auction projects

i get asked a lot of questions regarding the school auction projects i've done over the years, so i thought it would be good to just share here... every year, i offer my photography services for my kids' school auction projects. some years it's been framed portraits of each child. other years a book. and sometimes both.

and through the years, i've learned a ton!!  typically, it goes something like this...

i take a few photos of each student in the class. i do this somewhere on the school grounds. somewhere with great light. and a good background.  i try to get the child as comfortable (and natural) as possible. for me, this is an extremely important step.  i usually only have a minute or two with each child, so i have to work fast.

while i'm taking photos, the students are doing something nearby (reading books, being read a story, etc.).  i take the children one by one and do my best so it's just me and the child, with no others watching.

i also take a few photos of the group of students together. sitting. standing. whatever works with the location.

last year, i also took some photos of the children within the classroom but it doesn't always happen that way.  but, last year wasn't an auction book; it was an end of year gift from me.

after the photos, i work with the teacher in getting the children to write about a topic or a question and draw a picture. this varies from year to year, depending on the school, the teacher, the child's age, etc. for me, it has greatly varied because the past three years have been three completely different schools (in three different states). one year, at a lutheran preschool, the children drew a picture of what they thought Heaven looked like and then the teachers asked them the question, "what does Heaven look like and what do they think is in Heaven?" this year, the question is, "what do you want to be when you grow up and why?" with the younger kids, it's necessary to transcribe what they say. if this is the case, i stress the importance of capturing every single word because it adds as much of the child's personality as possible to the project.

i then design the book, however i see fit for the photographs, drawing, writing, etc. i do this through blurb because it would be too expensive to use the book company i use for my photography business.

the auction itself can be run in many different ways.  i'm sure there are other ideas out there but these are how the auctions, which i have been involved with in the past years, have run: - you can print one or two books and auction off the books. this year, i am adding an 11x14 print to the auction so the highest bidder will get the book and a print. - you can have the books available via a blurb store. with the store, you can set the price so the book price can be set for xx dollars over the printing cost and then all the profit can be donated to the school. - you can auction off one book. and then you could ask the parent winner if they would be okay with selling the book to other parents for the same auction price. again, all the money (after paying printing cost) is donated to the school. - i even worked with a school, where the teacher loved the book so much, she just wanted every parent possible to have it and so we sold the book at cost.

one of the tricky parts is getting reimbursed by the school.  this year, the room parent is getting pre-auction donations from the parents, which will cover the cost of printing.  this is a huge treat because in the previous years, i've donated my time and the printing of the book | prints.  just something to think about.

with the framed portraits, a parent or parents donated the frames. the framed prints were then auctioned for a set price (in my case, $50 each). so the parents didn't really bid on one item; they bid the set price for their child's framed portrait.  if there are 20 children in the class, this style of auction makes the school $1000.

all my time and prints (when offered) are donated. i absolutely love doing the books and being able to give back to the school.  and the parents and teachers have always loved the books too.  i have my (coffee table) books proudly displayed on my entryway credenza.  and i cherish them so.

i hope this helps. if there's any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section and i will edit the post and answer.

ETA: What was your price point (or profit) per book? the price point (profit) all depends on how high the auction goes, for the standard style auction. i've never sold my books (via a blurb store) to the parents for profit. i think it's best to talk to the teacher, room parent and possibly other parents, to see how many might be interested in purchasing the book. then you can decide how much profit you'd like to make off of each book.

our auction happens very early in the year - is this the case for you? this year, the auction is october 23rd (way early, in my opinion). and with my teaching a workshop oct 1-3 and shooting in san diego oct 13-18, i'm trying really hard to have the book completed by sep 29th.

also, do you advertise your business at all in the books themselves? logo or link to site? i have a page where i have a photograph and then under the photograph, i have -- all photographs taken by deb schwedhelm photography

for the framed prints of each child...our auction provides a tiny table space for your donated item. did you display all 20 or so prints for bidding? also, what happened to the ones that were not bid on? : / (or were they all bid on?) yes, all the framed 5x7 prints were displayed. and all have been purchased in the previous years, except maybe one and it wasn't at my children's school. i'm not sure what they did with the portrait that didn't sell.

Do you have suggestions for tips on the artwork of students you are going to scan, in terms of size and what they use to draw? i just have them draw on white copy paper and i prefer the kids draw with markers but colored pencils and crayons work too. it's just that the marker shows better, when the papers are scanned. a few other tips -- i like to have the kids sign their artwork or their writing and include their age. also, have them stay away from writing / drawing close to the edge of the paper. don't let them draw on the other side of the paper, as it will show through when scanned.

here's a few screen captures of auction book page spreads (of my kids) that i've done in the past years.