Here we are at the back end of June and another school year is coming to an end. It seems to have been a really quick year for the business, it started last August with a mailshot to all primary schools in the county and that honestly only feels like a couple of months ago to me.
As you know part of our photography business focuses on school’s portraiture (the kind we all loved to hate as kids).
I’ve blogged about it before and remember pointing out that many working photographers get all sniffy about it. Personally speaking I’ve always enjoyed it and whilst there are many potential nightmares, if it is done well I believe it can be a real cornerstone to a local photography business.
Our business has been fortunate to cover a wide range of small and large schools this year, (both here in Ireland and Nigeria). The smallest school of 42 in Tralee took under 90 minutes, whereas the Regent School in Nigeria took the best part of 4 days.
You’d think with such a difference in size the photographer’s approach would be different but actually it’s more or less the same. Keeping things standardised and simple is the key but all school’s have their own ‘flavour’ and so the standard plan does need to be ready for anything.
The Regent School in Abuja has an annual tradition of a school wide portrait which you can see below. I’ve captured this image for the last 4 years and I’m telling you, if you can take a strong portrait of 670 children in 35 degrees of heat you can do anything!
Capturing the single portrait image of each child is probably the easiest part of any schools project, a simple cloth, two soft lights positioned at 45 degrees, check your exposure and bingo! you’re done. As long as you can pose a child, every image should look great.
The difficult part of any schools job is making sure the overall organisation is in place. Communication with parents is the key; partnerships with the school equally as important; Every part of the project has to follow a written plan. You have to constantly be aware because… if one small detail goes wrong an effect will inevitably be seen down the line and it’s going to play havoc with everything!
As I’m typing this I am sitting facing a huge batch of mounted prints that are due to be delivered to a Kenmare school tomorrow morning. There are probably in the region of 1200 prints to be distributed and each image has had to have been checked for quality and then checked again to make sure it is exactly what was ordered. It’s a tiring job and when it’s is complete you can be tempted to consider the project finished… but it’s really not!
This time tomorrow there is little doubt our phone will be busy with parents who want to enquire about their school orders. I anticipate plenty of “I don’t think I ordered that? ” and “Can I order more?” type questions.
Those phone calls are really important, it’s vital we ensure every parent is happy, because they may well need the services of a photographer in the future and we want them to feel confident in our work and call us first.
Therefore for the business, attention to detail and a methodical approach is essential. That’s what gives us the brand!
There are plenty of portrait photographers who have forgotten more about creativity and camera control than I’ll ever know. But I’ll be surprised if any photographer on the planet can beat us for customer service.
(Well that’s the aim anyway!)
Going forward: For 2015-16 we do plan to expand our work in Irish primary schools, we are targeting 10 new schools and hope to be able to create lasting partnerships with them all. Unlike the UK, Irish schools only tend to offer portraiture every 2 or 3 years which can make repeat business tricky. If we can find 10 new schools this year and another 10 in the year following I will be delighted.
Like most the idea of phoning anyone up with a sales call terrifies me but we will have to bite the bullet at some point and pick up the phone : )
In the meantime , If you think you know of a school that might be interested in using our service next year, why not contact us now and we will drop them a line. : )
We pay a generous level of commission back to the school which means everyone wins! Look forward to hearing from you!