Secondary school photography

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

Make sure you have permission to publish before you begin.

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

Awards

Key messages

  1. We promote and reward achievement.
  2. Our students succeed in a wide range of endeavours.
  3. We provide opportunities for our students to participate in a wide range of activities.

How to shoot this picture

  • It’s not that easy to make shots of students receiving/with awards visually appealing.
  • Single award shots are far better  to play with e.g. have student hold award close up to the face then fill the frame with their face and part of the award.
  • Use a long /telephoto lens.
  • (T setting on your camera) and keep the background out of focus.
  • Use “large” to medium aperture.
  • (F4, or F5.6, etc) to blur background.
  • Use interesting but non-distracting background.
  • Use reflector or flash to bounce light.

Community and diversity

Key messages

  1. We celebrate the diversity of our community.
  2. We know and engage our community well.
  3. Our students work and learn together productively.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Place students parallel with camera so both are in focus.
  • Note that students in foreground and background are out of focus.
  • Ensure students are active e.g. looking, pointing at same place.
  • Try some shots with students looking at camera.
  • The book is a prop but also reflects light onto faces.
  • Place students near a window.
  • Open all windows and turn off fluorescent lights to prevent green colour casts on photo.

Debating

Key messages

  1. Our debating program helps students develop self-confidence and teamwork skills.
  2. Our students represent themselves and the school with pride and confidence.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use a “fast” lens (200mm F4).
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Open windows and doors to let in daylight.
  • Turn off fluorescent lights.
  • Turn off the flash if there is enough light coming from windows.
  • Make sure speaker is animated.
  • Place students in foreground and background to make room look full.

Dedicated and qualified teachers

Key messages

  1. Our teachers are strong role models.
  2. Our teachers are highly skilled and dedicated.
  3. Our students receive individual attention.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a long /telephoto (T setting on your camera).
  • Use a “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Use a reflector to bounce light into face.
  • Use props such as a book to bounce more light onto subjects’ faces.
  • Have subjects parallel to camera so both are in focus.
  • Look for a simple, uncluttered background (dark if possible).
  • Have happy, smiling faces.

Environmental education

Key messages

  1. Our school offers environmental education programs.
  2. Our students are active and engaged in their learning.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur foreground and background.
  • Have a dark background
  • Place students in a shaft of sunlight
  • Make sure students are active and looking, pointing at same place
  • Use a map both as a prop and to reflect light onto faces
  • Beware of dappled or spotty light on faces

Indoor sport action

Key messages

  1. Our school promotes a healthy lifestyle.
  2. Our students have access to a wide range of sports.
  3. Our school has excellent sporting facilities.

How to shoot this picture

  • Avoid taking sport shots inside  as movement and low light levels don’t mix.
  • If you do, use available light in a large open space e.g. gym.
  • Use a wide-angle lens (W setting on your camera) with “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc).
  • Look for something different.
  • in angle to create an interesting composition.

Library setting

Key messages

  1. Our students are self-directed learners,
  2. Our students learn to work cooperatively.
  3. We have excellent library facilities.

How to shoot this picture

  • Find a corner of library with neat books in background.
  • Choose 2 or 3 students.
  • Use available light and try using flash with it.
  • Make sure students are smiling, happy and engaged with what they are doing.
  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera) to blur a distracting background, or wide-angle lens (W setting on your camera) to keep the group of people in sharp focus.
  • Background may seem busy.
  • but works well here as a contrast to solid, dark uniforms.

Live on stage

Key messages

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

How to shoot this picture

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

Live on stage (using props)

Key messages

  1. Our school has a strong tradition in the creative and performing arts.
  2. Our broad curriculum provides students a wide range of educational experiences.
  3. Our drama programs help teach students confidence and self-discipline.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a medium focal length lens (28mm to 85mm on a DSLR).
  • Use a “medium” aperture (F5.6, F8 etc) to give enough depth of focus and maintain sharpness on subjects.
  • Use appropriate area e.g. stage, hall etc.
  • Use a reflector or fill flash to bounce light onto subjects.
  • Open doors, windows to let in daylight.
  • Turn off fluorescent lights.
  • Look for a dark, simple, uncluttered background like a curtain.
  • Using a picture frame around  the students’ faces has made an otherwise ordinary photographic composition interesting.

Mentoring

Key messages

  1. Our senior students are positive role models for younger students.
  2. Our students benefit from an effective mentoring program.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Place students parallel with camera so both are in focus and have rear student lean forward slightly.
  • Choose a simple, uncluttered background.
  • Find extroverted students.
  • Try some shots with students looking off camera at same object.
  • Use a reflector to bounce light onto faces or turn on fill flash.

Music ensemble

Key messages

  1. Our school has a strong tradition in the performing arts.
  2. Our broad curriculum ensures a well- rounded education for our students.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a wide-angle lens (W setting on your camera).
  • Use a “medium” aperture (F8, F11 etc) to give deep depth of focus and maintain sharpness on subjects.
  • Choose an appropriate location e.g. stage, hall.
  • Turn on stage lights and face  them towards camera to backlight subjects.
  • Open doors and windows to let in daylight.
  • Turn off fluorescent lights Ensure all instruments are held/played correctly.
  • Using low camera angle and wide-angle lens creates a dynamic composition.
  • With wide-angle lenses place something of interest in foreground e.g. here it’s the instrument.
  • Use a dark, simple, uncluttered background e.g. curtain.

Outdoor sport action

Key messages

  1. We promote a healthy lifestyle.
  2. Our school has a sport focus.
  3. We offer a wide range of extracurricular opportunities.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a wide-angle lens for this shot (W setting on your camera).
  • Bear in mind that you have limited choice in setup or where sun is.
  • Shoot up from below.
  • Avoid potential underexposure by setting the exposure for vegetation in distance.
  • Use fast shutter speed if you have that control on your camera or the runner on the dial.
  • Don’t make students play an actual game — have the ball thrown up repeatedly in the same spot.

Peer support

Key messages

  1. Our peer support program helps our students develop maturity and confidence.
  2. Our students care for each other.
  3. Our school is a happy and safe environment for your child.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Place students parallel with camera so both are in focus.
  • Look for a simple, uncluttered background.
  • Find extroverted students.
  • Try some shots with students looking off camera at same object.
  • Use a reflector to bounce light into faces or turn on fill flash.

Public speaking

Key messages

  1. Our school offers opportunities for student leadership.
  2. We offer a diverse range of extracurricular activities.
  3. Our students are disciplined, informed and confident.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use available light (stage lights) where possible.
  • Use long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • The exposure will be long and shot may suffer from camera shake so use a tripod if possible or brace camera against a wall or chair.
  • Look at background and take advantage of banners, posters or even a plain black background.
  • Experiment with taking the shot through the heads of audience members to give foreground depth.

Science

Key messages

  1. Our school delivers strong science programs.
  2. Our students are engaged and active learners.
  3. Our teachers are highly qualified and skilled.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use a “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, F4, etc) to blur foreground and background.
  • Turn off fluorescent lights Set shot up near a window.
  • Use a reflector or flash to bounce light into face.
  • Use appropriate props e.g. Bunsen burner, test tubes.
  • Have subjects’ faces parallel to camera so all are in focus.
  • Look for a simple, uncluttered background.
  • Place other students in background but not looking at camera.
  • Ensure appropriate safety equipment is worn.
  • Have happy, smiling, interested faces.

Senior students

Key messages

  1. Our school promotes a love of learning.
  2. We promote cooperative learning.
  3. Our students are engaged in their learning..
  4. Our students are confident and well-prepared for life after school.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Available light is hitting students in background.
  • The main focus is on students in foreground.
  • Foreground students are engaged with camera as if they have been working together and have been asked to look up for a moment giving the illusion of an animated shot.

Sports training

Key messages

  1. We promote a healthy lifestyle.
  2. We offer a diverse choice of sporting activities.
  3. We have highly qualified specialist teachers.

How to shoot this picture

  • If you need to set up a sport shot then include teacher instructing students rather than having students line up on their own.
  • Use a wide-angle lens (W setting on your camera).
  • Use “small” aperture (F8, F11, or F16, etc) to keep subjects in focus.
  • Keep background plain as a contrast to foreground action.
  • Have light coming from behind subjects and use fill flash or reflector.

Uniform

Key messages

  1. Our students take pride in themselves and their school.
  2. Our students are capable and well-prepared to take their place as productive citizens.
  3. Our school nurtures responsible citizens of the future.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use tree as a prop.
  • Have sun coming from behind to throw light on subjects’ hair and also to stop them from squinting.
  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera) to focus on faces and throw background out of focus.
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Engage students with camera or have them talking to each other.

Uniform (informal pose)

Key messages

  1. Our students take pride in themselves and their school.
  2. We nurture responsible citizens of the future.
  3. Our students are disciplined, confident and ready to take their place in society.
  4. We celebrate our diverse community.

How to shoot this picture

  • Select 2 or 3 students neat and tidy in school uniform.
  • Select a location with non- distracting background and, as for portraits, have light coming from behind students’ heads.
  • Use a reflector to bounce light towards their faces, but off to side to eliminate squinting.
  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Have students lean in a relaxed fashion.
  • Ask students to smile at camera and be engaged.

Vocational education and training (hospitality)

Key messages

  1. Our school provides choice through a broad curriculum.
  2. Our students leave school well prepared to take their place in the workforce.
  3. Our students have access to specialised facilities  and equipment.
  4. Our students enjoy learning.

How to shoot this picture

  • Create visual interest by contrasting colourful foodstuffs or other items against white uniforms.
  • Make sure that uniforms are being worn correctly with no items missing.
  • Use a long /telephoto lens (T setting on your camera) so student in foreground is in focus while keeping background students out of focus.
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Use a flash on and off camera to give the same effect as available light coming through window.
  • The smiles on faces of students really make this shot.

Vocational education and training (rural)

Key messages

  1. We offer our students a range of courses that lead to post school employment.
  2. Our diverse curriculum gives our students great subject choice.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a medium telephoto lens (T setting on your camera).
  • Use a “medium” aperture (F5.6, F8, etc) to blur foreground and background.
  • Use a reflector or flash to bounce light onto face.
  • Use props /tools that are appropriate for the job.
  • Look for a simple, uncluttered background related to job.
  • Ensure appropriate safety equipment is worn.
  • Have subjects’ faces close together and parallel to camera so both are in focus.

Visual art

Key messages

  1. Our school has a focus on the creative arts.
  2. We offer a broad curriculum that ensures a well-rounded education for our students.
  3. We have highly skilled specialist teachers.

How to shoot this picture

  • Use a long/telephoto lens.
  • (T setting on your camera) to throw background out of focus.
  • Use “large” aperture (F2, F2.8, or F4, etc) to blur background.
  • Set up scene with a colourful background.
  • Use available light with a fill bouncing off canvas.
  • If using props in foreground be aware that some cameras may find it difficult not to focus on those props.
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