North Vancouver Portrait Photographer | A Different Approach to School Portraits


Remember School Picture Day? The big lines, filling out your information, the blue/grey backdrop, the suggested poses: arms crossed, arms on knees, head slightly tilted but body forward. I dreaded it! It was such an uncomfortable feeling to pose with those directions. Then the order form would come with the proofs. "Order the looks you love today!", comes in colour, sepia, or black and white. I don't know that I ever successfully had a good picture. They were always cheesy, and my parents always bought them. And of course, we would do the friend exchange, with cute little messages written on the back of our wallet-sized prints. Despite the horrid poses and cheesy smiles, whenever I come across pictures of my friends from school, it still makes me smile to read their messages. If only their pictures were more representative of their character! Then a few months ago, I came across a thread on the Clickin Moms forum about a business idea for Boutique School Portraits. Her idea was simple: approach a (smaller) school and offer the families of that school images of their children that are truly authentic. For someone who strives to achieve that authenticity through my client work, I was on board with this idea immediately! The only question is: would the schools be open to it?

As serendipity would have it, I was chatting with a Montessori teacher about her upcoming family session when another parent approached me about my work. Laurie said that she is looking for a photographer to take preschool portraits for the students at her Monterssori preschool. I was definitely intrigued and it would be a lot of initial work, but I knew this would be a great chance for me to see if I would be able to combine my style of photography with school portraiture. I told Laurie that I would greatly appreciate this opportunity!

I started reading about set ups and lighting. I wanted to know about what to use for a backdrop, if there was any other equipment I would need. How would I set up galleries for parents to view, to sign consent forms, to order? I joined groups online to learn about marketing idea, pricing structures, contract writing, lab proofs and printing, and final product presentation.  Even if I executed everything on time, thoughtfully and correctly, it could still be a failed business venture - I will only see the return IF the families submit their orders. With this in mind, I set out to achieve two things that are important to me: (1) preserve who these children are in that moment by artistically capturing their authenticity through our interaction, and (2) offer high quality, colour managed prints that will remain classic over time. As I'm editing the images, I remember the little conversations I've had with them and it makes me giggle. So, it is my hope that the parents will see their child's familiar smile or expression and in turn, smile because they are reminded of how authentic that portrait is.

Here is a collage of some of the wonderful preschoolers that I got to work with at Monkey See Monkey Do Montessori, whose parents graciously consented to sharing their child's image. I want to thank Laurie for taking this leap of faith and hiring me - this project has been such a great learning experience and I thank you for your feedback and patience through it all!