MASTER SCHOOL PORTRAITS AND EVENTS –  School events are a contradictory area for photographers. Proms, fashion shows and senior portraits all provide a wealth of opportunities for new photographers, sometimes even for school pupils themselves, to break into the world of professional photography and gain invaluable commercial experience.

Yet these events also tend to be large in scale and difficult to coordinate efficiently, even for highly experienced photographers. The large number of attendees offers huge potential for revenue, representing an inflated per-hour rate of pay. Beyond this, assuming you make a good impression, there is the possibility of repeat business, as school events often occur annually. It is a challenging sector to enter, so it is beneficial to be aware of the main difficulties beforehand.

As an individual photographer, it can be hard to effectively cover large events and capture all of the desirable details – after all, you can only be in one location at a time. A solution is to equip yourself with two camera bodies, each mounted with a different lens. Try fitting one body with a wide-angle and the other with a telephoto,

Charge a retainer fee

Be sure to cover your costs by arranging an up-front payment, independent of image sales

When shooting weddings or other similar events, you can be fairly confident of the proportion of guests that will purchase prints from you. At school events, when the exact format and attendee engagement can be undecided and unpredictable, you need to reduce the impact of poor sales, not least because your images will have limited long-term significance. Consider charging a retainer fee, that is enough to cover your travel expenses to the venue and time preparing previews later. This can be contributed in small amounts by each attendee, who can be discounted this amount on their print order, for example.


or alternatively use a fast prime, such as a 30mm f1.4 on camera one, and a mid-range zoom on camera two – a 24-105mm f4 or similar is common. Lack of venue control is another challenge. Unlike many wedding venues, where layout can be tailored to suit the couple’s requirements, school events mostly occur in fixed settings, forcing the photographer to work around the environment provided. Arrive early, calculate camera settings for each area and once shooting queues of students, avoid changing your settings between shots for higher throughput. Try saving settings to your camera’s custom mode dial positions, so you can call up pre-defined and unchanging parameters on demand. Coordinate with venue staff to find the best places to set up your shots and maximise your control over lighting, space and backgrounds. Frame your shots wider than necessary to include more peripheral space for increased cropping options. Students in groups won’t stay still for long, so use burst mode to capture sequences of shots, to guarantee the best composition.

Ensuring a good return on your time is another major consideration. School-based shoots are intensive and require considerable effort on the photographer’s part, so it is essential we achieve a sustainable profit. While you may shoot many images on location, often only a small fraction of these will be purchased. Events such as proms are previews of your images as soon as possible, usually within two or three days of the event, to encourage sales while it is still fresh in customers’ minds. Provide clear information regarding the online gallery where images can be viewed and when they will be available. Also encourage group and couple images, as these can give you maximum sales for minimal processing time. Don’t resist requests to see images on the back of your camera, since modern generations are used to instant image reviews. Giving your subjects a glimpse of your shots may drive traffic to your event page and adds to the interaction between you and your models. Make the process fun, so it stands out from the rest of the event.


Make sure to interact with your subjects and get to know them. This will help students become comfortable around you, which will reflect in your images. Expressions will be more natural and the excitement of the atmosphere will shine through, increasing selling appeal. very context-driven and attendees’ buying behaviour changes quickly.

Always provide

Use your environment Shooting in an outdoor setting and making the most of the location you have is an effective way of shooting natural, relaxed senior portraits

Know the itinerary

Events like proms move quickly, so being aware of what will happen and when ensures you will be well positioned for your target images, such as students arriving or mingling

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