Elevating the school portrait experience… one fart joke at a time
Its pretty safe to say, we’ve all had that those school photos. Ya know, the ones with the stiff frozen smile that’s more grimace than not. Awkward school portraits are standard fare, almost a right of passage even. If you think about it though, how crazy is it that picture day hasn’t changed in generations? The same swirly background, the same paper pre-order form, the same mediocre results.
I don’t know about you but I think settling for sub-par stinks (couldn’t resist!).
Fine art school portraits are here to offer a fresh alternative. With a straight-forward, kid-centric approach that highlights personality and choice over cookie cutter smiles, let’s bring school portraits into the 21st century. The only boxes we want to put kids into these days are the paper you print them on.
Upgrading the classic school portraits into treasured heirlooms
Photographing hundred of children a year for the last five years, these are the strategies I use to put the “sweet. simple. timeless.” into action to capture those genuine expressions and mega-watt smiles that make parents excited to hang the portraits on their walls:
You’re never too old to play
This is secret sauce of great school portraits. Simply engaging in a conversation about things they like is often enough to make the child feel comfortable and relaxed. Truly (terrible) jokes, quick games, and novelty are all part of the arsenal of tools I use to help a child open up and forget about the the camera for a moment.
And if all else fails, farts sounds; its hard to keep a straight face when someone is pretending to poop their pants and I’m not afraid to go there.
Get on their level
Depending on the child, this may be both literally and emotionally.
For littles, you’ll find me down on the ground – achy knees be damned – to shoot from the child’s eye level to create more captivating and intimate portraits.
Matching a kid’s energy level is clutch for allowing their unique self to shine; big and loud and goofy doesn’t work with everyone. Instead, I work to mirror how they show up and gently invite them to reveal their silly side.
Bright skies and sunny smiles
Whenever possible, I use natural light to create a dynamic photo and make the child’s smile appear brighter. 99% of the my schools portraits take place outdoors in my big white tent or inside in front of a window to eliminate the distraction of a bright flash.
I’ve found that the extra time it takes in editing to account for the changing environment as the sun shifts though the sky is more than made up for by the quality of expressions when using daylight as my primary light source.
Soft and friendly faces
Sometimes new humans are hard but my plushy friends Mr. Monkey and Frida the Bonita Butterfly are always up for a cuddle. They often join me when children need a little extra. Especially for the preschool age kiddos, having a few toys or interesting items on hand can keep busy or reluctant ones engaged and happy.
At the end of the day some kids are just more reserved than others and that is just fine in my book.
Quick doesn’t have to mean rushed
Kids aren’t dogs and rarely preform on command – no matter how many bribes offered – hence I never ask a one to smile. Rather, we slow the smile factory down to give students an extra moment to warm up and shake off any jitters.
Working fast to capture fleeting smiles and short attention spans, I take multiple photos while we chat and play to reap a range of “poses” in the short time we have together.