Photography Guidelines for Honor Society Chapters
Honor Society chapters, whether NEHS, NJHS, or NHS, are involved in many dynamic projects every year. The national office values receiving stories of successful events to share with other chapters around the country. For both our printed publications and our online presence, we always enjoy including good photos to supplement the written articles. To help all of our chapters send in the best possible images, we have constructed a few simple guidelines for you to review and use or share with your local student photographers.
To start, you need a photographer. Many people have cell phone cameras and small digital devices, but to get the best quality photos look around your school for the best photographers: the pictures can be taken by journalism students, staff members, the yearbook team, or whoever can demonstrate skill with a camera.
The following guidelines will help you provide the best possible photos for publication.
Types of shots
- Variety. Provide an assortment of photos from your school; having more than one image from an event will ensure that there are enough images to choose from to fit the space available.
- Candid photos are usually best. The goal is to capture the climate of the project or activity, so images of individuals engaged in the activity are best. It is helpful to have various groups of people represented—students, staff members, and administrators—as well as representation of the diversity of the school community. Avoid photos that look too posed. This is particularly important for service projects; not as relevant when submitting an article about awards being won or students being recognized. Group shots are fine for some stories, but un-posed/action images usually catch the reader’s eye best.
- Camera angle. To facilitate obtaining a variety of images, consider a variety of camera angles and locations – walk around the participants while they’re working, use wide-angle, focus on each individual for an image and then the group. It often takes many shots for at least one dynamic image to emerge.
- Check your backgrounds. Scan the area, look for clutter or distraction and quickly change the framing or location of the shot if the background interferes with your focal point.
- Lighting. Maximum natural lighting is best, especially a slightly overcast sky as it diffuses the light. Avoid lighting that casts hard shadows across faces; use the flash to fill in the shadows. Know your camera’s flash range. For many cameras it’s only about ten feet. If you are unable to add additional lighting be sure you are closer to your subjects.
- Get closer. Don’t rely on zoom, physically move closer. In many group shots, the people get swallowed up by the background. Take a step closer so the people fill the frame. The more clarity for faces the better; but don’t cut off anyone’s head, arms, or feet – although cutting off everyone’s feet by closing in on the faces is just fine. Be a picture director, take an extra minute to rearrange your subjects or try another angle.
- Avoid cropping images too tight. While close up images are fine for special effects, work to provide some space around the central image to facilitate effective use of the image at the production end where cropping can occur. Often interesting shots are taken with the subject slightly off-center.
- Focus. Avoid submitting any images that are not sharply focused, at least where the main subject is concerned. Having background or nonessential individuals out of focus can be an effective tool for an image as long as the central subject is sharp.
- Eyes open. Look at the photo just taken – are all of the people’s eyes open? If not, keep the group in place and reshoot. One hint is when taking the shot, take two pictures one right after the other so you have an automatic backup and hopefully avoid seeing closed eyes. This last suggestion is particularly helpful for those still using film-based cameras.
- Quality. It’s most important to set the camera to use the highest resolution possible (your camera may call this best quality, most pixels, or largest file size) to get the pictures to look good in the printed magazine.
- File type. JPG files are preferred (and the norm for most digital cameras). Generally the larger the file size (1MB or greater is preferred; alternatively, a minimum 1,000 pixels in width, for example, 1024 x 600) the better. Photo files can be downsized/reduced for production or posting purposes, but we cannot increase the size of a file submitted.
- Scanning. If you prefer to scan a printed photo, please be sure to set your scanner for a minimum of 300 ppi for any images scanned. Larger files are great.
Captions and Permission
- Captions. It is helpful if you will submit a caption that explains essential information about the photo: When was it taken? Where? Who is in the photo? What is taking place? Be sure to include the school name and city/state information along with the caption. Captions can be submitted via email but please reference the name of the photo attached when doing so. When sending in a printed photo, include this information on a separate sheet – please do not write on the back of the photo.
- Photo credit. Remember to tell us the photographer’s name so we can give them credit.
- Permission. It is essential that all local permission forms have been signed and collected at your end before sending in any photos. Any recognizable individual in the photo should be identified and permission obtained prior to submission. Please comply with the rules and regulations of your school or school system for all such media releases. Consult with the principal or the school system’s public relations office if you have questions. Occasionally we find the need to request a copy of such forms, so please keep your forms available for at least a year following the submission of any image to NASSP.
When all else fails, send the image and we can follow up with you regarding any essential matters not addressed. We value any and all submissions as a way of helping us provide visual support for our articles and Web sites. Of course, should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send a quick email regarding your photos, either directly to the staff member you’re working with or for general inquiries to either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to seeing the images of your chapter in action!