daycare photo tips

How to Take Better Photos in a Preschool Classroom

Whether you’re putting together new marketing material for the school or simply hoping to capture memories for parents, photographing a room full of preschoolers can be tough. Fickle, fidgety, and basically all over the place, little kids can sometimes act like they’re hardwired to move around at the sight of a camera. But don’t let the gallery-full of crying faces and blurred photographs dampen your resolve — there are a few strategies you can use to capture that picture-perfect moment in your classroom.

If you’ve tried every trick in the book and you still just can’t seem to get that Instagram-worthy shot, here are a few hacks worth trying.

Adjust Your Brightness, Focus and Shutter Settings

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Sometimes, the problem isn’t actually the kids. Autofocus and slow shutter speeds can cause lag between the moment you press capture and the time when the camera actually snaps the shot. And as you probably know, inside a preschool classroom, those few seconds could mean the difference between capturing the perfect picture or getting nothing but motion blur.

If you’re using a smartphone to take your photos, adjust the brightness to match your environment and lock it. This prevents your phone from having to adapt the brightness on its own after you click the shutter. You might also want to adjust your shutter speed to quicken the capture and reduce blur in the resulting shot.

Try the Burst Setting

There are just those moments when a single picture isn’t enough. Maybe your kids are playing ball, dancing together, or practicing for an upcoming show. In these cases, snapping a single photo and calling it quits is more likely to bring you failure rather than success. But because you probably don’t want to keep pressing the shutter over and over again, the burst setting comes in handy.

On most phones, pressing and holding the capture button enters burst shot which basically takes continuous photos within a fraction of a second apart. You can think of it like taking a video, but instead of the images being played in succession, they’re divided into frames that you can view individually. Burst can be helpful for those times when movement is inevitable; just make sure you have enough memory space to accommodate the volume of photos.

Keep It Candid

There’s something about instructing a bunch of preschoolers to sit still and smile that compels them to do the exact opposite. In fact, even just seeing that they’re being photographed can make children act in all sorts of strange ways. Funny enough, it seems that steering clear of telling the kids to say cheese might actually be one of the cornerstones of capturing the perfect image.

Keeping things candid can make your students act and behave in ways that are far more photogenic. Unstaged photos also tend to come out looking more authentic and will help make parents feel more like they were there for the moment. Instead of telling the kids to stop for the camera, let them go about their day and try to minimize the attention that your phone gets. The less they know that you’re taking pictures, the more they’re likely to behave.

Use a Tripod

Pursuing the perfect shot of a class of preschoolers might have you clinging to your camera all throughout the day. Unfortunately for any teacher, looming your phone over your students in anticipation of that picture-perfect moment isn’t an option.

On the upside, you don’t really need to hold your phone at all!

Setting up a tripod in an inconspicuous area of the classroom opens up the opportunity to take photos at any given moment — as long as you have a remote. These days, smartphone camera remotes are a dime a dozen, and they do exactly as their name suggests – they let you trigger the shutter even if you’re not holding your phone.

Prop up a tripod and connect your phone in a strategic area of the room. Press the button when your kids are taking part in an activity, during recess, or whenever you feel like you’ve got the golden moment to snap a pic.

Avoid Teamwork

It sounds pretty odd, but it works when you’re dealing with preschool photography. When you employ the assistance of your fellow teachers, the tendency is for all of you to call out names, make sounds, or rattle toys in an attempt to capture the kids’ attention. But what you’re really doing is confusing them. When there are too many focal points, kids are more likely to feel heightened, stimulated, and even agitated.

When it all boils down to it, the best way to photograph a bunch of preschoolers would be to do it on your own. If you must, employ the help of just one other teacher. As one of you takes the photos, the other entertains the children to produce the quintessential classroom shot.

With that, it’s also worth mentioning that any ‘distractions’ that might overstimulate kids – whether its a slew of noisy toys or lights – can work against you. If you need to use a diversion, use an activity that you know your kids like to avoid distressing their little sensitivities.

Take a Break

Scanning through a gallery of bad shots can frustrate any teacher that’s been snapping photos all day. But don’t let your annoyance get the best of you. Your kids can feel when you’re upset or angry, and they might mirror your agitation. And when you reach that point of exasperation, the last thing you’d want would be a classroom full of crying kids.

Don’t power through a photography session if you feel the slightest negativity from your class or yourself. Take regular breaks to cool down and refresh your resolve so you won’t have to fake the smiles with your kids.

Say Cheese!

Preschool photography can feel like an Olympic sport. But with a few hacks and some patience, you can capture that perfect picture to share with parents in your newsletter or HiMama daily reports!

Michael Keshen

Michael writes for HiMama's early childhood education blog and ECE Weekly newsletter. When not developing content for early childhood professionals, he can usually be found out and about with his wife and daughter exploring all that Toronto has to offer, or playing music with his karaoke band.