Primary school photography

A quick guide to help you set up and take great photos of the students and activities at your primary school.

Make sure you have permission to publish before you begin.

Read the glossary for tips on photo composition and camera equipment.

A strong community

Key messages

  • Our school is an integral part of the community.
  • We celebrate the diversity of our community.
  • Our students learn tolerance, self- reliance and good citizenship.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a telephoto lens (T setting on camera).
  2. Use a medium aperture (F5.6, F8, etc).
  3. Use a reflector to bounce light onto faces or fill flash.
  4. Have subjects parallel and in line with camera so both are in focus.
  5. Look for a simple, uncluttered background.
  6. Have sun behind subjects.
  7. Have happy, smiling faces.

Catering for individuals

Key messages

  • We cater for a broad range of individual interests.
  • Our specialist teachers nurture the individual talents of students.
  • Our broad range of opportunities helps promote a love of learning.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Turn off room lights.
  2. Open all window blinds and doors to let in daylight.
  3. Use flash bounced off (white) ceiling or reflector.
  4. Have subjects parallel to camera.
  5. Use a wide aperture (F2.8, F4, etc).
  6. Background computers contrast musical subject to illustrate range of interests catered for.

Buddy program

Key messages

  • Our buddy program nurtures maturity and confidence.
  • Our students care for one another.
  • Your child is valued and cared for at school.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  2. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur the background.
  3. Place students parallel with camera so both are in focus and have the younger student lean slightly in front of the older student.
  4. Look for a simple, uncluttered background.
  5. Find extroverted students.
  6. Try some shots with the students looking off camera at same object.
  7. Use a reflector to bounce light onto faces or turn on flash.

Computers

Key messages

  • Our school is fully networked
  • Our school has a focus on technology
  • Our students have access to the latest learning technologies

How to shoot this picture

  1. If possible choose a bank of computers along a line of windows to allow lots of light to hit subjects.
  2. Select 3-5 students to be seated at the computers.
  3. Use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  4. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur the background.
  5. Use fill flash or reflect light from the right side of subject.
  6. Take shots of students engaged with the computer and then ask to look up at the camera and be engaged with the lens.
  7. If computer screen isn’t visible then turn it off as it can distract students being photographed.
  8. If screen is visible make sure that what is on it is educational.
  9. Turn screen towards camera and brightness up — the more you  turn an LCD screen to camera the brighter it appears.

Environmental education

Photo of teacher helping students gather samples at a creek. Note says: The sun is coming from behind the subjects' heads producing rim lighting.

Key messages

  • Our school offers environmental education programs.
  • Student learning is enhanced by our attractive environment.
  • Our students learn to work cooperatively.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Generally use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  2. Look for a simple, uncluttered, dark background. Move the subjects and/or yourself.
  3. The sun is coming from behind the subjects’ heads producing rim lighting.
  4. Use fill flash or reflector to fill light on the students’ faces.
  5. Have the students engaged with what they are doing.
  6. Use props to suggest what they are doing.

Getting ready for class

Key messages

  • Our school is orderly, disciplined and organised.
  • Your child is nurtured and cared for in a safe environment.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a medium to wide-angle lens (W setting on your camera).
  2. Use “small” aperture (F8, F11, or F16, etc) if you want all subjects in focus.
  3. Select just 1-2 students or 7-8 students going through their bags.
  4. Have a teacher in the background.
  5. Rely on available light, with light bouncing off exterior surface to fill.
  6. Make sure all students can be seen, no hidden or half faces.
  7. Make sure no child is making faces or you’ll have to reshoot the picture!

Happy and safe school

Key messages

  • Our school is a happy and safe environment.
  • Our students look after each other.
  • Your child is cared for and valued.
  • A happy school promotes good learning.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Select 2 or 3 students neat and tidy in school uniform.
  2. Select a location with a non- distracting background.
  3. Have light coming from behind students’ heads.
  4. Eliminate squinting by using a reflector to bounce light into subjects’ faces and off to the side.
  5. Have students place arms around each other’s shoulders.
  6. Ask the students to smile directly at the camera.

Inclusive school

Key messages

  • We value every child in our care.
  • Your child receives individual attention.
  • We have highly skilled specialist teachers.
  • Your child’s success is important to us.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a telephoto lens (T setting on camera).
  2. Use a large aperture (F2, F2.8, F4, etc).
  3. Use a reflector to bounce light onto faces.
  4. Have subjects parallel and in line with camera so both are in focus.
  5. Look for a simple background.
  6. Have sun behind subjects.
  7. Have happy, smiling faces.

Individual attention

Key messages

  • Your child receives individual attention.
  • Our skilled teachers know your child well.
  • Our school has strong numeracy programs.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  2. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  3. Open all blinds to allow all available light in.
  4. Set up two main subjects in foreground in front of students working in background.
  5. Always make sure teacher is farther back  from student and both faces can be seen.
  6. Have teacher engage student in a happy way with numbers.
  7. Have teacher looking at student while student looks at board.
  8. Note that background has colour rather than plain wall.

In the classroom

Key messages

  • Our teachers nurture and engage their students.
  • Our students learn to work cooperatively.
  • Your children receive special attention.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Choose a corner that is neat, tidy and full of colour.
  2. Use long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera) to throw the background out of focus.
  3. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur the background.
  4. The shooting angle is almost at tabletop level.
  5. The light is coming through the window behind the subjects with fill flash or reflector in the foreground.
  6. Students are engaged with the teacher (you can also have the subjects look up at the camera).

In the library

Key messages

  • Our students are happy and engaged in their learning.
  • Our school promotes a love of learning.
  • We have an excellent school library.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Make sure students look happy and are engaged with camera.
  2. Use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera) to throw background out of focus.
  3. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  4. Turn off fluorescent ceiling lights.
  5. Use available light entering through a window from the right.
  6. Place reflector on left to bounce light coming from right onto faces.
  7. Keep background clean, tidy, out of focus and well lit by available light.
  8. Take picture from same eye-line as students.
  9. Focus on student in the centre of group.

In the open air

Key messages

  • Our students are happy and safe.
  • Our school is situated in beautiful grounds.
  • Our school is a friendly, attractive and welcoming environment.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Generally use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  2. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur the background.
  3. Select a gnarly tree with no buildings in the background.
  4. Sun is behind students and you can use either flash or a reflector to throw light on faces.
  5. Trees make great props.
  6. For safety reasons, don’t have students too high off the ground.

In the playground

Key messages

  • We promote an active, healthy lifestyle.
  • We provide modern and safe playground equipment.
  • Our school has beautiful grounds.

How to shoot this picture

  1. This photograph uses soft lighting from an overcast day perfectly.
  2. Use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  3. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur the background.
  4. Shoot individuals/small groups/set up a group shot on play equipment in a casual fashion.
  5. Tell students they have three minutes to play and to look at camera only when asked.

Live on stage

Key messages

  • Our school has a strong tradition in the performing arts.
  • Our extracurricular activities help build confidence.
  • Our students receive a well-rounded education.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  2. Use “medium” aperture (F5.6, F8, etc) to keep all the students in focus.
  3. Choose an appropriate location e.g. stage or hall.
  4. Turn on stage lights and face them towards camera to backlight subjects.
  5. Watch out for lens flare/ensure the lens is clean.
  6. Use a reflector or flash to reflect light onto subjects.
  7. Open doors and windows to let in daylight.
  8. Turn off fluorescent lights.
  9. Use a dark, simple, uncluttered background like a curtain to avoid visual distractions and to bring foreground colours to life.

Music ensemble

Key messages

  • We provide a wide range of extracurricular activities.
  • Our school nurtures well-rounded students.
  • Our school has a creative and performing arts focus.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Select 10-12 students with various instruments.
  2. Select an appropriate location e.g. school hall or music room.
  3. Turn on all stage lights and open curtains/doors for available light.
  4. Make sure all students are holding instruments correctly.
  5. If possible place students on different levels on the stage to achieve the look you want.
  6. Photograph the students as a group then bring one student out about 10 metres from group and with long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera) focus on student in front to throw other students out of focus.
  7. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  8. Use flash on your camera to light single student.
  9. Experiment with flash and no flash.

Note: Minimum camera requirement for this picture is a DSLR with long lens, fast aperture.

Parent volunteers

Key messages

  • Our school promotes a healthy lifestyle.
  • Our specialist sports teachers are highly  skilled.
  • Our excellent grounds accommodate a range of sporting activities.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Set scene by choosing a field preferably with uncluttered background.
  2. Try for light behind subjects.
  3. Use a reflector to bounce light onto subjects’ faces or set your camera to fill flash.
  4. Use a wide-angle lens (W setting on your camera) and get up close and intimate.
  5. Use “small” aperture (F8, F11, or F16, etc) to keep subjects in focus.
  6. Ask students to face teacher and to be animated.
  7. Make sure teacher is dressed smartly.
  8. Use sports equipment to set the scene.

Note: Minimum camera requirement for this picture is a DSLR with long lens, fast aperture.

Key messages

  • Our parents are partners in their children’s learning.
  • Our parents support student learning in practical ways.
  • We welcome and value the input of parents at the school.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Choose a background that is non- distracting, fresh and plain.
  2. Use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera) to throw background out of focus — this may be difficult as outside light and large aperture are hard to mix.
  3. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur the background.
  4. Put the student in the foreground and the adult in the background.
  5. Have both subjects holding the book and looking at the page closest to the camera.
  6. The light is coming from behind and filled with a reflector from the front or side.

Peer support

Key messages

  • Our peer support program nurtures maturity, self-esteem and effective communication skills.
  • Our students care for one another.
  • Your child is valued and cared for at school.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  2. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  3. Place students parallel with camera so both are in focus and have older student lean over top of younger student.
  4. Look for simple, uncluttered background .
  5. Find extroverted students.
  6. Try some shots with students looking off camera at same object.
  7. Use a reflector to bounce light into faces or turn on flash.
  8. Normally you would not photograph at midday — this lighting is soft because of light cloudy conditions.

PE outdoors

Key messages

  • Our school promotes a healthy lifestyle.
  • Our students have access to a range of healthy activities.
  • Our school grounds are beautiful with plenty of space for children to be active.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a wide-angle lens (W setting on your camera).
  2. Use “small” aperture (F8, F11, or F16, etc) to keep subjects in focus.
  3. Have a plain background.
  4. Have students run through their activity together and fast.
  5. Try to include a teacher helping them.
  6. Make sure the students keep smiling.

Science

Key messages

  • Our school delivers strong science programs.
  • Our students are engaged and active learners.
  • Our teachers are highly qualified, experienced and dedicated.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a wide-angle lens (W setting on your camera).
  2. Use a “small” aperture (F11 etc)  to keep foreground and subject in focus.
  3. Use slow shutter speed (< 1/25th sec) to capture screen image .
  4. Turn off fluorescent lights.
  5. Set up near a window but watch out for reflections if you are using a screen/monitor in the shot.
  6. Use a reflector to bounce light into face .
  7. Use appropriate props e.g. microscope.
  8. Have subjects’ faces parallel to camera so both are in focus.
  9. Have happy, smiling faces.

Technology

Key messages

  • Our students have access to the latest learning technologies.
  • Our school has a strong focus on technology in education.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Place main subject of photo to one side so you can see what else is happening in the room.
  2. Have light coming from window on left so it hits subject in foreground as well as subjects in background .
  3. Use the reflector from right side.
  4. Use a long/telephoto lens (T setting on your camera) to throw background out of focus.
  5. Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  6. Make sure foreground subject is engaged with camera while background subjects concentrate on what they are doing.
  7. Ensure there is colour on walls/ boards in background.

Values

Key messages

  • Our school shares the values of the community.
  • Our school benefits from strong community support.
  • Our students are respected, happy and responsible.

How to shoot this picture

  1. Use a telephoto lens.
  2. Use a wide aperture (F2.8, F4, etc).
  3. Open all window blinds and doors to let in daylight.
  4. Turn off all artificial lights.
  5. Use flash bounced into (white) ceiling or reflector .
  6. Smiling faces.
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