How to Take Fantastic School Portraits

Buying school portraits every year can become expensive. Most people don't realize that you can take these portraits on your own with some basic equipment and know how. Here is what you should know about taking fantastic school portraits on your own.

What You'll Need

  • Backgrounds
  • Digital camera
  • Patience

Step 1: Get to Know the Technical Aspects

A portrait turns out best when the aperture is f/8 or f/11. Most photographers consider this the perfect aperture for any photo they take. This will give the lowest distortion, which is necessary in portrait photography. The best focal length for school portraits will be 80mm or 105 mm, but 50mm will work if you aren't able to use a longer length. This will also reduce distortion and give a more blurred background. This creates an advantage by making the subject the bigger focal point in the shot. The ISO should be set at it's lowest possible setting. This will remove excess. 

Step 2: Position the Camera

A portrait is oriented in a vertical position. To get a portrait instead of a landscape, you will need to turn your camera so the shutter release is on the top. This will work for the majority of cameras, as long as the shutter release button is at the right hand side of the camera. Some tripods will allow you to flip the camera to the correct orientation for a portrait.

Step 3: Position the Child

A good school portrait won't be shot straight on. If you have your child face the camera directly, this will square their shoulders to the frame and cause them to look a little heavier. You can have them stand with their toes pointing towards the camera and have them turn approximately 45 degrees to one side. They will still look straight at the camera. This pose will break the squaring effect and will allow you to get a really good picture. If you prefer to have the child sit down, keep the same rules in mind to avoid the squaring.

Step 4: Timing

Once the child is posed, you can start to snap some photos. If you have a digital camera that has an LCD display, you can check the photos and make adjustments as necessary. If you are taking outdoor photos, you may want to adjust the time of day you are snapping the photos. In general, the photos will look best if taken a few hours after sunrise, or just before sunset. Midday sun can be harsh, and since the lighting is directly overhead, can cause shadows that are undesirable. If it's not possible to take the photos during the best time, you can use midday sun outdoors if you have your child sit under a shade tree. This will block a lot of the harsh lighting. Outdoors is preferred by most amateur photographers since natural lighting is always best, and you can avoid the expensive lighting equipment that the pros use.

Always try to take the portraits before the picture day sponsored by the school. This way, if the photos turn out poorly, you can always have a pro take them.

Popular Cameras for High Quality Photos: