• General Best Practices
Should My School Hire a Professional Photographer?
Mia Johnstone

Are you thinking that maybe your schools needs some professional photography for collateral on your website, brochures, and in your ads? But, are you also on the fence about whether the hefty financial investment is worth it?

In short: yes, it’s worth it. There’s no better way to showcase your school’s culture and community across all mediums (including print) than photography. 

If you’re trying to get the budget for this investment, it’s important to note that a professional photoshoot will do more than just create beautiful images for your school. 

A professional photoshoot can:

  • Help you plan your marketing calendar
  • Streamline and Improve the look of your marketing materials
  • Forge stronger student relationships
  • Streamline your social media
  • Help you update staff images
  • Validate what makes your school special

A photoshoot forces you to plan your digital and hard copy marketing calendar.

No doubt, the best way to maximize your photoshoot is to consider why you are going to do one! I like to tell school clients that planning backward is the best way. 

What are the digital and hard copy platforms that you will utilize? Are you planning a brochure, an open house postcard/landing page, newspaper/social media ads, a recruitment banner or other items where you need visuals? Figuring out those items will give you a rough draft calendar for your digital and hardcopy assets.

student in classroom  in front of college banners

You’ll look your best in marketing materials.

Images are usually the first form of communication about your school. For this reason, every school needs to put their best image forward — which means there is no substitute for a planned photography shoot. The campus is immaculate, students are looking their best, and images are thoughtfully curated to serve a particular purpose in your marketing campaigns. There’s no strewn backpacks, untucked uniforms, or unsightly messes.

But, keep in mind that a professional photoshoot doesn’t mean images will be so posed they look inauthentic. Everyone wants that real glimpse of real campus life — but that doesn’t mean “real” can’t be recreated. 

For example, take a look at these two photographs on the “About Boarding” section of Baylor School’s website. They certainly hit the mark on the nose when it comes to blending authentic moments with professional photography.

two boarding school students in dorm room
young men in dorm room

It is a great way to get to know students.

Even though I’m just a contracted photographer, I get to know the students really well. Needless to say, as a faculty member, you will also get to know students really well. 

The bond built during experiences like this is something that doesn’t just happen every day on campus. Students definitely want to know you outside of academic time — and a photoshoot is a fun, non-academic scenario to have a good time. 

Students learn that they are integral to the photoshoot — so they take it seriously, and are as eager about the outcome as you are. (Because what young Gen Zer doesn’t want awesome photos of himself or herself?!)

It’s a perfect start to plan several social media posts.

Since your photoshoot is going to create beautiful images of students and your school, you can use those images to plan some social media posts well in advance. 

Once you have your photos, you can schedule posts such as recruitment dates, fundraising items, student success stories, featured faculty members, a slideshow video, and more. 

These professional photos also make great cover photos and images for the “Our Story” section of Facebook pages.

trinity pawling "our story" section of facebook

You can update staff images with candid photographs.

Dare to share something more real with your prospective families!

Time to toss the photos with the gray background and studio lights. Your school’s faculty — especially those working in academics and admissions — need more humanized photos. Your school photo shoot is a perfect time to do that! 

Take some photos outside. Encourage them to smile, laugh, and engage with students. And then don’t miss the beat...post the photos in your faculty directory and throughout your website as needed. These photographs also make great content for social media throughout the year. 

tupelo instagram post - two faculty talking
tupelo instagram example

Validate what makes your school special.

When you look at your campus with a fresh pair of eyes, it’s a new opportunity to validate what makes your school special. Is it the location? Maybe a certain program that you offer? Do you have a new building? 

Hiring a professional photographer will force you to think about all the things — little and big — that set you apart! This might give you new talking points for your marketing materials, but most importantly, help you streamline your content and messaging across all platforms.

Key Takeaway

A professional photoshoot does more than provide you with beautiful images — it is an integral component of your marketing efforts both online and in print. Need creative ideas for your photoshoot? Download a posing guide from Mia at readysetenroll.com here.

Mia Johnstone is presenting at FinalsiteU Orlando March 4-6 on photography best practices and improving the parent experience. Learn more and register at finalsite.com/orlando


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mia johnstone headshot

Mia Johnstone has over 13 years of experience as a professional photographer and marketing strategist for private schools. Her work has included creating branded photoshoots and marketing materials in alignment with each school's values. Mia also published the LA Private School Guide, a magazine that profiled private schools in Los Angeles. 

  • Budgeting
  • Marketing/Communications
  • Photography
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