Darlington students take photo

Darlington School sophomore Graysen Morgan snaps a portrait of freshman Emma Sklar for her school photo on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Upper school photography students were tasked this year with taking school photos for the entire school. / Spencer Lahr

The routine was not much different. Students came into the photo room and gave their names. Then they sat down, sat up straight and smiled for their school photos.

It’s just the person hitting the shutter button was wearing the same uniform with the Darlington School logo emblazoned on their chest.

Upper school students in teacher Katie Merritt’s photography classes took on the task of shooting school photos for all of Darlington, replacing the role of local photography companies and giving them a real-life opportunity. The last two days of work were the culmination of weeks of preparation by her students, studying how to position lights and set up their equipment for the best shot, Merritt said.

It’s a change of pace from what students typically expect from their photography class — to stroll about campus and take pictures of trees, Merritt laughed.

On Thursday afternoon, students were snapping pictures as their portrait subjects — upper school students — trickled in for their scheduled time, filled out on a Google Sheet sent out by Merritt. A special space in the media arts room was set up with two camera setups, mono lights and backgrounds reaching above the students seated on a stool. The library in Thatcher Hall was used for photos of lower school students on Wednesday.

With disappointing results from last year’s school photos, Merritt said, she got the idea to put some grant money to use for assembling a studio. So she consulted with some friends of her, professionals with pertinent knowledge, to see what exactly she would need. On top of the advice she received, her summer break involved taking professional development courses through the New York Institute of Photography.

To start this school year, students were briefed on their assignment and then took the reins to make it happen, Merritt said, despite most of them not having any experience with photography outside of Snapchat and Instagram.

Between the 11 students in one class and 14 in the second, responsibilities were divvied out — for example, one group focuses on data, filing the photos to be used for students IDs, the yearbook and website directory. With students taking the photos themselves, this year’s yearbook will be completely student made, she added.

In addition to the school photos, which are also available for parents to purchase copies of, students can have their senior pictures taken on campus by fellow students for $100, Merritt said.

Photography students said Thursday the project has been fun, thought it has come with more work than expected, from configuring the rights angles to avoid a shadow in the shots.

“And how not to break the camera,” Sophomore Son Le laughed.