During the Autumn half term, I became aware of a children’s playscheme that was running for a week in a local church hall so I volunteered to go along for a day and document the activities. Though I don’t see myself as a specialist charity photographer it seemed like a good opportunity to make some new work, and provide assistance to a local organisation trying to provide for kids at a loose end for a week. Recognising that there was very little for young children in their area to do during the holidays, the organisers put together a playschemes with a number of activities around themes like Respect, Pride in oneself and Creativity.

I was going to be working with children from the ages of 6-14 which in developmental terms is quite a range. You are going to have kids who want to play, and teenagers who want to appear cool, whilst still enjoying a bit of what’s left of their childhood (before it all becomes so serious). This means being able to engage different age groups with what I was doing in order to get the best images for the day. In addition the mixed group of boys and girls would have differing rules of engagement.

charity photography at playscheme in London

Using Digital why it helps to keep the costs down

Most local charitable or voluntary groups do not have a large budget, so they have to be creative or request volunteers to work with them as activity leaders or support workers. As there was no budget for this day’s shoot, I knew that adding the cost of developing and printing film would pressure the already limited finances.

With the cost of digital photo printing coming down all the time, I felt it was safe to assume that someone within the group would be able ot print the images produced on their home printer. With that in mind, I decided to use my Nikon D100 for the day, as this would mean getting quality images in varying light conditions, but with the ease and low cost that [tag]digital photography[/tag] allows.

Nikon D100 6 megapixel digital SLR cameraI had packed 3 Compact Flash cards a 1GB, and two 256MB cards. This I felt would be enough to get a good range of group shots, children doing the activities and close up/portraits of each of the 10 or so kids who had attended that day. I used a 28 – 105 zoom lens. I knew I would be working within the group as it carried on with activities and I felt this lens would give me the range I needed. There is no point in standing on the edge of the hall and using a long zoom to take pictures. The kids will feel as if you are ‘snooping’ on them.

It takes only a short while before the children get used to you and feel comfortable about you moving amongst them. They soon become less self concious (in all but extreme cases of shyness) and start to get engrossed in what they are doing. Before long, they ignore you completely.

Why get a professional to photograph the playscheme activities at all, why not just use a point and shoot and do it yourself?

Well, the most obvious reason in my experience is that – as stated previously – the workers will be busy doing activities with the children and maintaining order. This means that the photography is relegated to an after thought. Usually this means that a few ‘snapshots‘ are taken at the end of the day, when the kids are tired and want to go home for their tea, or they’re supercharged from the days activities or the arrival of their parents and won’t stand still long enough for you to get them in the frame.

Photo Documenting your project activities are important for a number of reasons.

  1. It’s provides a good record of all the activities and services users throughout the duration of the project
  2. It provides evidence to funders that you are doing what you said you would in evaluation meetings or on evaluation reports
  3. The images look good on the Annual Report
  4. The images can be used to promote your charity or not for profit organisation within the [tag]local community[/tag], in local newspapers or newletters (provided you have sought permission from anyone within the photograph)

After the shoot

I was able to view the 150 or so images that I recorded on the day when I got home. There were some difficult lighting conditions on the day at some points in the afternoon that made a portion of the images unusable. However as I had carried back up cards with me, I was still able to capture much of the activities and children on the scheme enjoying their interaction, engrossed in their creativity and just plain being kids.

I was able to use Yahoo Photos to give the organisers a glimpse of all the images that I thought were good enough to use that very same night and handed them a CD of over 100 images (with retouchingand colour correction) within 2 days.

They used many of the images at the special Playscheme Graduation ceremony that took place the following weekend and I am told the kids were thrilled to see pictures of themselves ‘blown up to A3 size’ on the walls as they collected their certificates.

Although I was paid no fee for the day’s shoot, nor for the images themselves, I did receive several referrals for people wanting to take portraits of them and their children over the following weeks.

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