Photography guidelines

With the proliferation of smartphones and cheap 'point-and-shoot' cameras, it's never been easier to take professional quality photos. Use these tips to get the most out of your photography, no matter your experience or equipment.

Your images can reinforce your school's key messages and maximise the impact of your communication across digital and traditional channels.

Navigate through this section to learn how to take great photographs in different scenarios.

General guidelines

Photography should aim to represent the NSW Department of Education as an inspirational, uplifting and expansive organisation. It should always be aspirational, spirited and representative of the dynamic and engaged organisation that we are.

Always opt for photography that is authentic, meaningful, immersive and inclusive of all peoples. Where possible avoid stock images.

All students taking part in photography, video or audio recording, require a signed permission to publish form (staff only) before photography can begin.

What to include

  • Big faces with big smiles is an easy rule to follow for engaging photos.
  • Make sure there's stuff in your photo! If you're taking a photo of students working at their desks, pencil cases and drink bottles are ok to feature. Remember to try and make your photos look natural but uncluttered. Use props in your photos like computers or books where they are relevant.
  • Consider the background of your subjects. Will it be in focus or out of focus? Something like construction or a cluttered science storeroom may make a perfect out of focus background.
  • Bring your subjects away from the background. If you're taking photos of students with a wall for the background, bring them off the wall as far as possible so your photo has more depth.
  • There's no hard rule to photo orientation but a good rule is to use landscape orientation to capture multiple subjects and portrait orientation when photographing a single subject.
  • Square images are best practice if your final product will be published on social media.
  • Use as much natural light as possible. Open the blinds and shutters in a room.
  • Feature a wide range of students in your photos. It's a great experience for them and demonstrates the culture and diversity of your school's cohort.

Flash photography

Flash photography can be useful at all times of the day, not just in dimly lit situations or at night. Most modern cameras and smartphones will automatically enable the flash in low-light settings but there are other times where manually enabling your camera flash will result in more pleasing photos.

  • If your subject is posing against a bright background such as the sky, using a flash will brighten your subjects face and produce a more evenly exposed photo.
  • If your subject is in a very dimly lit environment, consider relocating before enabling the flash. The camera flash shouldn't be the primary source of light in your environment.
  • Always consider your setting before using flash photography. Is the environment intentionally dark, such as a theatre stage? Try to compensate for the darkness through exposure settings on your camera before resorting to a flash.

What to avoid

  • Avoid architecture photos! Schools are about students and teachers - don't use photos of empty playgrounds and buildings. Use close-up photos of smiling, well-presented students and teachers, learning and interacting with each other.
  • Avoid photos of students in the distance, students with their backs to the camera or group shots where the faces of students are not visible.
  • Avoid single colour backgrounds such as white walls.
  • Don't show any activity that doesn't consider work, health and safety requirements. Subjects should wear correct protective clothing if the situation would normally require them. Watch for this not only with your subject but with other people in the background of the photo too. Show teacher supervision for activities where supervision is required.

Taking photos for social media

On top of adhering to the above general guidelines, there are a few additional elements to consider when taking photos for social media.

  • Consider the framing of the photo when thinking about what channel you'll be posting on. Channels such as Facebook and Instagram recommend either square (1:1) or vertical (5:4) images, so shoot images that can be easily cropped to these dimensions.
  • Focus on the human dimension of the image - people perform better than things.
  • Where possible have an image that pops visually as it has to compete with other posts on someone's newsfeed - consider the colour, framing, quality and the subject focus of the image.
  • Ensure photos are at a high enough resolution for the channel it will sit on. Images don't need to be super large, but the clearer the better.

For more information on social media usage, check out our Social media toolkit (staff only).

How-to guides

Coming soon.

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