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Goodbye Lazer Beams and Green Screens: Unique Sets for School Portrait Business


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school-photography1-600x272 Goodbye Lazer Beams and Green Screens: Unique Sets for School Portrait Business Business Tips Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

Why oh why do the big box chain school portrait companies use the green screen method? Creating backdrops that look as if our children are walking through the forest or that they are taking flight in outer space?   This question is one that I have asked myself for the past 9 years.  With a 9th grader and 6th grader I have experience in the cringe worthy school portrait department.   The backdrops of school portraits are just one of the components that inspired me to start a school portrait business over 3 years ago.  The school portrait division of my studio truly catapulted my business to new heights, giving me a plethora of new clients as well as generating revenue that my brand new business so desperately needed.

One of the largest contributions to my success was throwing out the old school backdrop mind set. I set out to create ‘sets’ that would be fresh, modern, and ultimately produce a more frame worthy image.  Let’s face it, Mottled Muslin Backdrops do not scream mantle décor. So let’s chat about the fun of creating a set for your school portrait business.

Here’s 5 ideas differentiate your school portrait business with innovative sets:

  1. Remember that you will be transporting this particular set from school to school.  Also, you will have little to zero control over where you will be setting up inside the schools. It could be the gym, an abandoned classroom, the cafeteria or even the lobby/foyer of the school.  Keep your set flexible. Do not design something that requires a beautiful oak tree in the background. Your set must look amazing no matter where you have to set up. It must be versatile enough that you do not run into any problems, even if set up is in the parking lot with a semi truck behind it.
  2. Create one set per year. This will cut down on cost and give you the opportunity to set up and break down super quickly because as you will become more and more familiar with your school portrait set with each use.
  3. Think outside the box. Do not rely on typical photography props. Great places for set décor shopping are Home Goods, Marshalls, Target, and TJ Maxx.  They typically have little furniture, throw rugs, and soft seating for very reasonable prices.
  4. Giving yourself quick posing options within your set with increase your order averages tremendously.   Have something cute that the student can stand by and place their hand on, then slide that out of the way and get just one simple shot of them standing; Next throw a cute floor pouf down and have the student sit criss-cross apple sauce on it.  Instantly you have three totally different shots for the families to choose from.  Often they will like more then one position/angle and want the close up on the floor pillow along with the full-length shot.
  5. Look to your home supply store for faux flooring.  I have used the large sheets of MDF many times for flooring.  They have a nice brown and also a pretty white washed looking wood grain. 4ft x 8ft sheets are only $15.97 at Lowes. Be sure to anchor the flooring down with some non-damaging double sided adhesive to create a non-slip surface for the children to step on.

Below you will see a super quick example of how easy it is to pull together a school portrait set that will make you stand out in the sea of big box chain school portrait companies.

schoolsetcombo1 Goodbye Lazer Beams and Green Screens: Unique Sets for School Portrait Business Business Tips Guest Bloggers Photography Tips Fabric sourceSeating SourceWood Floor Source

I’ve included a bonus set, this is very ‘school’ literal but can be fun. I prefer keeping the sets a tad more general for the above mentioned reasons. Number one reason being the ease of integration into all home decor types.

schoolcombo2 Goodbye Lazer Beams and Green Screens: Unique Sets for School Portrait Business Business Tips Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

Apple Stool / Seamless PaperStack of Books Image / Wood Floor Source

Courtney DeLaura is a Californian loving life in Tennessee. She more than anything wants to help you curate a happy life. One that creates a fine balance between financial security, a passion driven profession & lots of laughter! She is the founder and driving force behind and wants to help you develop a business that makes your heart leap with joy and your bank account giggle with glee.  School Portrait Academy registration is live until September 16th.


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  1. Kaylee on September 16, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Thanks for the article! Wondering what your pricing system looks like for school portraits. I’m about to approach a new private school in my neighbourhood and would love any more tips you could provide on pricing. Thanks!

  2. Beth on September 21, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Great advice! Thanks! I’ve been shooting for one particular school for the past 4 years and am looking to attract more clients. This will help as I don’t like the traditional school pictures and I’d like to give my school portraits a fresh look 🙂

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