Episode #25 – How To Promote Your Chrisitan School with Student Photos and Videos
On this episode we discuss how student photos and videos can be used to promote your Christian school. We talk about how to take photos that parents can be proud of, videos that are compelling that people want to watch, and also discuss the do’s and don’ts of taking photos and videos.
Transcript of Episode:
Announcer: The Reconstructionist Radio Podcast Network presents The Preschool Pioneers podcast with Reverend Jeremy Walker, where you will hear practical and biblical advice from a unique perspective on the subject of Christian education.
The Preschool Pioneers podcast is brought to you by the GCS Apprenticeship Program. For more information, visit gcsapprenticeship.com.
You’re listening to The Preschool Pioneers podcast and on this episode you will hear practical advice from distinctly Christian perspective on the subject of marketing your Christian school. You can listen to all of the episodes in the series on our website at www.preschoolpioneers.com/marketingyourchristianschool.
Aaron Slack: In this episode of Marketing, Advertising, and Branding Your Christian School, we’re going to talk about photos and video. In particular, how they can be used in your marketing and promotional programs. It’s not going to be all digital online advertising, just basically how you can use photos and videos to promote your Christian school or daycare. Now remember, as we said before, everything you do is branding and marketing. And photos and videos are powerful tools for promoting your Christian school and creating a positive brand identity. That’s kind of fancy talk, but people really love photos and videos. We live in a very visual age. It’s the Instagram age. People put photos and videos on Facebook all day long and you really need to use this when you’re promoting your Christian school.
Jeremy Walker: We’re in the age of the selfie, as I like to call it. People always like taking photos of everything nowadays.
Aaron Slack: Oh, yes. Can’t have lunch without Instagramming it.
Jeremy Walker: Exactly.
Aaron Slack: And of course, photos are now, thanks to … first we had the digital camera. I remember when I was a kid, my first camera I got literally from a cereal box. I saved a Kellogg’s Cereal box top, sent in for a film camera, and of course nowadays, first we had digital cameras that anybody could take basically an unlimited number of photos, and now that we have social media, not only can you take an unlimited number of photos, you can share them more easily than every before. And of course, photos are everywhere now. So we’re going to talk about how you can use this for your Christian school.
Everything you do is branding and marketing. Photos and video are part of that and we’re going to assume that you’re on the web, you have a website, you’re set up on social media, as we discussed in our previous couple episodes, and now what you need is content. And again, we talked before about the importance of being consistent. Sometimes I’ll see a Christian school or daycare and they’ll put up a bunch of photos one day and then nothing for six months. Parents love photos, so if you start doing photos you’re going to want to continue doing that. We use photos, not just for our social media, but just in general throughout all of our programs, even offline programs.
You need to think about what kind of content you should create and post. A lot of that goes back to what we said in a previous episode. Photos, videos, kids doing fun stuff at the school, special participation days, special classes, kids doing their learning activities, kids playing outside on the playground, kids learning in the classroom. These are all great things to do photos and videos for. Once you have them, there’s a variety of things that you can do with them. Some of these are offline, which we’ll discuss. Like printing them out and giving them to parents, using them in a school yearbook, using them in printed promotional materials, and then also the various online sites that we have now.
Just about all of the social networks do video now. But they handle it in different ways. Photos and video. Quick rundown. You got Facebook, which you can do videos more or less any length. Facebook loves video. You upload a video to Facebook natively, Facebook’s going to show that to a whole lot of people as we discussed in a previous episode. You want to do it natively, so that Facebook will show it to as many people as possible. And when you do a paid promotion on that, your dollars will go further. You don’t really have to stick to any kind of minimum length on Facebook. You can do just a short, even a 15 second clip. Same thing with Instagram, very similar. You can do a shorter clip or you can do a longer clip. That works really well. There’s not really a need to be particularly polished, for example, on Facebook. It could just be a clip of something that happened. You don’t need to edit a whole lot if you don’t need to. I would suggest doing that for a longer video. But you don’t have to.
YouTube, I would say, is better for slightly longer videos. Editing together videos. Make them a little bit more polished. Facebook, one of the reasons why I say this is because for Facebook, when you post something you’re going to get a whole lot of views quickly for the first day or two, and then as it gets further and further down the page and you post new things, it’s more or less, you can still get to that video if you click over to the videos tab on a page, but more or less, Facebook’s not showing that video anymore. Once it gets its views, for the most part that’s done unless you go back. You can go back into your Facebook video library and select a video and share it again, in which case it’ll get more views. But for the most part, once it’s posted, it’s run, it’s time, it’s done.
YouTube, thanks to also … YouTube has suggested videos. So once you upload something to a YouTube channel, that’s going to keep getting discovered, it’s going to keep getting views. We have videos that are years old on the Grace Community School YouTube channel, that’s still getting views. We still get people discovering it because YouTube suggest it to people who are watching videos. Or people are searching on YouTube or on Google … YouTube is owned by Google, so when you do a Google search and there’s a relevant YouTube video that comes up very high in the search results. You can have one of those videos that’s years old, but you’ve typed in particular search query on Google, and Google’s going to show it to you and so that video that’s years old is going to continue to get plays.
And then we have, on the other end of the spectrum, is things like Twitter, where, similar to Facebook, once a Twitter video is passed, it’s more or less gone. It’s still there, technically, but you’re not gonna continue to get views from it. And then you have the most extreme which is Snapchat. When you do a Snapchat video, as a story, it is literally there only for 24 hours. And it is actually completely gone. Of course you can save that video on to your own device and repost it later, but once that 24 hour window is gone, it is gone. Each of these platforms that allows for video, you’re gonna want to approach it in a slightly different way. So what I’ll do a lot of times with Grace Community Schools is I’ll take a short clip and I’ll put it up on Facebook or Twitter, and then I’ll do a longer, more edited version … and we’ll get into some strategies and some tools that you can use to edit video, I’ll do a more polished, longer edited version for YouTube as well. Or take that same longer video and I’ll run it as a Facebook video ad too.
So you kinda get multiple pieces of content out of the same footage. That’s ways to handle video. As for photos, you can pretty much put those anywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram is great. I would say Facebook has the advantage over these other platforms because you can actually create photo albums. Twitter, you’re limited to four photos in a post. Instagram, now with it’s carousel format, you can do ten photos in a post, but still, it’s not like Facebook where you can basically as big an album as you want. I would say Facebook is where you’re gonna want to put your albums. Generally how we do it is we’ll put all our photos in a Facebook album, and then we’ll put some of the highlights up on Twitter and on Instagram, and then we’ll let our parents know that they can go to Facebook and check out the full-length album.
We discussed before the importance of an email list, so you can also do this, put a Facebook album up of a whole bunch of photos and then send a link to that album in an email to your email list. So somebody who missed the album on Facebook can go and check that out there. But Facebook is a great platform for photos because people can go and they can share them with a couple clicks, they can tag their friends, their relatives, they can show grandma real fast. They can download the photos themselves, save them on to their computer or their phone, so that they can put them in something else. But Facebook is the ideal platform for both photos and videos right now. But all of the platforms have their various strengths and weaknesses. And like with content in general, when it comes to photos and videos, think about what kind of content is going to interest your parents. And you can do that by seeing what would interest you.
Sometimes you’ll see people trying to put up a ten minute video that hasn’t been edited, it’s just a ten minute single cut of something that’s going on. And it might be something that’s interesting, but because of the length of the video and because it hasn’t been edited or polished at all, it’s just not something that’s very interested. People aren’t going to stay and watch a five or ten minute video typically, unless it’s extraordinarily compelling. And for this type of thing it’s much better to do a shorter video clip. But we’ll get to editing there in a little bit. Photos and videos, particularly photos are something we do a whole lot of at Grace Community School, and it’s still a way from standing out from the crowd. You don’t see a lot of people, a lot of places, taking advantage of this, as they could.
As we mentioned with the digital cameras, with modern technology, it’s easier than ever to incorporate these things into your programs. Grace Community Schools has been doing photos for many, many, many years. We used to … it was kind of a big deal, though, when we did photos. You would have to take out the roll of film, take it down to a drugstore and develop it, or what we eventually moved to was doing Polaroids. We did the Polaroids particular for our children’s birthdays, we would do a Polaroid photo. Take a photo, that way it could be instantly printed. And of course, because that stuff was very expensive, you didn’t take too many photos with the Polaroid. But now, everything is digital, and there’s really no limit to what you can do. It’s basically just take as much content as you can that’s good content. And the technology makes it possible for anybody to do this.
We’re going to talk to you today about how we take and use photos at Grace Community School and how you can incorporate into your Christian school or daycare. There’s something we can the Grace Community School Photo Program. And we’ve been doing this photo program, it’s a weekly photo program, we’ve been doing this for more than ten years now at Grace Community School. Basically since the beginning of digital cameras and it became readily available. It’s really simple in concept. It’s only got a few steps and sometimes I’m a little bit surprised that we don’t see more people doing it. Because it is a lot of work even though it’s simple in concept, it does take a lot of work. It takes a lot of caring to do it. And if you incorporated this into your program, you’re gonna have a competitive advantage over other daycares and childcare centers, because it’s something that a lot of people just don’t take the time and effort and caring to do.
Here’s how it works. For our Grace Community School Photo Program, teachers keep a checklist of the children in their classrooms, there is someone assigned, typically in each class, to be the photographer for that classroom. They are in charge of making sure that each week every child in the classroom gets at least one photo taken with a digital camera. Once each child’s photo has been taken for the week, we transfer it over to a computer, we put a Grace Community School watermark on it. Basically, it’s just like a photo stamp, an overlay, that goes on the photo, and then we print it out. It’s an actual, real hard copy, printed, glossy photo. We print that out for the parents and we give it to them for free. And that’s really all it is. We recommend using a local one hour printing place. Walgreens, CVS, do that in our area. You can upload it online from your computer to Walgreens and sometimes it’s longer than an hour, but typically not much longer. You can go and pick up the photos. Then you send it home with the children.
And that’s really all it is. We’ve tried printing our own photos. You can get photo printers. They’re not too expensive, but with the scale that we’re talking about, it’s much easier and actually cheaper to just have a place develop it, like Walgreens. And we’ve been doing this for years, so much surprisingly … I can’t think of anybody who’s copied this program.
Jeremy Walker: That’s surprising that no one really has because it’s one of the more popular things we do for our customers. We do give a lot of things away for free like a yearbook. Most schools charge $100 or so for a yearbook when they give them out. But we actually do that for free. And of course the photo program is just another one of those programs we have that are free for well, and it’s just so popular, that every week a parent always gets a physical copy of their child’s photo, doing various things throughout the week. But they get one every week and we’ve actually had people take these and create photo albums of them as well. We actually have some people who have been in our schools for six to ten years and they’ll have all the photos from the time they started. One lady in particular, I remember her. Her kids started when she was six months old and then she kept every photo that she had gotten. Now the child has entered kindergarten, has these big giant photo albums of every single photo of every single week that she got for free, in this massive memories folder, basically, of her time at our school.
But it’s something that I am surprised people don’t mimic, because it is not overly complicated. I think it mostly has to do with time, effort, and they don’t want to do it for free, I guess.
Aaron Slack: I’d say mostly the time. It doesn’t cost much more than the time. I know for Walgreens, for online order that you pick up, with coupon codes and things that they always have, it’s ten or 12 cents a print, that’s it. And even with the large number of students that Grace Community School does, it doesn’t equal out for very much money. But it’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of effort and caring. I guess that’s why people haven’t copied it.
What do you need to do to get started with a photo program and videos for your school? There’s a few basic prerequisites that you’re going to have to have. We mentioned this in a previous episode, but if you’re gonna do anything online with photos and videos of your students, particularly if it’s gonna be used in advertising or marketing materials, which pretty much anything on social media can be considered that, you want to have a signed photo waiver for each child from the parents. We just recommend making it part of the standard enrollment papers. There’s an opt-out form that we have, as well. Very rare that you get someone to ask for that, but occasionally, and it is available. But just make that part of your standard enrollment package. If this is something you’re starting brand new you’ll want to get your existing parents to sign this. But for privacy reasons you definitely want to have parent’s permission to do anything like this. Anything online.
Obviously, you’re going to need a camera and/or a video camera. And I say and/or because most cameras, most digital cameras will do videos now these days. You can also use a smartphone as well, which we’ll get to. For good quality photos, for a Christian school, for professional purposes like you’re talking about, you don’t need a DSLR, but you do want a good quality point and shoot camera. I recommend at least the 200 to 300 dollars range. Anything in this range or higher, your big camera manufacturers, Sony, Nikon, Canon, those are all going to be good. Right now I really like the Sony Alpha cameras. The Sony Alpha 5000 is a really good camera. You can get that in the three, 400 dollar range, but considering this is an investment that’s going to last for years and you’re going to be using to print hundreds of photos, it’s definitely worth getting a decent camera. So I definitely recommend getting a camera like that, something similar. 200 to 300 dollar range or maybe even higher. You want your photos to look good.
Of course, that’s the hardware. I’d say at least important, though, is the photographer. Whoever’s doing photos, you want to do some basic training with that person or at least ensure that they know how to take at least a decent photo. This is a photo of their child. So a parent does not expect a professional studio photo, something that’s Pulitzer prize winning photography, but you do want it to look good. I’d say hardware’s half the equation when it comes to taking good photos and the person taking it is the other half. And do some basic training, how to use the camera, the basic features. These point and shoot cameras these days, most of the time you can still with some of the automatic modes, but it’s good to be able to know a few of the other different modes. Some of them have a portrait mode that’s really good to use. I know the Sony Alpha does for various reasons. It also has an action mode if you’re getting kids running around, doing things, it’s good to switch to the sports or the action mode.
So knowing a few basic things about your camera, how to use it, how to use the flash, whether you want to use the flash or not, these are all good things to know. And then I would say also the actual taking of the photos, the actual composition, as they call it, is at least as important as that. Now in www.gcsapprenticeship.com, you can see our operations manual. And we actually have detailed instructions about the photo program as I’ve outlined. And also some specific guidelines for people taking the photos, primarily the managers, and mostly the teachers. I’m just going to read briefly the section from the operations manual about our guidelines for taking photos of students.
Number one. Make sure the child’s face, clothes, and hair look nice. No runny noses, food on faces, dirty clothes, messy hair, shoes untied, [inaudible 00:20:24] photo. You want to hold the camera steady so it actually takes a good photo. You want to have good lighting. Number two. I’d say the center the child in the photo. Number three. Avoid weird angle shots. Sometimes those can look neat, but for the most part you’re going to want to actually have a photo with the horizon isn’t tilting like you’re on a boat or something like this. You want actually a centered photo where it’s at a standard looking at the child. Avoid taking far away or super close-up shots. Far away, you can crop on your computer, but if it’s too close up there’s nothing you can do about that, so you want to frame it nicely.
Try to get a smile. I mean, some kids aren’t comfortable smiling for photos, but you want to do your best and get a smiling photo. That’s definitely better. Avoid having other children in the background. Particularly for the photo program because it’s gonna go to that child’s parents. You want the focus for sure to be on that child. You don’t want something distracting in the background. Solo shots work best. I would say the exception would be on some of their special participation days, when we’re doing photos for social media, having a group shot, a small group together. Nothing wrong with that. However, for the most part, because again, this is gonna go to that individual child’s parent, you’re gonna want solo shots for the majority of your photos.
Take photos in well-lit area is number eight. Again, you want good lighting. And then number nine is some things to not take photos of. You don’t want to take kids in the bathroom. Children in time out or children that are upset in general. Off-duty teachers, dirty faces, children sleeping, children crying. You want the children to be happy in your photos. You want to put your best foot forward. Photos are more or less permanent, so you want them to promote your school and you want them to have a good impression, leave a good impression of your school.
Jeremy Walker: It’s one of those interesting aspects when you’re dealing with photos and you’re talking about making sure that they’re done correctly, because we have yearbook photos all the time. And this is probably when you get to hear parents talking the most candidly about photos of their children, because it’s not a photo you necessarily took, you had a professional photographer come in.
Aaron Slack: And they’re paying for it.
Jeremy Walker: And they’re also potentially paying for it. This is something that they’re gonna share their opinions really readily for as well. And so you get the more personal aspects of it. What they really think. And so this list of to-dos and thinks to avoid is kind of taken from those concepts of what parents really think about it. And if you are a parent and what kind of photo do you want of your child, do you really want a photo of your child with a runny nose? Is that something you want to take a photo of? Or like the parent’s that’s talking about the professional photographer and the photographer takes the photo of the child and they noticed that when they get the photo, their child had a runny nose and the first thing they’ll say is, “Why didn’t they just take the time to clean their nose?” Or “Look at their shirt. Clearly their shirt was messy.” Or “Their hair. Why didn’t you just put their hair down?” Or whatever.
These little lists that we’re putting together here gives you an insight of how people are going to look at the photos, because yes, you may be giving it away for free, but it’s also about pride. The parents have pride in their children and they like their children to look good. Hence, they would like a child of their photo looking nice, dressing nice, with a nice smile. Hence they take their children or themselves to professional photographers to get nice photos to stick up on the wall, in photo frames, put them on the dinner table. They want to showcase their family and the photo program actually is an opportunity for the school to participate in that. Because the school is actually an extension or a part of the child’s life.
It really is a large part of their life especially if they’re in preschool, like the parent that we were talking about who brought their child to us when they were six weeks old and were with us well through kindergarten. And we were a large part of that child’s life and the parent’s life as well. Whenever you’re delivering these photos to the parents on a weekly basis, you’re saying “We care. We care. We care.” And it’s something that is just an extension of showing what a good job you’re doing as a school, that you are actually caring for this child, you’re actually caring for the family that you’re there for. Because it is a partnership.
And so whenever you take the time just to pause, to slow down, not to just take a photo, just to say, “I took a photo to meet my quota for today.” If you don’t do that, it comes across, it’s uncaring. If you got a shot of the child who’s just sitting on the floor, they’re not looking at the camera, or once again, they’ve got dirty clothes, their hair is a mess, whatever it might be, it says a lot about, not necessarily the child, but about the person who took the photo. And of course the school, who took the photo, got it developed, and handed it to the parent and says, “Here. Here’s your photo of your child. This is what we’re going to give you this week.” Every time you give a photo to a parent it’s saying something about the school as well.
This little list here is a very good to-do list of what to try to look for or try to avoid because every time you give something to a parent, it’s personal. And you want it to speak volumes. You want to, in a certain way, show them how you care for their child. And delivering them a photo of their child having fun, participating in activities, whatever it might be, does show that you care. And once again, if you don’t, like the professional photographer who didn’t take the time to clean the child’s nose before taking the photo, it actually leaves a bad taste in the parent’s mouth as if you were uncaring. And so these types of programs, much like a social media program if it’s not handled properly, if you’re not responsive to people when they have questions, if you’re taking photos and you’re delivering them to people but you didn’t take the time to make sure it was a quality photo, something that was worthy to be had, it actually works against you. I think the common theme we’ve said here is if you’re going to do something, do it right.
And that’s what these guidelines are there. In the operations manual we did include that because we want people to understand that you don’t just take photos but it says something about you and what you want it to say to the parent is something positive, that we care about you and your child. And taking a little extra time to do that will go a long way, so this is important aspects to pay attention to as well.
Aaron Slack: Yeah, some really good points there. You definitely … photos, again, everything is branding. Everything is going to influence people’s opinions of you. And of course, those photos are going to be seen by people, not just the parents of the child, they’re going to be seen by the grandparents, they’re going to be seen by the friends-
Jeremy Walker: Co-workers.
Aaron Slack: If you share them on social media.
Jeremy Walker: Everybody.
Aaron Slack: You definitely want to leave a good impression of the school. I also have written out some guidelines for taking videos, because it’s a little bit different. Number one, most importantly, whatever you’re taking a video of needs to be something that is actually interesting. Unlike a photo, for instance, it’s still a photo of a child, any photo of a child smiling at the camera, it’s a good photo, that’s it. The child doesn’t have to be doing anything interesting. Can be just standing there smiling at the camera. That’s a great photo. Parents are going to love that. Photos of the kids doing activities are great and you should have both kinds. But just a photo, a smiling photo of a child, that’s going to be great.
Now, imagine taking a two minute video of a child just staring at a camera. Nobody’s going to watch that. You’ll be wondering why you recorded that. Unfortunately I see a lot of videos like this. They’re done in one take and for various reasons it’s just not an interesting video. So number one, it has to be an interesting video. That doesn’t mean that every second of the video has to be interesting, but it does have to have something interesting captured on camera. Because more so than even photos, videos, to be their best, really need editing. Unless you’re doing a short, 15 second clip on Instagram or Facebook. And those can work well if it’s something interesting. If you’re doing any kind of a longer video, you’re not going to do it all in just one single take. You’re gonna have multiple takes. It’s going to be multiple cuts, camera angles. So it’s a little bit different than photos. In fact, I would say aim for short clips. Videos shouldn’t be longer than they’re needed. Don’t do long takes.
If you do long takes, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but just understand, you’re probably gonna be cutting that down. I would say shoot for five, ten, 15 seconds at the most clips. Probably five to ten second clips are ideal for most of the things that you would be doing at childcare or daycare center. You do a short five, ten second clip, and you switch your camera angle or go to a different child, whatever as the case may be. Do another five to ten second clip. Vary the camera angles between the takes. Vary how close you are to the subject. For instance, you do a close up for one clip and then further out, different aspects of a scene. For example, if the kids are all looking at something in the classroom, whatever it is, get a shot of what they’re looking at or the activity or whatever, and then get another shot of the kids’ faces as they’re watching. Their reactions to what’s going on. And then when you do the final video, you can go back and forth between showing the kids and what they’re looking at. It makes much more interesting video because you’re going to edit all of these together into a much more interesting video. Short clips.
And we think about any movie or T.V. show that you watch, very rarely are you going to see a scene, or a take rather, that’s longer than maybe ten seconds. Even if two people are just talking in conversation, they’re going to switch back and forth, moving one person to the other, two people together. It’s all done in very short takes. The audio may continue on, but they’re going to go back and forth between those two takes. It’s much more interesting. No matter how interesting the show is, for the most part, you’re going to want to do everything broken down into shorter clips and different takes. This is some really important things if you want to actually shoot interesting videos. Avoid shaky cam. You don’t want that. Try not to jostle the camera. Hold it steady. A little of wavering back and forth, I think, adds some interest to it for the most part. Most cameras these days have a little bit of stabilization, particularly if you’re using a smartphone, that a little bit of movement is nothing that’s going to be too bad, but you don’t want a shaky cam.
Now, of course, we also have last point here. Horizontal versus vertical video. Still for most things, you are going to want to use horizontal. Basically landscape, as they call it. This is still how we watch television. Our computer screens are still horizontal. Longer videos on your phone. You’re watching Netflix, it’s all horizontal. Now however there are a few exceptions now. Instagram and Facebook now do square video or vertical video. We discussed Snapchat stories before. Snapchat is all vertical video. And you can use these things to your advantage. However, for the most part, you’re still going to want to use horizontal video for most things, even though vertical video is catching on. It really depends. And I would say shoot horizontal, because you can crop it to vertical if you need it for a particular project, for the most part.
Those are a few things to keep in mind when you are creating videos. Another point as well, since we’re talking about Christian school and daycare, is that your organization, your Christian school or daycare should have an employee’s social media policy in place. If not, you can Google that and come up with one for your organization for your employees to sign. A few relevant highlights for this discussion, would be employees aren’t to take photos of students and put them on their personal social media accounts. Photography at the school is for official use only. You’re not taking photos for your personal use, you’re not taking them … teachers aren’t taking them for their own personal accounts. You don’t allow unauthorized photography of students in the school interior. This would go for parents as well as staff. This should be part of the social media policy. And again, photos taken are for official use.
The easiest way to do this is, for the most part, you have … we have one or more cameras at each location, which are for official use. And these are the cameras that the teachers use for the photo program, is the easiest way to do this. But that’s something useful to keep in mind if you’re going to be doing photography for your school, you need to have these kind of policies in place.
Jeremy Walker: I think it’s also … we mentioned the students in general, people taking photography. I think it’s also a good idea … not only do you have it in place to have a policy for your employees so that they not know that they are not allowed to utilize children’s photos for privacy reasons, and you put them on personal pages, whatnot, but also parents as well. Because whenever they’re taking photos, they’re taking videos, they’re not just taking photos and videos of their children, but they’re also taking them of other people’s as well if they’re trying to walk into a classroom and do it. A school is a very emotional place for people. It might be their first day of school, it might be the fact that it’s their birthday, lots of different reasons a person might want to take a photo of their child, or a video of their child at this school location.
It is something that they have to think about for privacy. I think it’s also important for a Christian school to have policies in place and signs up as well, so that way photos and videos are restricted on the premises, even by parents as well. People are very understanding where that’s concerned, as soon as you mention it’s just for privacy reasons and whatnot. But I think it’s also important to have those in place.
Aaron Slack: From a legal standpoint, we have signed photo waivers from the parents that we can take photos, but these people, parents of other children, do not have these waivers giving them permission to photograph.
Jeremy Walker: Exactly. Even though the school does, other people do not. That includes staff members, for private reasons, or for parents for personal use as well. Yeah.
Aaron Slack: A few other things to keep in mind for tips for photos and video. If you want to get serious about this, it’s not a bad idea to pick up a book on digital photography, especially if you don’t know anything about cameras. I like the For Dummies series. Always has good books.
Jeremy Walker: Those are always great.
Aaron Slack: Or even just do a Google search and read some basic photography articles. As I said, composition, which is basically how you frame the photo and the things in the photo, can make a big difference in whether a photo or a video is a good one or just an average one or even a bad one. Learning about composition, lighting. The rule of thirds is something interesting that you should look into as well, that we mentioned, if it’s often good to center a child in a photo, but if there’s an activity going on, it’s often good to use a rule of thirds where you have the child centered on one third of the photo and then … it’s easier if you Google it and you can see some images.
Jeremy Walker: To see what it means.
Aaron Slack: What this is. But basically it’s a way of including multiple things in a camera shot in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing. Videos as well work with that. For instance, think about interviews. When you look at an interview on a television with a person. Many times, particularly if it’s a documentary setting, the camera is not centered dead on the person being interviewed. They’ll have the person slightly turned and he’ll be in one third of the video frame and he’s looking towards the other two thirds. That is the rule of thirds. It is something interesting to keep in mind if you want to improve your photo and video taking.
And then just get lots of practice. Be self-critical of your photos and see how you can improve. If you are managing photos for other people, provide constructive criticism. Tell them what they can improve on and try to … it’s a photo of kids. It’s going to their parents. If you are providing some basic level of caring, as I said, parents aren’t expecting studio level photography. They just don’t want a bad photo of their child. They’re going to be quite forgiving in many ways, but you do want as good a photo as you can.
Jeremy Walker: The children are an extension of the parent, so whenever somebody doesn’t show what they might consider to be caring … what’s the illustration we were talking about earlier, the professional photographer who didn’t take the time to wipe the nose or to fix the hair of the child or whatever it might be, the parent takes it personally if it wasn’t what they thought should be done for the child, because the child is an extension of themselves, so if you’re not trying your best to take this good photo or trying your best to get this good video, or put any thought into it, the parent will take that as a sleight as well, because it’s very personal to them. The child is an extension of themselves.
Aaron Slack: Some ideas for photos and videos for your Christian school. Daily learning activities, these are always good. Seeing the kids doing their lesson times. Learning to read, learning their math, doing the learning activities. Those are always good. Reading circles, tutor times. At Grace Community School we do learning achievement certificates. And photos of the kids holding their achievement certificates, those are always very popular. Photos of kids with their reading books they have passed. We actually so far as to … every time a child passes a reading book, that they get to take home, we take a photo of the child with their book and then put it in a special framed photo that says … photo frame that says, “I learned to read at Grace Community School,” that the parent gets to take home. That is an extension of the photo program that we do as well.
Jeremy Walker: And the marketing as well, yeah.
Aaron Slack: And it’s advertising. Photos of kids reading, dress-up days and special participation days, like we mentioned. Like we just said, sports dress-up, dress-up day, we do a school spirit week where the kids come in wearing or a bringing a particular item, like slippers one day, hats the next, these are great things to take photos of. We do colors week where there’s an assigned color that they wear, like every day the kids wear red, next day they wear orange, and then yellow. These are great things to take photos of too, these special participation days. Kids outside play time, outside recess. Infants, any good photo of infants doing just about anything, those always do very, very well.
Jeremy Walker: They’re always cute.
Aaron Slack: You really can’t go wrong with those.
Jeremy Walker: You can’t.
Aaron Slack: Kids singing. Videos too, when we do our program practices for our musical programs. Videos of the kids singing. That always goes well. You can get some more ideas if you look at our curriculum. The College Can Begin at Two curriculum, which is available at www.gcsapprenticeship.com. We have photo days and photo opportunities are part of our curriculum, which you can see in that curriculum there. I mentioned our musical programs, which we do twice a year. We do one at Christmas and one at spring. The spring one is also our graduation program where the kids put on a musical show for their parents. These, not only do we take a whole lot of photos and video clips of, we actually video record the entire performance and create DVDs that parents can purchase. This is a great way to do video for your location.
Jeremy Walker: I’m sure we should get into that later as well, but the whole concept of doing programs or some people call them recitals, where the children sing, they do parts, like at Christmas and graduation. But they’re also ones … again, great advertising as well, for the school. So it is an extension of the marketing and advertising program as well and it should be treated like that, with the photos, with the video, with promotions and all the rest of the stuff for the email programs, promoting it. Because this is open to the public when we do these. And they’re wonderful things where … talking about community, building the community, and this is a really important aspect. If a Christian school’s not doing programs and these recitals at least twice a year, they should definitely be doing them because these are probably … if I had to pinpoint some of the strongest community things we do, the recitals would be them. And parents love them. They bring … how many people is it per child roughly that come in?
Aaron Slack: When I’ve counted it’s typically one. For every student there’s five friends and relatives that come to see that child.
Jeremy Walker: Yeah, I mean. For every child you have there you have at least these five people. When you’re standing up there … because we video tape it, and either Aaron or myself is typically up in the crow’s nest where we’re filming from above, and you see all these parents come in and these grandparents, these cousins, aunts and uncles, and they’re all there, and you see their faces and you see their smiles and they’re there to see their child’s special day, and this is just a great concept for community, it’s a great outreach to the parents. And once again, we’re talking about it shows caring. Whenever the school and the teachers spend months … and it does take months of practice to teach children programs, songs, parts, put it all together and get a venue and to rent the venue and put on the display, the graduation, the whole thing that goes with it, and to take the photos, to take the videos, it shows the parents, once again the concept of caring. You spent this time, you invested this time in my child.
I think this all goes together. These are important aspects to do and doing them right and doing them correctly. We also have examples of this, I believe, in the operations manual as well. That also might be something that people might be interested in looking into of how to actually do them, because I have to say they have to be some of the best PR things that we do for our schools.
Aaron Slack: Maybe we can do an episode sometime on the programs.
Jeremy Walker: I think that’d be a good idea, yeah.
Aaron Slack: Another aspect, we focused on photos that you, as a Christian school, photos and videos that you produce, but don’t forget that you can also get videos from your parents. We had great success a while back at a contest, asked people to submit videos, parents-
Jeremy Walker: Those were great.
Aaron Slack: Of themselves explaining why they love Grace Community School. And it was very interesting to see all the different responses we got and we were able to edit them into a couple promotional videos.
Jeremy Walker: Wide variety. It was great.
Aaron Slack: Got people really excited about seeing themselves up on our social media. This is what’s called a user generated content, so you can definitely get people to send in photos. Or photos of their kids at home, wearing their school t-shirts and things of this nature.
Jeremy Walker: I think it’s also, when we were talking about advertising, it’s one thing for a business to advertise itself. We say we’re good at this. Because that is what advertising is. We are trying to sell people on what you do. It’s another thing whenever someone else is talking about you, somebody else is praising you. It’s one thing for you to say, “Our preschoolers can read.” Like one of our taglines. It’s another to, like Aaron’s saying, to have a video of somebody, a parent, who has a child who went through our programs, who is a successful reader and the parent, then to be the one saying, “I sent my child to Grace Community School and they taught my child to read.” That’s some very powerful advertising promotional stuff, so it’s very good to collect these types of things because once again, it’s not you saying these things that you’re good at, but somebody else who is praising what you’ve done. So I think those are very powerful tools.
Aaron Slack: Word of mouth and social media. You can keep posting these things over and over. Testimonials in particular are very powerful. They never get outdated, really. These are some great ways for you to get involved using photos and videos for your Christian school. I’m going to briefly recap the different things that we’ve gone over today about how you can integrate photos and videos into your Christian school, marketing and promotional programs. Now remember, photos and videos, you can post them online. YouTube and I didn’t mention before, but Vimeo is another video site, very similar to YouTube that you can upload videos. I recommend doing longer and/or more polished videos on these kinds of sites because they’re going to hang around longer and they’re going to come up in search engines as well.
Facebook and Twitter, make sure you can do native video on both of these. I believe it’s Twitter, it’s either 30 seconds or one minute videos you can now upload natively. Facebook you can do everything from short clips to longer videos. And those are going to get a lot of views initially. But definitely should post those on those social networks. User email program. Once you do have a video or a photo album online and you can send out a link to your email list so people can come, people who might have missed the content or want to see it again can get back to view that content easily. Instagram and Snapchat are also very visual and great places to put photos and videos. All these things that’ll promote your school, not only do they keep your current customers happy, they’re going to drive more customers to your school.
And I mentioned before about the difference between taking short video clips and then taking those and making them into longer, more polished editing. And I should say that you can do this actually fairly easily now. You don’t really need to pay a professional video editor necessarily. There’s a lot of desktop programs if you’re sitting a desktop computer or a laptop, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, for Apple computers. Adobe Premiere for video editing is another one that’s available for Windows and Mac. There’s a lot of other consumer programs that you can get that do a great job of editing videos and photos together. You can also do it on a mobile now, on tablets and phones. There’s an app I like called Quik, that’s Q-U-I-K. It’s put out by GoPro. It’s a good video editing app. The iMovie, for iPhone and iPad is also another good one. Another one that I’ve used as well is called Adobe Spark Video. This is also a very good video editing tool. These are all things that you can edit clips together and make actually a very professional looking video from your desktop or even your mobile device.
These are all … we’ve mentioned a lot of online ways to use photos. A few other places you can use photos and videos even, in an offline marketing capacity, art projects. Occasionally we will do art projects that feature the child’s photo. One of the ones we do is an astronaut with the faces cut out and we put the child’s photo there so the child becomes an astronaut. That’s a great art project that we do. Same thing with testimonials. You can put those online. You can also, if you have a printed newspaper, you can do that as well. Even promotional flyers. Print advertising, we will occasionally use photos of our students in testimonials and actually print advertising. We do this thing called Reader and Math Achievers, where we congratulate the children who have reached different levels in our reading and math programs, and we will do special photos of the child, sometimes holding their learning achievement certificates. This is something you can do with photos.
Promotional video commercials either online or offline. If you do get some really good videos, you can use these as YouTube. Everybody’s seen the pre-roll ads on YouTube. These are actually fairly simple to set up. If you’re familiar with Google Adwords, it’s pretty easy to set up a YouTube video campaign. Facebook video, either as a promoted post or as a standalone campaign is something you can do. Twitter video ads. So once you get some video content from your school, these types of things can be used in other advertising programs.
There’s some offline ways you can use video as well. We discussed our musical programs that we do DVDs for, which we then make available to the parents. Another thing that we do is … another thing that we do now, we’ve started about a year ago, we mounted a TV DVD combo in the office at each of our Grace Community School locations. And then we took a lot of our promotional videos, a lot of our better clips and things that we’ve put on Facebook and our social media, and we’ve put them together on a looping DVD which then just runs all day long in the school’s office. So parents dropping off, parents picking up, kids doing stuff in the office while their mom or dad is talking to the management, they can watch themselves and even see themselves on television. These are great promotional things. We advertise our programs, we have short video clips from our karate and dance and art class and this sorts of things. Put all these up on this looping DVD that just runs non-stop in the office. So that is another great idea once you have some video content in here.
You should be doing photos and videos for your Christian school. The technology is now available to allow anyone to start photo and video program. You should start now because this content is going to be even more prevalent in the future. Video, in particular. I saw a statistic this week that said that they predict within three years, 80% of the content consumed on Facebook will be videos. Facebook really wants to take on YouTube, and so they are really pushing it. That’s one of the reasons to go native video on Facebook because Facebook loves its video so much that they will show that to as many people as possible when you do a native video on Facebook. And also this is a relatively untapped avenue for promoting your Christian school, because as we’ve discussed several points today, it requires work and caring. It’s not particularly that it’s so hard, at least in concept, but it requires a lot of work and caring to do.
If you can do it properly, it’s going to be a huge selling point for your parents. It’s going to be a great way to spread good will toward your program in the community, influence you brand perception in a very positive way. It’s great PR for your parents and for potential customers. It’s definitely worth doing. You should definitely be doing it for your Christian school. Now I have a couple books I’d like to recommend as my resource for this episode. This is one of the best books that I’ve read on media in general and making media. It’s called “How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck.” “How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck,” and it’s by Steve Stockman. Just like the title says, it’s a book about how to make good video that people will want to watch, instead of bad video they won’t. It’s very entertaining. He’s a professional videographer. He writes in a very down to earth, very humorous way. A lot of good points. I think that the videos that I’ve produced have been much better after reading that book, so I highly recommend that one.
Another one is, again, in the Dummy series, “Digital Photography by Dummies,” by Julie Adair. It’s a little bit of a technical book, but it makes it easy to understand. You’ll get a lot more use out of your digital camera if you can read this book. It’ll show you a lot of the settings. It makes it easier to understand how to take better photos with a digital camera. And then another one I liked is called “Social Photography: Make All Your Smartphone Photos One In A Billion,” by Daniela Bowker. “Social Photography: Make All Your Smartphone Photos One in a Billion.” This is lots of colorful, actual photo examples. And it’s a great overview of social media aspects of photography because it is so tied to photography now.
Most photography, honestly, even with all the fancy cameras that are available nowadays, most photography is done by people using smartphones. Even for Grace Community School, quite a bit of our photography efforts now and video in particular are on smartphones. And this is a photography book written with a smartphone in mind. So definitely check those ones out too. And don’t forget to keep practicing with your personal photos and social media counts it’s good too. You become a better photographer. Personally, you’ll know how to better do it for your organization as well. Until next time, this has been Preschool Pioneers and we’ll see you later.
Jeremy Walker: Thank you for listening to another episode of the Preschool Pioneers Podcast. If you’d like to subscribe to the weekly Preschool Pioneers Podcast, you can visit our website at preschoolpioneers.com. You can also find us on Facebook at facebook.com/preschoolpioneerspodcast. And of course you can also find us on Twitter, at twitter.com/pioneerspodcast.
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