I absolutely love school portraits. I’ve recently done some for a local school in the Blue Mountains and I’ll share some more of those with you over the coming weeks.
School shoots, well, any shoot is a very physical experience for a photographer. What’s possibly strenuous about photography I hear you ask….
There’s a lot of bending and stretching.. and sometimes climbing equipment such as ladders or play equipment. You’re on your feet for hours, you may not get a break or a drink and possibly, you’re working outside. Not only that, but for every shot, you want to get that person doing something… and in the case of school photography, that’s to get kids to relax and be themselves.
Doing this job you come to realise that you are part comedian, part actor, part children’s entertainer.
Some kids don’t want to smile. They’re there to test you out, like all kids do, as we know! They see you as a person with a camera whom they’re going to have a bit of fun with, but they rarely think that the photographer is actually going to have a bit of fun with them. HA!
I love my job, I love kids. I have three of my own so of course, it goes with the territory. You have got to be slightly masochistic, I suspect, to work with children, because darn it, some of them are hard work!
But for me, there’s a unique pleasure in getting that child to sit there, straighten up a bit, look down the lens at me and then grin.
If you think about it, we’re often telling our kids to take care of themselves, to not talk to people they don’t know, to trust their instincts on people, so to ask a child you’ve just met to relax and give it their best shot is hard for the child too!
Not only that, but as the photographer I have to very quickly assess that child’s personality and match my approach to getting the best from them. This can swing wildly to having a total giggle with one child through to trying to coax the most reserved of children out of their shell long enough in time to capture something special… all doing that whilst holding a camera whilst hanging from a ladder, thinking about light, shutter speed and depth of field, whilst the sweat drips into my eyes and I can feel my calf muscle going into a spasm!
Most school photographers usually take one shot and that’s what you get. I shoot rapidly, taking 4-10 shots of each child and this way, I can get the best from each one. Some are determined not to smile ever, others aren’t sure until we have a laugh and a joke, and then others just look you in the lens and just grin.
I love it all but by gosh, it’s hard physical and mental labour.
So you see, it’s not glam being a photographer. It’s hard work, but the rewards… seeing that grin, that look which means I’ve just connected with the child sitting there in front of me and the photograph is going to be amazing… well the rewards keep me doing what I love and being able to share that with you.