With smart phones that can take, and edit, excellent images and provide instant distribution via the social media networks it is surprising that the traditional School Photograph still survives.
Since the arrival of the first digital camera and photo imaging software there has been a debate on why there is still a need for the School Photograph. The debate continues and for the purpose of this contribution it must be accepted that based on the continued volume of sales to parents and grandparents that the demand still exists.
Perhaps the attraction is the formality of the pose which accurately records a student’s features from the first to last school day and provides parents with a kind of stop frame animation of the passage of time from their child to a young adult. There are also the practical aspects of providing schools with an up to date identity photograph for administration purposes and some income generation.
Another factor which has developed over recent years is the potential benefit of schools establishing a closer working relationship with school photographers and the broader range of support services they now supply. This includes the photography of school events and activities to provide images for media hungry websites and social media networks. These have now become essential in developing and promoting an acceptable school image in the ever increasing demands and competitiveness of this sector.
The potential of additional income from a range of school merchandise utilising individual and group photos is another area where the combination of professional photography and other specialist services could help retain the ‘traditional school photograph’ in digital format.
In other words ‘traditional school photography’ offer a number advantages to a school, especially if they have clear objectives in respect of marketing and fund raising which can demonstrate a ROI (Return on investment, including administration time) from using school photographers.
If a school prepares a supplier brief outlining its requirements in terms of photographs in addition to the ‘school photograph day’, such as the prospectus, open day displays, brochures and high quality images for websites etc, then these should be included during initial discussions. The objective should certainly be a better return than traditional commission agreements based on the number of photos sold to parents.
Some of the larger, well established, companies should be able to accommodate most of a school’s requirements, and when this is not possible clarification will be necessary in relation to image copyright when using another supplier, promotional merchandise products for example. In some circumstances there may be advantages to use another specialist photographer for one off projects with an understanding that the school retains copyright for use in a variety of media, printed and digital.
With demanding timetables, targets and administration it is understandable that some schools see ‘photography day’ as another item on the list to be undertaken as quickly as possible and with a minimum of disruption. Commission agreements which require the photography company to not only organise the photography day(s) but also the distribution of photographs and collection of payment can appear a attractive solution.
However, those schools who see ‘school photography’ as an opportunity for negotiating cost reductions in print and digital media as well as a source of income generation will adopt a different approach. Schools with a person responsible for marketing and/or business development should certainly consider the latter. It has to acknowledged by suppliers that parents and teachers see TV adverts offering a wide range of photo merchandise including bound albums at very competitive prices online.
All the above issues are included in our Promoting your School Presentation but if you would like an unbiased review of current practices please telephone 01446 771220