elena s blair


How to be a School Photographer

Im Elena

A "mom with a camera", on a mission!





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I have done many things to grow my photography business over the past thirteen years but I would have to say that the most beneficial venture has been the launch of my Fine Art School Portrait service.

So what exactly is a Fine Art School Portrait?

A Fine Art School Portrait is a school photo of a child that is MUCH different than the stiff, boring, traditional school photo we have all grown used to. I am sure you have archives of awkward school photos from your childhood? Well these are different. This approach to school photography focuses on the child’s personality and is a much more artistic photo. The way we interact with schools and parents is also much more modern and personal with online proofing and ordering and products that families actually want.

Providing Fine Art School Portraits for select Seattle area schools puts me front and center with my target market: families with young children. Not only is the actual profit from my school portrait sales significant (thousands per school!!,) it has kept my family photography business bookings steady. In fact, the first year I implemented School photography I did my first school in April. By then beginning of March I was booked through October!

My goal is to provide a better school portrait experience for the families who attend the schools I work with. Instead of a stiff and unnatural portrait of their child, they are given a gallery with 2-5 images made available in both color and black and white.

My ultimate goal is to capture the true essence of the child’s personality with camera. I never force a smile. I always encourage natural and even serious expressions.And I do this quickly, only spending about 90 seconds with each kiddo.

Here are some tips on achieving a natural expression in a very short amount of time:

  1. Ask the younger child if they can see themselves or their eye in the lens. This brings out a curious and serious expression.

  2. Don’t be afraid to be silly. I will often make silly noises or play peek a boo with my camera.

  3. With the teens, I joke and act very relaxed. I will say things like “I promise this won’t be painful.” Sometimes just having a quick conversation allows the child to relax into a natural face.

  4. I give the older children the freedom to not smile. As soon as I say, “okay, you can just give me a serious face, no smile necessary,” their face relaxes and I get an awesome pensive expression.

I achieve genuine expression because I don’t ask for anything else. I have no expectations. I just allow them to be themselves, whoever that may be. I do the photos on a plain black backdrop which keeps the look clean and modern and in line with the Fine Art theme. It also keeps the focus on the child without any bright colors or props as distractions.

Gone are the days of picking out a package without seeing the photos. I do all of the business online including viewing galleries and ordering.

I recommend offering the following items:

  1. Prints

  2. Mounted Prints

  3. Canvas

  4. Digital Files

  5. Custom two sided wallets for graduating seniors. I simply put their name and graduating year on the back.

    I spent about a year preparing for the launch of my Fine Art School Portrait Business. Remember, this is a boutique service and you want to be extra prepared.

    I approach the schools that I want to work with ready to answer any and all questions they may have. My first line of contact is email, then I follow up with a phone call. If they are interested, I arrange an in person meeting.

    Most schools are leaving a big corporate photography company to sign a contract with me and they want to be assured that my business is ready to provide all the same services and more. I want them to have a better and more personal experience with me and I work hard to provide that.

    I recommend offering a monetary donation to the schools you are working with. I give a small percentage of my profit.

    Here are a few things you need before you approach a school:

    1. A portfolio of at least 10 children to present to the school. You can build this portfolio by photographing your own children, friends children, neighbors, anyone child will work. I recommend getting a variety of ages to include.

    2. A list of your packages and prices.

    3. A complete draft of the entire process including details about how photo day will run, how long it will take for the galleries to be posted, and how long the parents can expect to wait for their prints.

    Offering Fine Art School Portraits has many benefits but here are the most significant:

1. You can make a lot of cash. Fast. With averages of $40- $150 per child (these numbers are from past students of mine,) you do the math.

2. Marketing!! You are putting yourself front and center with your target market if you are a family photographer

3. Eliminating slow season! This offer can be done all year but I try and do most of my schools in winter and spring

Offering School Photography will change your business. I do all my schools with all natural light, one camera, one lens, and very little extra tech needed. If any of this sounds interesting to you, you should check out my class Schooled, where I teach you everything you need to know to get started in this right away!

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