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06/10/2009 08:46:38 AM · #1
To make a long story short, my kids' school has graciously agreed to give me the contract for taking the upcoming year's kid's portraits to help me offset the cost of tuition (4 months's unemployed next tuesday). We are meeting in two weeks to talk through the details. Its a small school, less than 300 students, K-8.

Anybody that's in this business - any tips, thoughts, or suggestions you can provide?

Thanks in advance.
06/10/2009 10:48:42 AM · #2
Depends on what the school wants (some want/need a specific file format for the yearbook, principle/s PDA, school database, etc). You cannot do this part yourself...but you need to know what they need. Marathon Press can do it (used to be $50 if you used their services) but you'l have to check around.
See, almost all school photogs do it in a computerized way and the software can run $2500 and up - no economical for one or two schools.
You could check with HHColor lab - their ez-events software (free if you use their lab which is a good lab) might work for you.

What the software does is keep the image (individual head shot) together with the kids's class and his name and what he ordered so that what you get back from teh lab is an envelope wiht all his stuff in it bundled together by class - you just hand it over to the school.

You will want to know how they want things shot - type of BG (often a blue something) and if htey want everyone shot in one day w/ a makeup day a couple of weeks later (schools want this to be as fast and trouble free as possible - so shoot it in one day!). You may need more than one photographer for the day to get everyone through.
See if the PTA will provide some parents for help too.

make sure you have insurance! If a light falls (hey, kids run around) on a kid you will be forever ruined financially if you don't have liability insurance. Hell, my kid can get hurt in gym class with a jumprope and broke his clavicle falling off a chair in the library.

It's fairly normal to pay the school something (donation, kickback, referral fee, commission -call it what you want) -perhaps to the PTA if they supply helpers for picture day.

You will need order forms for each kid before picture day (packages, prices are up to you - hopefully you have something from previous years, other photogs to give you a starting point).
You will need extra ones for picture day. if there are 300 kids have 500 printed.
Make sure you have a business license and count on sales tax being paid someplace by you - consider you are shooting how many kids? Who are their parents? Other pro photogs, the local tax guy, an IRS agent - you do not know. All it takes is one person to ask questions and you're in a heap of trouble. Be legal about it all and you've got nothing to worry about.

have backups for picture day - lights, camera, lenses. you will have your ass shoved up into your skull by parents and the school if you have to stop and come back another day.

almost everyone will pay with a check. be sure you can take checks (made out to who?) and that many can go into your account (my account limits total transactions to 200 a month and it's 50 cents for every one after that - each check is one transaction. This can add to real money for 300 checks.). Get a stamp made to endorse the checks - you do not want to sign 300 of them.

Find a lab NOW. get to know your costs (order envelopes, prints, sorting, delivery envelopes, reorder forms for those envelopes). Figure out a workflow for picture day, PP, etc. Get it right in camera or you will die in PS later - meaning straight, heads all at the same height in the frame, lighting, exposure, WB, etc.

Expression is key, hair and collars much be straight, pose is next important. Screw any of it up and you'll be doing a retake - the key to making money at this type of photography is a system and workflow that happens with no exceptions. Have 15 parents call with issues and you'll spend 10 minutes or more on each issue - nearly 3 hours of your time when the whole picture day and and such for 300 takes 12 hours.

good luck!
06/10/2009 11:53:22 AM · #3
Haha. Prof probably just scared ya off of the deal.

The main thing with any type of group photos is not to over think it. In, Sit, Smile, Click, Out...over and over and over.
06/10/2009 12:04:11 PM · #4
Thanks Chris - this is exactly the type of info I need for planning.
06/10/2009 12:18:50 PM · #5
My best advice would be to get a kneeler, one with varying heights. This keeps the kids at the level you want and also helps with their posture. A height chart on your backdrop (could just be tape) would let you know which height of the kneeler to use. Try to do the classes by age starting with youngest. The younger they are, the shorter the attention span. Line them up so they can see what's going on. That way they know what is expected of them. Take at least 3 shots of each to make sure you get one with eyes open, etc. If I think of anything else from my LifeTouch days, I'll post again.
06/10/2009 01:55:52 PM · #6
Make sure you have the school send out an announcement to all parents: "Nobody will be taking your child's photo this year."
06/10/2009 02:27:33 PM · #7
Originally posted by Art Roflmao:

Make sure you have the school send out an announcement to all parents: "Nobody will be taking your child's photo this year."


ahahahahahah
06/10/2009 05:00:24 PM · #8
Originally posted by Art Roflmao:

Make sure you have the school send out an announcement to all parents: "Nobody will be taking your child's photo this year."


:)
How about "Nobody is looking forward to taking your child's photo this year."
06/10/2009 05:11:13 PM · #9
Originally posted by Nobody:

Originally posted by Art Roflmao:

Make sure you have the school send out an announcement to all parents: "Nobody will be taking your child's photo this year."


:)
How about "Nobody is looking forward to taking your child's photo this year."


Better yet! Time to change your career path; you have a future in copywriting!

R.
06/10/2009 05:22:30 PM · #10
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Originally posted by Nobody:

Originally posted by Art Roflmao:

Make sure you have the school send out an announcement to all parents: "Nobody will be taking your child's photo this year."


:)
How about "Nobody is looking forward to taking your child's photo this year."


Better yet! Time to change your career path; you have a future in copywriting!

R.


Considering I am a laid-off banker, my career path was changed for me. I just don't know where its going yet.
06/10/2009 05:27:18 PM · #11
If you train as a para-legal specializing in the advertising industry you can spend your time copyrighting copywriting ...
06/11/2009 11:58:16 AM · #12
bump for any additional advice.
06/21/2009 04:18:09 AM · #13
Get a barcode scanner, and a program that lets you print barcodes :) Get a list of
students enrolled in the school. Print up check sheets that have options for prints,
as well as the barcode for the student.

Student comes in, sit them wherever for the portrait, scan the barcode (SHOOT TETHERED!)
Write the first and last .jpg numbers on the slip they give you so you don't confuse kids.

Get a zenfolio premium acct. $100 for the whole shebang and unlimited space.

Create a gallery for each student (that'll take time...) but you can PW protect each image by last name or order #

If they want more prints, they can order them from there.

....

thats what I'd do.

I used to work for a yearbook photo company. It sucked.
06/21/2009 10:15:31 AM · #14
hhcolorlab has the scanner and software, barcodes, etc - scanner is around $200 and software free. of course you have to use their lab for prints but they're good and their 'event' prints are a fair price.

you don't need first and last number -just last number. less work, less chance of error, much faster. And I'd say it's 100% foolproof, or it has been for me and 3 different assistants over the past 4 years from small events to multi day multihundred people.
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