Getting / using student photos on my teaching website

December 29, 2014 at 01:38 AM · I am way behind the times, but I'm looking at setting up a website for my teaching. One of the challenges I'm facing is getting pictures of my students to use on my website. I know the basic rules of not giving a students name online, or any identifying information but parents are very resistant to having me post any picture of their children online.

Have other teachers run into this? Have you come up with a solution on how to get pictures of your students on your websites without having parents go off the deep end? I understand the concerns about privacy but I wouldn't be advertising any personal information about them, and I'm willing to not even use a first name. I should add that I teach in my students homes so maybe a concern is having the picture taken inside their home? Also, many of my students are Indian and they seem to have a bigger issue with it than other students I have.

I have considered having my parents signed waivers that any pictures taken at recitals may be used on the website. I've also considered running every picture by the appropriate family to make sure that they're not concerned about what's being put up there. But there has still been concern and I'm not sure what to do.

Replies (44)

December 29, 2014 at 03:05 AM · I'm curious; what is to be gained by posting pictures of your students?

December 29, 2014 at 03:11 AM · Mary Ellen, many things are more attractive with pictures. A few well placed pictures of students playing in a lesson or at a recital on various web pages will be appealing the students I wish to attract. There are solid marketing stats that say pictures boost consumer response in a huge way. If I'm going to take the time to create and maintain a website, I want it to work for me.

December 29, 2014 at 03:40 AM · it is a bother, but I do think that asking permission on a picture by picture basis.

I occasionally follow the blog of a US-based piano teacher from Europe & she routinely posts pictures of her students and programmes from her student recital complete with full names. I always find myself wondering if she got parental consent.

December 29, 2014 at 04:24 AM · Parents resist for good reasons. Get permission, in writing, picture by picture, or find another way to spice up your web site. Your students are not your property.

December 29, 2014 at 04:38 AM · Perhaps I'm feeling a bit snarky because I'm sick right now. But I don't think the students are my property, Paul, not did I ever imply that. It's difficult to find a good teaching website that doesn't have pictures featured in it. My question was simply to find out how other teachers managed it, and how to ease my parents misgivings about using the occasional picture.

December 29, 2014 at 04:40 AM · Two word for you:

Stock Photography

December 29, 2014 at 04:49 AM · Duane, are you serious? I can be naive sometimes but is that where people get their photos from?

December 29, 2014 at 04:57 AM · You can put a wanted add out for students that are willing to be video or photograph for advertisement, youtube, facebook etc.... purposes at a discount lesson price. I did this and it worked very well.

Or even offer your current students discount lessons for a short period of time.

December 29, 2014 at 05:05 AM · Thanks Charles, I hadn't thought of doing something like that. This could be much more time consuming than I had anticipated...

December 29, 2014 at 05:53 AM · If I were presented with a waiver to sign stating that my children's appearance in a recital implied permission to post their photos, I would balk. That is an inappropriate condition to put on a recital. Offering discounted lessons in exchange for permission to post photos is fair, as long as you don't come across as pressuring.

You could also take photos from angles that do not identify the student (showing you helping a student achieve a good bowhold or left hand position, for example, taken over the shoulder or from another angle that does not show the student's face).

A google image search on "violin" yields many photos and graphics that could be useful.

December 29, 2014 at 06:09 AM · How old are your students? My guess is that you may encounter much less resistance from parents of older students.

December 29, 2014 at 06:34 AM · Lydia, I have a few in the 5-8 range, then the bulk are 10-16 and I have a number of adults as well.

December 29, 2014 at 08:07 AM · Relax and get well soon. You can get a nice looking website with a few photos, when I did one for a friend violin teacher I had to make do with three pictures and two videos at the beginning. Avoid pictures from private homes, use only from your studio or public performances. Simply watch parents that take pictures or videos at the recital and ask them if they provide pictures for you to publish. You will get a couple of positive responses and that will be sufficient for the start. You do not need a huge photo gallery. Remember to use title and alt attributes with the pictures with good text for indexing otherwise the pictures are just bandwidth burden.

December 29, 2014 at 08:56 AM · Our studio families have been quite positive about appearing on our website. My wife and I tend to stick with professional photos taken at our recitals for the youngest ones though and always ask for permission...the high school and college students aren't nearly as concerned about it when we ask, mainly because they've broadcast their lives on social media to the point where a recital picture is probably the most conservative thing they appear in online.

December 29, 2014 at 09:13 AM · I can understand parents' concerns. Once the photo is out there, it is there for years, and beyond control. Believe it or not, I once posted a photo of me as a child as my Facebook profile picture, and got a letter from an unknown man saying that I looked so lovely that he couldn't get my picture out of his mind, and could we be Friends!

My own violin teacher has a website but doesn't use pupils' pictures. He does have some videos posted of pupils playing (including me), but they don't have names, and only one of the videos has accompanying film of the teenage boy playing, and that would have been with the parents' permission. My teacher is so scrupulous that he will not even have Friends on his Facebook page whose own Friends are below eighteen, the age of majority.

I went to a concert recently put on by my violin teacher in co-operation with a local piano teacher; it largely featured the piano teacher's pupils playing together in groups of two or three and she asked parents in the audience who took photos to remember that if they had included someone else's children in their pictures, they must not post those photos on social media. We are becoming very careful about this in Britain.

Wishing you success with your new website: I see you have been given good advice by the posters above me.

December 29, 2014 at 01:21 PM · I think a website is a good idea, if for nothing else than to list relevant information for your students.

But as a parent (of 3 kids, who took both music lessons and a host of other lessons/activities) and as an adult student, I would also balk at having to sign waivers for the use of photographs. I also don't want my photo necessarily out and about and I don't think I have a right to make that choice for my kids.

Once they are old enough (and I'd suggest age 16), they can make that choice for themselves.

December 29, 2014 at 01:33 PM · Bev, sorry if my post had too much bite, but some of us parents are really tired of people, whether violin teachers or other parents, who assume that that whatever pictures they take of other peoples children, if taken in a venue that they deem "public", are fair game to broadcast on the internet. Those of us with children of a certain age live in mortal fear of some photo posted by someone else winding up causing our kids to be bullied in school or on line. Or worse. I'm glad at least that you thought to ask your colleagues here what might be best, but I admit I was rather put off by the idea of using recital participation as leverage.

December 29, 2014 at 02:05 PM · I'm not a parent (or a child) but I have refused to have my picture on the net, and still do. It's entirely personal, but on those few occasions anyone assumed that snapping my picture gave them permission to broadcast it, I have (politely) suggested they take it down, or crop it to remove me.

Given the potential for attracting stalkers, perverts, and other dangerous sorts with access to the net--who would have one reliable point of contact with a potential victim, since presumably a teacher's site lists the studio's address--I wouldn't want my child's picture on any teaching site, for reasons even more cogent and legitimate than my own desire for privacy.

December 29, 2014 at 02:19 PM ·

December 29, 2014 at 02:54 PM · When I was looking for a teacher for my daughter, I asked some colleagues whose children studied violin and made my selection based on the teacher's individual accomplishment and professional reputation. Only much later did I learn the studio has a web site.

December 29, 2014 at 03:23 PM ·

December 29, 2014 at 04:30 PM · I agree about the difficulty of getting a website to the top of the search results.

In my city, the most effective way to increase studio size seems to be to get your name on the lists of private teachers provided by the Youth Orchestra and the local public school orchestra directors. As far as I can tell, these lists are unfiltered, so caveat emptor for the parents.

December 29, 2014 at 04:34 PM · Thank you for the many responses. While I have just woken up and only scanned your responses, and not ready to offer a detailed response yet on the website side of things, I did want to say 2 things:

1) I was being somewhat tongue in cheek when I said that I was behind the times. Many of you took this to mean that I am naive about the internet. This is so incredibly far from the truth it might be funny if I were feeling better. Also FYI to those who are determined to control their information online, having come from law enforcement I think people might be surprised at what is already available online to a casual observer, including pictures, on you - and your family, if they were interested in finding it. Not performance photos perhaps, but I guarantee there is stuff out there. Not trying to discourage you from doing it but just sayin'...

2) for those of you who think that waivers and recitals together equal blackmail or excessive leverage(?) I don't know what to say to that except perhaps to take a step back and breathe for a moment. I know of music teachers here in Seattle who use them regularly with success. Such forms are quite common in photographing semi-public events. You don't have to like them or agree to them but please don't act like it's something evil - because it isn't. That was the only reason I even mentioned the idea as a possibility.

The timing of my original question was badly timed as I was, and am, quite sick and only posted the question as a diversion to myself while in bed. Normally, I would be up to standing up for myself, rather than allowing some of these individuals to make all sorts of silly assumptions about my reasons and motives. But I'm not up to it.

So to everyone who provided me with legitimate ideas - thank you! I look forward to considering all the ideas presented. For now I am feeding my animals breakfast and going back to bed.


December 29, 2014 at 06:11 PM ·

December 29, 2014 at 06:28 PM · Thanks again for the helpful posts with actual suggestions, but I am done with this post. I refuse to fight with anyone in my condition and I can't believe what some of this has turned in to with some people inserting total inaccuracies into my original post.

So, please debate this amongst yourselves all you want - I'm moving on.

December 29, 2014 at 07:03 PM ·

December 29, 2014 at 08:32 PM · Dear Bev, I did not know you were ill, but I dearly hope you are not seriously ill and that you will be well soon. I've always valued your input on

What I think some violin teachers do not understand is the reticence of many parents. We don't want to make waves or challenge the violin teacher, because the relationship is a three-way one that involves our child and we need it to stay warm and smooth. So there are a lot of things that we let slide. That might explain why your Seattle colleagues did not get much resistance to their recital waivers. But know this: If there are such waivers, then there are parents who are tolerating them through gritted teeth. The sentiment that you've witnessed on this forum should be viewed as a cross section, i.e., a warning that the same distribution of sentiment (which may include phobias, unwarranted assumptions, prejudices, and the like -- we're all human) will likely exist among your students' parents. You just don't know because they're not speaking up.

You said you would welcome "legitimate" suggestions, so, notwithstanding the obvious fact that legitimacy is in the eye of the beholder, here goes: Near the top of your web page, have a link that says "Photo Gallery" and under that link, have a small, tasteful, professional photo of yourself playing the violin. Underneath, explain to all readers why you do NOT have the pictures of any of your students on your web site -- because you understand that many parents are uncomfortable with such postings, and you want your studio to be a place where children and their parents can feel completely safe, welcome, and secure without worrying about whether and where their photo might be snapped whilst having a bad hair day. Explain that parents are encouraged to take their pictures and videos at lessons and recitals and to post those on social media as they see fit, but your strong preference is that parents ask permission of other parents if the picture includes their child. I bet you'd get additional students just by taking that approach. Sometimes you have to buck the trend.

And if you need photos for newspaper articles or other publicity materials, then do it the way Liz said. And make sure the printed material makes clear that the photo was used with the explicit permission of the students' parents.

December 31, 2014 at 04:09 AM · stock photos are one option. the hard part would be finding some that are correct, we've all seen and laughed at the awkward images of models who have no clue how to hold a violin.

edit: OK the previous response about stock photos was hidden sorry for repeating. I also agree with using images that don't really show the subjects face so they can't be identified. There are several angles that can be used. Pictures are definitely needed on a website. surfing is all visual.

January 3, 2015 at 01:11 AM · Sorry you got such a scolding Bev, I think some posters get really bent out of shape over these things when in reality you're just asking how to make your website more appealing with photos. Those of us who have websites know all about these troubles so I'm with you, HOW do we get more photos on our sites without upsetting everybody and their mother lol?

You got some good suggestions from an above poster, who suggested that photos be centered on your and perhaps have only a students hand or arm showing as you teach them. In this case I would definitely get a few cooperating students with consent from their parents and have an afternoon photo session. You hire a photographer, the kids come with their parents, you get a few photos taken, maybe give them a simultaneous free group lesson and then make it a pizza party. I'm a parent and I would totally go for that.

And don't forget to include photos of you performing, remember that the site showcases YOU as a violinist not just a teacher. Have fun with it and don't worry too much.

About the recital pictures, if I were in your shoes I would send out a letter before hand informing parents that the concert will be both recorded audio, video and photos will be taken as well and put a permission slip on the bottom with check boxes saying either "I allow..." or "I don't allow...." these photos to be used for marketing purposes. And if a parent does not allow then go to town with cropping the kids out while still allowing the picture to feature you teaching.

You have the right to take photos and document your work. Get permission from parents or find a way to work around it by cropping the photos.

January 3, 2015 at 02:13 AM · I take a lot of photos that get distributed for my work and have to consider intellectual property issues as well as privacy issues. One of the things I try to do when there is a question of privacy and/or IP is to frame the photo in such a way that privacy is maintained and IP is not compromised. For instance, if a person is in the photo, their face isn't in the picture. It may be a hand, the back of their head (with a hard-hat on), or some other view that keeps the person's privacy but includes a real human doing real work.

Just an idea...

January 3, 2015 at 04:35 AM · It's just so hard to believe that photos of kiddies on your web site is going to do anything for your violin-teaching business. Do you really want the customers to whom such things are the deciding factor? There are so many ways to make a web site attractive. My impression is that photos are an overall liability unless they're very really good photos, like posed pictures taken in a professional photo studio.

January 3, 2015 at 08:19 PM · I have photos of students on my website. I just informed all the parents that I would be taking pictures at the recital, and asked them to let me know if they had any problem with it. I assured them that if they did, I would take them down immediately. Although I personally don't understand the paranoia about pictures being on the Internet (after all, anyone who really wants to can find just about anyone out there these days, and the truth is that anyone could easily take a picture of your child on the street and post that on the Internet), I'm more than happy to respect the wishes of others. No one ever expressed any concern about it, however, so there they stay.

I think action shots are a good thing and definitely increase the appeal of the website. You see pictures of kids having fun on websites for schools and other activities, so it makes perfect sense to me to include that in our publicity materials as long as the parents are okay with it.

January 4, 2015 at 10:32 PM · Paul Deck said "It's just so hard to believe that photos of kiddies on your web site is going to do anything for your violin-teaching business. Do you really want the customers to whom such things are the deciding factor?" This is a bizarre statement. When a person or business is marketing themselves they are under an increasing amount of competition out there. Yes there are many ways to make a website attractive, and graphics and photos is by far one of the most important ways of doing this. It is also unfair to try to limit one's creativity in building their own website by discouraging them from doing what they think will be beneficial to them.

January 5, 2015 at 04:05 AM · You can call it bizarre but I'm only challenging convention. How does one expect to gain market share (to say nothing of demonstrating one's own creativity, i.e., developing a unique brand) by doing things the same exact same way as everyone else?

January 5, 2015 at 09:05 AM · My teacher asked me directly for a particular photo and arranged a date for a professional shooting.

I have a feeling it was the same situation for the kids.

I did steal my own photo from site and used it as my Twitter picture afterwards though. Lol

January 5, 2015 at 09:58 PM · Paul Deck said "You can call it bizarre but I'm only challenging convention. How does one expect to gain market share (to say nothing of demonstrating one's own creativity, i.e., developing a unique brand) by doing things the same exact same way as everyone else?" Ok, you can challenge convention but then how about making a suggestion on what the teacher could do otherwise? What do you do if not use graphics and pictures? Testimonials are great, but in this world graphics are important.

January 6, 2015 at 04:21 PM · Obviously she shouldn't use pictures without the parent's permission, but using them at all is definitely helpful.

January 6, 2015 at 04:45 PM · Marina wrote, "Ok, you can challenge convention but then how about making a suggestion on what the teacher could do otherwise?"

I did just that, on December 29, 2014, at 08:32 PM server time.

January 6, 2015 at 10:38 PM · I didn't read the entire thread, so maybe this has already been suggested.

Bev, change the context so that rather than being some kind of obligation, it is a PRIVILEGE for a student to have their photo on your website, as a reward for outstanding progress.

January 7, 2015 at 12:08 AM · Clever one, that David. It's all about the spin!

January 7, 2015 at 03:02 AM ·

N. A. Mohr brings an interesting point forward about the child's say in the matter. Even if a parent and a child might be currently enthusiastic about having their anonymous photo marketed on a teacher's website, that child might feel differently about that decision when they are older. For what might be anonymous right now might not always be so.

January 7, 2015 at 03:42 AM · Anne, this is so true; children have a way of growing up, and I think it's understandable that they begin to want control over their online presence and image. When it comes to students, I only publish their pictures with permission. When I write about master classes involving college students, I now only include their first names so that in five years, they don't have to worry about the master class from when they were 14. With my own children, I have long avoided FB posts that could be embarrassing, or that they object to. Children deserve to have their privacy and identity respected.

January 7, 2015 at 05:27 PM · Paul I think your suggestion of post a "small" picture of the teacher performing and a long winded spiel about why there are no photographs of students on the site is not at all a good suggestion. Nobody is going to spend money developing a website that calls attention to what it doesn't have. Because nobody wants to read a website like that. Doing so is also the opposite of creativity.

There were lots of good suggestions given about photographic angles, testimonials, incentives etc. At the very least perhaps one or two parents and students will give permission and that is really all you need to begin your graphic presence on the internet.

There are a lot of things that a musician has to do to market themselves and sometimes it's an uphill battle. I don't think non musicians understand how difficult it is to set up a teaching studio and be an independent contractor. We have to hustle.

January 8, 2015 at 02:03 AM · The great thing about a site like this is that we can share our opinions and ideas openly, and agree with some and not others, hopefully in a manner that is candid but still respectful.

I'm interested to see how Bev solves this. I was not able to find a web site for her today, but I only searched a few minutes.

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