Volunteering at a School as a Photographer
Similarly to other photographers, I have my special interests: the leading themes on my list are nature and architecture, and some that never made it to my roll are street and sports photography. If I had to describe the majority of my images in one word, it would have to be „peopleless”. There is just one exception: I take a great amount of pictures at my daughter’s school for various purposes. I’ve decided to tell you about my „school photography” a bit, because most of the time I do not post these images publicly.
In Colorado I started taking candid photos at my daughter’s class events. No, not secretly from a hiding place, just without posing the kids for my images. I wanted to capture their actions and true feelings. Then, I shared these images with the parents, because many of them only saw one picture of their child from school, the official – posed – one.
I got permission from my daughter’s teacher last year in her new school (in California) to continue my quest for a collection of non-posed school images. Soon after I started taking pictures at the school, I was approached by the Yearbook coordinator… and yes, I became part of the team. I started taking more images at school’s events. A large number of these pictures were used in the Yearbook, and some even made it into the local newspaper (click for larger image). But…
Yes, there is a but in my story. And it has to do with my interests, knowledge and limitations. I really like to work with natural light, and I am not a pro at indoor photography. I sufficiently know how to use my speedlight, but I face some difficulties at the school. For example, the rooms where many of the events take place, have really uneven lighting. They are also large rooms, and just one speedlight on my camera is not efficient enough to light up everybody. The Yearbook has a limited amount of space, therefore I need to try to include larger groups of children in my photos. I can correct the unevenly lit images, but it takes a considerable amount of time.
Here is a group-shot from the concert:
Another challenge came up just last week: someone asked me to take portraits of families at an upcoming (indoor + night-time) event. Due to not having sufficient lighting equipment or the experience to capture posed portraits, I kindly rejected the request and asked the person to have me as a backup person for the job. Why do I not have enough experience in portraits? Because I do not like posed portraits. This might change in the future, but currently, there is nothing interesting for me about taking posed portraits. On the other hand, I love to take candid portrait images. This usually happens during school events, when I notice something special about an individual: the lighting on him/her, a special action, a great expression, etc. This is what happened last Friday, when I was taking pictures of the upper grade music concerts for the Yearbook. I focused on large group pictures, but there were a few times when I zoomed in to take a tight shot of an individual. Let me show you my two favorites.
Why do I like these portraits? First of all, because the individuals did not know that I was taking pictures of them, and they acted naturally. Secondly, because both pictures tell a story. I didn’t create the story for the shots, I captured the story that was already happening. These portraits were not pre-planned, I just happened to look the right way at the right moment.
People constantly grow and adapt. Photographers do, too. There might be a time in the future when I get interested in taking more pictures of people, but until then I enjoy my connection with the trees, flowers, clouds, etc. It makes me very happy to capture them in my images. And, of course, I will be contributing to our school’s Yearbook, and just try to overcome my difficulties.
What are your special interests in photography? What kind of pictures make you happy? What kind of obstacles do you have to overcome? Do you volunteer?