photography Is A Good Business Opportunity.
School Photography is a fun and varied opportunity for freelancers however it can be daunting when you’re getting started. If you are struggling to get contracts then you can work with a school photography company to begin getting regular work and building up a solid portfolio that you can later use to promote your own freelance services.
Once you are working in the school context you can start to expand your business networks by meeting parents and teachers and offering family portraits and other services. School photography is a great business to be working in and doesn’t require huge amounts of expensive equipment so that financial barriers to entry are easy to accommodate, even within a tight budget.
Have you considered branching into school photography?