Photography – Oct, 2020

Good school photography when there’s no professional snapper around

How to get good school photography, capturing special moments, when there’s no professional snapper around? There really is no substitute for great, professional photography when it’s required for corporate and marketing communications.  But, great photographers can’t alway be there.

Ice House Design have produced scores of yearbooks, almanacs and journals for schools. Publications that capture the salient events of the year. Good school photography is often a tricky area as there can’t always be a professional photographer around to capture these moments. It’s too expensive for one thing and also way too intrusive. The hours we’ve fussed over tiny, poor quality images trying to get the best out of them for a particular piece.

A real help to get good school photography is to equip staff with the basic photography knowledge to enable them to shoot a half decent picture with their phone camera. Sure, it’s never going to be as good as a professional shot but certainly could be good enough to use in print for journals and yearbooks as well as digital applications if some very simple rules are followed.

Below is a 12 point, short guide made to help staff take better pictures to get good school photography to use in corporate and marketing communications. It has been created for people who are less comfortable and experienced taking pictures and are using the most basic equipment such as phone cameras.

If you can, plan.

In advance of a suitable lesson or event, think about how it will be best captured, who and what will be in the picture and concentrate on the focal point.

Image size.

Take pictures at the largest size you can. The required image resolution in print is 300dpi. Screen resolution is 72dpi. Therefore, a picture used at the same size as it is displayed on a screen has to be more than four time larger to be used in print. Images can always be made smaller but cannot be increased and still maintain
their quality.

Landscape or portrait.

Both can be used and context is paramount. Digital / social channels are now being used more readily, landscape pictures are naturally a better fit as most screens are landscape. With square formats very commonly used, creating a composition in the central square of a portrait or landscape frame will work best for channels such as Instagram. If possible take both a landscape and portrait version of the frame.

Keep still.

Especially in less well lit spaces, it is very important to hold the camera still, and for the subject to be still when shooting. If possible, rest on a fixed table or wall supporting the camera or phone as well as possible with both hands. 

Groups or individuals.

The more people in the picture, the more likely something will go wrong. Posed shots looking directly to camera are difficult to get right. Group prompts helps with this. Groups involved in an activity, not looking at the lens can be more dynamic and more natural. For example, chemistry experiments or making a model together. Smaller groups or individuals are not only easier but can make more powerful images.


It is preferable backgrounds are as simple as possible to help avoid distractions from the main subject. This is more important with portrait type shots.

Still or moving.

Both still and moving images are useful. If you are able to take a few second of video at the same time as taking still pictures these captures can be very useful. Remember movies take up considerable more memory than stills and best to edit immediately removing any unwanted files. 


Good lighting make for better pictures. With very basic cameras/lenses shooting outside or in very well lit spaces will help. Shooting into a strong light with a subject in front is difficult for basic cameras to manage and creates silhouettes of the subject and overexposed light areas. Poor lighting often leads to strange colour casts and grainy images.


It’s preferable images used in newsletters and journals are captures of moments and not too heavily orchestrated or posed. Therefore, moving around subjects to get the best composition (and light) is necessary. Showing emotion is good. Surprise, embarrassment, laughter etc all make for better shots. 

Rule of thirds.

As a rule of thumb, compose subjects within the frame whilst conscious of the area being divided into three sections – vertically and horizontally. For example, set the horizon at either 1/3 or 2/3’s from the bottom of the shot.

Image storing.

Keep your pictures (or at least a copy) of your images at the original size. Using compression like jpeg is fine but remember every time you open and close a jpeg file it will reduce image quality by shaving data away.


It’s always a good idea to name and date each picture file. If any alterations have been made, better to use a different name or version number. Never use ‘final’ or latest’ etc.

See more of our work with schools here.

To see an example of our work using photography most supplied by staff, visit.

Posted by Jack Owen