As Director of External Relations, as well as my time creating and editing the yearbook, I was responsible for taking photos of the school. I always had my camera in my hand, never knowing when the perfect photo might present itself. My skill with a camera is largely self-taught…with the help of Google and YouTube. My goal was always to capture the light and joy the students and the school always had to offer. I looked for genuine moments to capture instead of planning photos for marketing purposes. But we all know, children aren’t always the easiest to work with. Here are some tips that I learned working with kids and capturing stories through photographs.
I was bursting with excitement for the first day of school when I started as Director of External Relations. I couldn’t wait to hear the hustle and bustle of classrooms and work with the kids again. Really, the administrative staff gets lonely during the summer! I wanted to establish the first day of school as my first day as the new marketing lead and make parents and students excited for the year ahead. I decided to do a “first day photo shoot” and I created a little chalkboard background. Throughout the day I brought students to take photos and help them get to know me. I told them to be silly and share their ideas for a great photo. I had difficulty holding the camera steady from their contagious laughter. I knew they would go back to their rooms with a smile on their face knowing my excitement was genuine and it would encourage other students to be excited for future photo ops. Parents were thrilled to see the photos posted throughout the day. The photos are still my favorites of all the pictures I took throughout the year because I see so much joy in them.
If I knew I was taking photos, before each event I would speak with teachers to understand the layout. I would ask them if they knew where/when there would be good photo ops or just the best place to capture the action. If there was a rehearsal, I made sure to attend and make notes of good photos to take.
Preparation extended into knowing the classroom tools and activity goals. I may not be able to predict how or when a student might have an “ah ha!” moment, but if I could follow the procedures that was a lot more likely.
Naturally I have a lot of photos of students being mildly excited or the disappointment of a failed experiment, but sometimes those make great photos too! They demonstrate a critical part of the learning process.
Sometimes I would plan on taking a few easy snaps of an annual school event and forget that it’s the same for me, but each year is a new batch of students and a new batch of excitement. The students would have such great reactions that I would be reminded that every year is a new opportunity to be amazed.
Some of favorite photos come from students being silly (sometimes with my encouragement). I love to let kids be kids and capture those moments. I love activity days like summer camp pool days and the last day of school festivities. One of my co-workers was always on water balloon duty on the last day. She had a blast encouraging the students to run around and let loose. She was also known to pop some balloons on unsuspecting students. Last year I encouraged one of the students to seek revenge for all and it resulted in the best action shot of all time. You can see part of the balloon still not popped!
Most Importantly… Be Present
There were often times when I felt like my to-do list was miles long. There were meetings and phone calls and emails to make. We are all familiar with the temptation to close our office doors and focus.
Granted, there were days when it was necessary to do that, but I made those occasions few and far between.I preferred to leave my door open and listen for excited gasps in classrooms, or the speedy foot steps of students popping in my office to come take photos of a presentation or interesting class.
I walked around the school at least once a week to familiarize myself with the goings on of each classroom. I volunteered for activities that would allow me to work with the students instead of just seeing them through the camera.
I can’t believe it was part of my job. No matter how stressful the day, capturing moments of the joy of learning would make me smile and I found myself thinking, “I have the best job in the world!” My coworkers were always eager to share their classroom’s accomplishments and were happy to have me(and my every present camera) to celebrate with them. It wouldn’t have been possible if I just shut my door and didn’t become an active part of the school community.