The 7 Most Common School Photography Mistakes

Aug 31, 2023

When perfecting a photography business trial and error comes with the territory. When I added school pictures to my boutique photography business the trial and error process was beyond grueling. I look back and cringe at some of the completely avoidable mistakes I made. Sometimes you just have to figure it out the hard way…and wow, did I make it HARD!

I want you to avoid all the mistakes I made. To help, I gathered some of the most common mistakes I see when a boutique photographer adds school photography to their services. I’m speaking from experience because I made every. single. one. of these mistakes. Keep reading to see the seven most common school photography mistakes and why it matters so much to do it the right way.  

Mistake #1 - Not Photographing Siblings

Sibling images can dramatically increase your sales at any school - in many cases by 20-40%! Parents LOVE sibling images, and the opportunity to have their children photographed together at school is icing on the cake for them on picture day.  Sibling images should be shown and sold in their own gallery and purchased separately. Do NOT include sibling images as part of one of the children's individual access codes.

Mistake #2 - Not Providing Enough Variety

The way to capture BIG sales is with variety that parents can’t resist. Vary your posing to include tight headshots and full body images, as well as different expressions. The same is true for sibling images, if you limit your variety in expression and/or posing, you’re going to limit your sales.

Mistake #3 - Complicated Pricing

Keep pricing SIMPLE!  Find the sweet spot package price, and build the rest of your price list around it.  Make it easy for parents to see the true value in what you are selling, and include options that parents REALLY want. Let’s be honest, who needs 40 postage-sized pictures? Your buy-all digital package should be priced for profit, but not the ceiling for spending. Digital buy-all WITH print package add-ons help you take your sales even higher.

Mistake #4 - Not Using A System Built For Volume

As portrait photographers, we have access to numerous gallery, sales, and presentation options. While they are pretty and functional for our portrait clientele, they really don’t serve us (or our clients) in the school pictures world. While you can ”make it work” with gallery software or portrait photography sales platforms, they don't have the same capability, ease & efficiency, power, and ability to market and sell to 'volume' clients (AKA parents).  The RIGHT SYSTEM saves you time, provides an amazing experience for your clients, and results in higher sales!

Mistake #5 - Not Being True To Your Style 

School pictures do NOT have to be boring or traditional! Fight the urge to change your shooting style to 'old school.' Ditch the humdrum backdrops and lackluster expressions for contemporary images that let you and your subjects shine.  Genuine smiles delight parents. Photographing children in a beautiful setting or against a vibrant backdrop can bring your photos to life in a way parents will love.  

Mistake #6 - Wimpy Watermarks 

No photographer wants to see a watermark all over our images, but when selling school pictures online, you HAVE to watermark strongly.  Unfortunately, for many parents, a quick screenshot on their phone is 'enough' in the moment, to enjoy for themselves or even share on social media. Sure, their screenshot won’t allow them to create beautiful prints, or create holiday cards. But in today's digital world, sometimes just 'having it on their phone' is enough. Be diligent about protecting your work, you can thank me later!

Mistake #7 - Not Marketing To Parents AFTER Picture Day

You've just done an incredible job, photographing all of those children. You've made parents smile and probably have them in awe of what you’ve captured. Now's your chance to market all of the other genres you photograph.  Whether it's family sessions, special events, headshots, seniors, or more, take the opportunity to market to this warm audience. You've already proven yourself, and that’s the hard part.

Build Your Business By Working Smarter

If there’s anything I’ve learned while building my photography business, it’s to work smarter, not harder. Avoiding these common mistakes will allow you to get solid systems in place and increase your revenue. The best part is the increased revenue isn’t from school pictures alone. School photography can be a game changer for your entire business, allowing you to capitalize on all the genres you offer.