How To: Take School Photography Portraits
As the new term starts, thousands of school children are walking through the school gates full of wonder and excitement in anticipation of the new school year. This is a key time to capture school portraits before the new uniforms get creased and shoes lose their shine.
School photos are a keyway of showing how students change through their school life and often take pride of place on the mantelpiece! School photos can often be a daunting task for both the photographer and the student. So, here is a simple formula to help create fantastic images quickly and easily.
When choosing a background, it’s a good idea to go for something neutral as school uniforms come in all different colours and patterns. Anything too bold may clash. Pop up backgrounds are great because they are easy to setup, pull nice and tight so there is minimal creasing, come in loads of different colours and are relevantly inexpensive.
When photographing in a school there’s not always time to do a site visit prior to the day so being completely battery powered is a life saver! I will be using the Badger Unleashed by Interfit, this small 250w light it perfect for this type of photography. No more worrying about how far you’ll be from a plug socket, extension cables being a tripping hazard and if your PAT testing is up to date! Investing in a couple of spare batteries is a good idea though.
When it comes to modifiers size matters, you don’t want to be hauling bags and bags of kit in and out of the car at the start and end of each day. Therefore, I’m using a Silver Parabolic Umbrella with a diffuser as my main light. They’re super simple to set up and produce a large area of soft light easily capable of lighting individuals and small groups.
My fill light is either a large round silver reflector which is great if you don’t have a second light but does require a special stand to hold in place. My second flash head will have a translucent umbrella, this is perfect for softening shadows giving complete control. When I’m using a back light it will have a simple standard reflector dish which helps to direct the light on to the background.
There’s a full kit list at the end
The advantage in using flash is that you have enough power to be able to cut out ambient light as a result my camera settings remained pretty much the same.
Aperture F5.6 (gives an out of focus background) Shutter 1/125 (fast enough to stop camera shake) ISO 160 (stops any noise on the image)
Single light and reflector.
This is a super effortless way of lighting subjects. Using the umbrella with a diffuser gives a large soft area of light creating texture and depth. The reflector helps to even out shadows making sure the light isn’t to side lit.
This is a very similar set up, but by swapping the reflector for another flash with a translucent umbrella and by simply increasing or decreasing the power you can you can have complete control over the shadows.
The introduction of a back light adds a real depth to the image, highlight the subject and separates them from the background. It also removes any shadows from the background.
Two lights on white
This is a great setup for when you want to create something a bit different. By using a white background and turning the subject more towards the main light you don’t always need a fill light, however, a back light is key to help avoid hours of retouching! This creates soft dramatic lighting effect and a more contemporary school portrait.
So, there they are, 4 super simple lighting setups to take the stress out of school photography and help create high quality school portraits.