Fine art school photography may sound like a complex proposition, but in reality, it is just the opposite. It is wonderfully simple.
Imagine if school photography could capture the true spirit and personality of each child…
The happy one:
The shy one:
The joyous one:
The serious one:
The silly one:
And even the sassy one!
Fine Art School Photography makes it possible!
This very special branch of school photography captures who the child really is, without awkward poses, cheesy props, and busy backdrops, by photographing the child against a simple black backdrop, in a fun, light-hearted environment where each kid can relax and be themselves. That means real smiles, real expressions, and real personalities.
I made the move to add this service to my portfolio after a particularly “interesting” fall photo shoot by the big box school photographers at my son’s middle school. I don’t want to embarrass them by posting the actual photo here as they post their logo on the photo (plus, my son would kill me!). But let’s just say there was absolutely nothing natural about the pained grimace on my son’s face, probably caused by him being directed to twist his body around to almost touch his chin to his shoulder in the hopes of avoiding glare in his glasses. He seriously looked like the camera caught him mid-spasm during a bad seizure. And then, to sweeten the deal, the company ordering site suggested either a tropical Hawaiian backdrop (he was wearing a sweater), or a school locker background that looked more like a row of prison cells. I shuddered at the thought that this was the BEST photo they got of him that day!
You want to know something even more bizarre? I bought the darn photo. Because I had 8 similarly awkward photos lined up in his school album already, starting with that time in Kindergarten my little class clown insisted on shouting “Mozzarella!” as they were taking the photo.
And so as I was entering my credit card details begrudgingly, I was thinking … Why do we accept this? Why do we think this is “just the way it is”? Why can’t a school photographer be a REAL photographer, and let their talents shine, rather than a minimum-waged person who just presses a shutter button every 14 seconds, like a production line.
Maybe because people want cheap photos? Then I checked my bill again, and nope … they sure are NOT cheap!
And then, as if sent from the heavens above, one of the Pacific North West photographers I highly admire, Elena Blair, wrote a post on her Facebook page saying that she is going to be teaching a course to other photographers on adding fine art school photography to their portfolios. She had been successfully running her boutique school photography division in the Seattle area, and has produced some amazing artwork for some very happy parents, and she was so inspired by how she could change the face of school photography that she wanted other photographers to pursue the same challenge in their own cities. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance, and I’m proud to say that my few weeks of portfolio building was a roaring success.
It felt so good to give parents this gift … this little slice of who their child is at this moment in time.
Mom got tears in her eyes seeing this little guy’s trademark tongue movement, which we know will be gone in a few months from now.
Or the missing front tooth that will be filled in weeks from now.
And as they get older, it was special witnessing the sassy tween finding his style,
or the teen on the brink of manhood.
Whether your child is 2 or 16 or somewhere in between, there are characteristics and traits that are unique to them for only a very short time before something else takes its place. How else will we remember these short days of childhood if not for photographs that captures the essence of their personalities now.
One thing I’ve learned was that some of the best portraits of children are ones where they aren’t necessarily smiling. Somehow, when a child is simply still in front of the camera, their soul is bared in all its glorious innocence, and for me … it stops me in my tracks.
And sometimes, they don’t even need to look at the camera for their personality to show itself. That’s pretty special.
But … getting that big old smile is still pretty special isn’t it!
The moment in history people didn’t have to freeze sullenly in front of the camera for the portrait to come out, that was the moment we embraced looking happy in photos. Except, through endless renditions of “say cheese” and false smiles that don’t hide the tension of a photo shoot, we very often are stuck with smiles that don’t reach the eyes. And that is even more pronounced in kids who have never been great at pretending to be happy. And so we often end up with “smiles” that look more like growls, or distorts those faces into every parent’s worst nightmare.
Ain’t nobody got time for that!
When a little one stands in front of my lens, I honour their spirit by making a personal connection with them. It could be about cookies, or their favourite Paw Patrol character (it’s almost always Chase), or whether they have a baby brother or sister. And then … we laugh. We laugh when I guess that broccoli is their favourite ice-cream flavour. Or when I say a monkey says “moooo”. Sometimes I can just make really funny faces. And we laugh. And my camera clicks furiously.
And then lastly, one of the greatest benefits of taking a personal approach to school photography, is the chance to get siblings together for some rare moments having fun in the same frame. These photos are always fun to do, because a wrestling match almost always breaks out and we get some big belly laughs from everyone!
If you have a child in preschool or daycare, and would like to see their school photographs look like this, tell your administrators about fine art school photography, and show them this blog. If parents tell schools that we want to have photos that are worth the money we pay for them, we can start a whole movement of changing those dreaded school photos into pieces of art that we can actually hang on the wall.
Because before you know it, you will be waving them goodbye as they walk into their college dorm room.
Rochelle Hepworth is a Vancouver lifestyle family photographer who brings the same sense of authenticity from her regular photography sessions into these fine art school photography sessions. If you know of a school who may be interested, please contact me!