Inside NBC12: Photographing schools from a photogs

By Nathan McCann - email

RICHMOND, VA (NBC12) - Ever wonder why footage of local schools tends to look the same from story to story?  Shooting schools is always an interesting balance.  As a news photographer I want to be close to the action and get good shots of the people involved in the story.  School administrators, on the other hand, are more concerned about keeping order on school property and controlling the information that flows to the media.

The dance usually goes like this.  I arrive at the school and set up the camera on the sidewalk.  I get shots of the school sign and anything related to the story.  If I'm around for more than about four minutes the school administrators notice me and send someone to ask what I'm doing.  A security guard or a teacher tells me I have to leave school property and I'm not allowed to talk to students without their parents' permission.  So I walk across the street and get some wide shots of the school and then go on my way.

It's all Kabuki theater, though.  No one's ever really figured out what the rules are for schools.  Isn't standing on their sidewalks standing on public property?  If I can walk up and talk to a student in the park or at the mall without a parent's permission, why not as they're walking down a public road after school?  There's usually no reason to make an issue of it though, and I just do what they ask.  It's not worth alienating people over small stories if you're going to need their help someday on big stories.

So school stories tend to look the same.  A few close shots, shots of the school sign, out-of-focus footage of students, then wide, wide shots from across the street.