We know that PTO leaders have a lot of responsibilities on event days and that taking photos might not seem like a high priority. But event photos are an easy way to share the highlights of the day and to thank your volunteers. What’s more, they’re great for publicizing next year’s event and for showing your group in a fun, happy light.
Once you get into the mindset that all events are opportunities for photos, being a “photographer” will be easier than you think. Our tips can help you get good photos without much effort—so you can concentrate on running a successful event.
A note about permissions: Schools have different policies around photo usage. Check to see what the guidelines are at your school to ensure you’re using photos with appropriate permissions.
Make a List
First, spend some time thinking about what kinds of photos you want and how you’re planning to use them. Maybe you want to take some pictures of students to post on Facebook to share with parents, or maybe you want some of volunteers to include in next month’s newsletter as a way to thank them for their help. Thinking it through ahead of time will help you focus your efforts.
Tell a Story
Every event has a beginning, middle, and end, so think in terms of telling its story. Take photos of the room before your guests arrive, and take some photos of them walking in. Take lots of photos of the main event, and try to capture attendees’ emotions. If the event is on the small side, organize a group shot before everyone goes home.
Don’t Worry About Fancy Gear
Often you’ll find a school parent with an interest in photography and the gear to match, and if you have a talented volunteer willing to help take photos, great—but your event photos don’t hinge on that. These days, smartphones have excellent cameras. Make sure you have enough storage and battery available before your event, and just stick the phone in your back pocket so you can grab it quickly when you come upon good photo opportunities.
Add Videos to the Mix
As with photos, smartphones take quality videos, so be sure to get some—especially if you’re planning to post some photos to Facebook. Videos tend to get more views on Facebook, and they’re great for capturing the event in action. If you’re up for enhancing your videos, apps like Boomerang make it easy to create some fun clips.
Think Action Shots…
Action shots of students having fun at events have particular appeal. They tend to look more natural than posed “Say Cheese!” photos, and you don’t need to worry about interrupting kids' fun—just snap a quick pic (or two).
…or Overview Shots
To help publicize your event for next time and show how many people attended, consider taking a nice overview shot of the whole event. Use a selfie stick, stand on a chair, and try to take a photo of the crowd. You can also try different angles of the room to get the best shot.
Play with taking some photos from the height of a student’s eye level, especially if you’re planning to use these photos to highlight next year’s event. Such perspective can help viewers feel like they’re a part of the experience.
Think About Lighting
If your event is during the day and outdoors, you won’t need to use your camera’s flash in most situations—natural lighting looks best. But if your subject is shadowed or backlit (the sun is behind the person), you may need to use your camera’s flash to help. If you have a night event or an indoor activity, turn on all the lights in the room and use your phone’s flash for the best photos.
Be Mindful at Food Events
Photos of people eating don’t tend to be the most flattering, so try your best to avoid these shots. If need be, gather people for some group shots when they’re done.
Your child’s group of friends might be cute, but try to take photos of lots of different groups of students and parents at your event. You want to show diversity (and avoid seeming to show favoritism).
For additional tips on posting group photos on Facebook, check out “5 Easy Ways Your Group Can Use Facebook.”
Janelle Ng is the creative director at PTOtoday.com/School Family Media
Originally published in 2018 and updated regularly