3 tips for superior student life photos

Images should show the atypical in typical events

Careening+through+a+half-pipe+at+Sun+Valley+Ski+Resort%2C+Dalley+Cutler%2C+senior%2C+catches+air+during+a+trip+with+his+friends+during+Christmas+break.+Cutler+has+skiied+since+he+was+five+years+old.
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3 tips for superior student life photos

Careening through a half-pipe at Sun Valley Ski Resort, Dalley Cutler, senior, catches air during a trip with his friends during Christmas break. Cutler has skiied since he was five years old.

Careening through a half-pipe at Sun Valley Ski Resort, Dalley Cutler, senior, catches air during a trip with his friends during Christmas break. Cutler has skiied since he was five years old.

Photo by Luke Whitbeck

Careening through a half-pipe at Sun Valley Ski Resort, Dalley Cutler, senior, catches air during a trip with his friends during Christmas break. Cutler has skiied since he was five years old.

Photo by Luke Whitbeck

Photo by Luke Whitbeck

Careening through a half-pipe at Sun Valley Ski Resort, Dalley Cutler, senior, catches air during a trip with his friends during Christmas break. Cutler has skiied since he was five years old.

By Luke Whitbeck, Idaho Falls High School

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Student life photos are reserved for unique moments of students’ lives. To get great shots, a photographer has to be willing to go outside the subject’s school day to capture what happens beyond the school’s halls. Often times, the most important and interesting part of a student’s life happens outside of school. It’s essential to remember every student is unique and has a story that deserves to be shown and included.

Here are my three tips for capturing those “outside” moments:

1. Go outside your comfort zone and talk to people you normally wouldn’t talk to. Politely ask to be included in their activities and then shoot from their perspective. In order to do that, you have to know the subject and become comfortable. Be comfortable around them enough that the subject won’t flinch every time the shutter clicks. Also, blend into the background but get close enough that you can accurately capture emotions and details.

Jake McBride and Samantha Tucker, freshmen, race to meet in the middle of the “Lady and the Tramp” relay at the Homecoming Assembly. Students who competed in this class competition had to eat a piece of licorice until they met. McBride surprised Tucker, and the entire student body audience, by sneaking in a kiss. “I did not expect him to kiss me,” she said. “I was not happy and pushed him away.”

Photo by Luke Whitbeck
Jake McBride and Samantha Tucker, freshmen, race to meet in the middle of the “Lady and the Tramp” relay at the Homecoming Assembly. Students who competed in this class competition had to eat a piece of licorice until they met. McBride surprised Tucker, and the entire student body audience, by sneaking in a kiss. “I did not expect him to kiss me,” she said. “I was not happy and pushed him away.”

2. Look for special moments in ordinary situations. In order to do that, you have to be paying attention. For example, I was shooting the Homecoming Assembly – a typical annual event at our school. In one of the class games, the competitors were supposed to eat to the middle of a licorice rope. Whichever class team met in the middle first, won. The freshmen team met in the middle and the boy took his chance to steal his first kiss. The crowd in the background reacted with shouts. I was there as it all took place. I got caught up into the moment of the kiss and got a great shot. Every event you go to will have emotional moments that nobody anticipates. It’s our job to capture those moments.

Olivia Elison, senior, center, performs with her ballet team at the Multicultural Assembly. Highlighting cultures and the arts, the assembly is one of the most popular events at Idaho Falls High School.

Photo by Luke Whitbeck
Olivia Elison, senior, center, performs with her ballet team at the Multicultural Assembly. Highlighting cultures and the arts, the assembly is one of the most popular events at Idaho Falls High School.

3. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Then shoot some more. My camera is with me everywhere I go. You never know when those exciting moments will happen. Even throughout the school day, I have my camera on my back. It’s kind of cool that people know you as the “photo guy.” Also, make sure you have an extra battery and card. I’m not the greatest at cleaning off my card right away, but I’ve gotten better. It’s very frustrating when you know you got a great shot but have to delete during a shoot. It also jeopardizes the chance of getting “the perfect shot” from the event.

Photography is more than knowing aperture and shutter speed. Student life photography is about life. It is our job to provide a record of those lives that populate our halls. Show the atypical in a typical event. As my journalism adviser always says, “If it’s not in the yearbook, in 10 years, it didn’t happen.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Luke Whitbeck is an award-winning photojournalist for Idaho Falls High School’s publications Spud Annual (yearbook) and Tiger Times (newspaper), under the direction of adviser Ryan Hansen. Whitbeck won a Superior rating in Yearbook Student Life Photography at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Denver in April 2015 for some of the photographs featured in this story.

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