How to Plan Your Best Photo Shoot Ever

Brand Strategy

We know that you need a lot of photos to help create a lot of content – whether it’s for digital or traditional ads, websites, emails, newsletters, viewbooks, presentations… The list can be (very) long, so it pays to have a smart strategy for photography that will help you protect that investment and ensure you are never left scrambling for great marketing content. 

To help, we’ve collected 13 tips to guide you as you create impactful and on-brand photography – whether you’re planning a large multi-day photo shoot or simply looking to capture some great content at an upcoming event.

1. Create photography guidelines

If you don’t already have photography guidelines established and documented as part of your school’s brand guide, you can add them now – or create a standalone guide. A standalone piece might also be relevant if you’re planning a photo shoot that’s campaign-based, where you might take some liberties with your typical brand standard. Be sure to include guidance and examples of what to do (or what not to do). Then share this document with everyone who takes photos for your school – professional or not.

2. Make a plan in advance

Find some time to create a plan for your photo shoot or content-creating opportunity. Thinking through these questions – and documenting a simple plan – will help save you time in the long run and will ensure you are maximizing your investment.

  • What are your goals and objectives for these photos?

  • What is the overall message you hope to communicate?

  • Where will the photos be used?

  • Which locations will you use for the shoot?

  • Which people will you use?

  • Will you use an internal resource or hire a photographer?

  • What is your budget?

  • When will you have the photo shoot?

  • Do you have inspiration photos to follow? (existing or sourced examples)

From here, you can create a list of photos you need – and use this plan to reach out to a photographer for a quote or start planning your photo shoot.

Learn more: Digital Marketing Fundamentals for Private Schools.

3. Collect and document consent

Asking for broad permission upfront saves you from last-minute requests and ensures you are only showing photos of students and staff who have consented. Make sure that everyone who accesses your library knows who’s consented to have their image used – and who hasn’t – and keep that up to date. Consider a policy that has your content creators automatically reviewing and deleting or tagging photos that can’t be used as they’re uploading them to minimize confusion and mistakes.

4. Focus on key programs and differentiators 

Prep for success and ensure you have great photography of all your key programs ready to go – both with and without students. Consider your major academic priorities, important spaces on campus, extracurriculars and clubs, travel opportunities, and more.

5. Double up where and when you can

Give yourself as many options as possible by ensuring you add high-quality photos to your checklist when you’re capturing video content around the school – and consider shooting some video content at your photo shoots too. This way, you’ll be covered for a variety of platforms and use cases.

We’d also recommend shooting key photos with more than one student – or different combinations of students – so you aren’t left without the content if someone leaves the school.

6. Shoot for all use cases

We might think we know the final use for a photo going into a shoot, but no one can predict the future… and a great shot might be used in more places than you’d originally envisioned (or planned for). 

  • Keeping lots of space around your subject will allow you to use that photo in a variety of ways – including vertical, horizontal, or square cropping for different platforms and purposes.

  • Always choose the highest resolution possible. You never know when you’ll capture an incredible photo… and it would be a shame to not be able to use it on a billboard or the cover of your viewbook just because you weren’t expecting it and your settings were too basic. 

Learn more: Social Media For Schools: Choosing The Right Mix

7. Always consider diversity

Show your school community in its best light and ensure you are keeping DEI(B) goals in mind. This is especially important when capturing images of groups – showing diversity on these small clusters of students and faculty speaks volumes about who is welcome at your school. Not sure if your photos are representative enough? Check with others who care about DEIB and ask them to hold you accountable.

8. Tell a story with your photography

Aim to capture authentic moments. Some posed photos are okay – and sometimes necessary – but you’ll find that people resonate most with photos that feel authentic and “caught in the moment” (even if that moment was a little bit staged). The best photos show engagement, joy, and connection.

To keep your photography looking and feeling authentic, you’ll want to have some photos of individual students, some with pairs and trios, some with larger groups, and some with students and teachers – or even families on campus.

Learn more: Should Our School be on TikTok?

9. Create (and maintain) a smart database 

Use tags, naming conventions, or folders to make your content as searchable as you can – so the next time you need a ‘middle school’ photo of the ‘soccer team’ you’ll be able to find it in a flash (pun definitely intended).

Consider adding a system that documents where, when, and how often an image is used. This can help in planning future content needs. It can also help make it easier to identify places where updates are needed (consider a common case where an image can no longer be used because a student has graduated, and the manual labor required to find every place that image has been used).

10. Review your library regularly 

Sometimes specific events serve as a reminder to check and update your library, but we’d also encourage you to set a reminder to review your content regularly – perhaps a quick scan quarterly and then a solid spring annually – and make the changes you need to in order to preserve only the best, most usable content.

Here are a few triggers for a photo review:

  • When a family leaves the school

  • When a new class graduates

  • When a staff member retires

  • When an area of your school is renovated or repurposed

  • When a program, event, sport, or extra-curricular activity is canceled or replaced

  • When policies change (think: new uniforms)

  • When the world changes (think: students wearing masks, evolving hairstyles)

11. Think outside the box 

There are so many ways to build your photo library and keep it fresh. Some of the most authentic moments might not be captured by you. 

Here are a few ways to build up your photo library (without investing a lot):

  • Invite your parents to send in photos – especially after a school event

  • Get your senior photography class out there on assignment

  • Create a way for faculty and staff to submit their photos

  • Plan a small contest for families to share their favorite photos

  • Hire a photographer to capture photos at major events like an open house or a family carnival night (consider setting up a ‘photo booth’ or another set-up if needed, and let families know about it ahead of time so they’re prepared to participate)

12. Test, measure, and improve

Take the time to analyze and measure your photos’ performance – which ones get the most and least engagement, which ones drive the most and least traffic, etc. Look for major themes (think: composition, style, featured programs), both on a global scale and on a more granular scale (think: what worked by platform, or what didn’t work for a specific audience).

Consider these learnings when selecting photos to use in your marketing, and when planning your next photo shoot – so you can lean in and do more of what’s working, and less of what’s not. Over time, you’ll be able to better plan your photo shoots and select images that will perform well across many different marketing platforms.

13. Keep an ongoing list

Throughout the year, keep notes on the photos you wish you had, the photos you find yourself over-using, and the photos people are always asking you for. You can also start a swipe file of photos you see from other schools – in your market or outside of it – that you love. Look for opportunities to add these into your next photo shoot or find ways to capture them at an upcoming event. 

Need help planning your next photo shoot, developing brand standards for photography, or anything else marketing-related? Let’s chat!

At Metric Marketing, we develop measurable and practical strategies to help private and independent schools like yours to make the most of your marketing efforts. We'd love to discuss your private school's marketing requirements with you. Contact us today to speak with our marketing professionals or use the form below to sign up and receive more marketing tips in your inbox.


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