Thanks to Penelope in the Philippines for prompting us for more ideas about making a great high school yearbook.
Perhaps the best yearbook ever made would be one that involves everyone in your school collaboratively capturing images and choosing the very best images at the end of the year. Digital technologies make this a real possibility, but putting together a great yearbook still requires planning.
We sympathize with planning problem – just last night we held a party to commemorate a new Exclaim web site – http://www.adobeshowcase.com/ – and, as we were thanking everyone with bottles of photo-labeled wine and photo-engraved crystals, we looked around and realized that no one had a camera. I had even left my cell phone in the car.
So much for the perfect world, but you can enlist students and staff at your school in the beginning of the year so that your yearbook task at the end will be more productive and enjoyable.
Assemble a committee (or multiple committees!) to design the yearbook and submit ideas. Committees are great for yacking about ideas and generating enthusiasm, which is exactly what you want at the beginning of the yearbook process. The main goal at your first yearbook committee meeting is to encourage everyone to think about the yearbook throughout the year. Your design ideas will probably change completely by year end, and, if your committee is like most committees, only the true believers will remain by then. However, your first meeting will kick off the process of taking pictures to document your year
You have one over-riding goal: make sure people are taking pictures at every event so you have plenty of representative and high-quality images to choose from later. Camera phones and the popularity of small digital cameras will help your students take multiple images of everything. Don’t underestimate camera phones either: the new two and three megapixel phones take excellent, printable photos, and VGA and 1.3 megapixel images can be used for small illustrations or in photo collages to describe an event or tell a story.
What to depict
A yearbook is all about people. When you flip through it years from now, you’ll want to remember people as they were. You will peer at those pictures and look for clues about the real nature of the people you used to see every day. With that in mind, focus on the people and look for genuine, natural images.
Don’t worry about “quality.”
This may surprise your students. Most people don’t really enjoy looking at posed, perfectly-framed shots of students smiling on queue. Those images lack authentic emotion and don’t tell us much about the people depicted. Instead, go for quantity: you will find among a sequence of images one or two good, interesting photos. You can always crop and manipulate the image later, too.
Assign a member of every team, club and class to be the official photographer for that organization. (That’s one more thing they can put on their college resume: “Team Photographer.”) Their job is not only to get pictures of that activity, but to get a photo of everyone who participated. At the end of the year, you want to make sure that you don’t leave anyone out. Sure, you’ll have their official photo, but a great yearbook will also have pictures of people doing interesting things.
What would people find interesting about your school or the people in it? Do you have a student who lives another life outside of school as a concert pianist? Do you have students who volunteer at something that is not related to the school? Was your school founded by gypsies? Get pictures! Your readers will enjoy learning things that they didn’t know about your school. Start the Obscure Committee!
Surprising Images and Candid Shots
Human interest first. Encourage an eye for the unusual. Candid shots are best and most interesting. I like surprised shots where the subject is looking directly into the camera – a face looking directly out from the page, a face that is candid and not composed for the perfect picture, is arresting and interesting. We make contact through our eyes.
Show movement: dancers dancing, runners running, teachers gesticulating. Even portraits can be made more interesting with motion. At the end of a portrait session, photographer Philippe Halsman would often ask distinguished people for one special picture: would they jump for him? Many did, and the images were often more interesting that the official portraits…
What are your school’s core values? Do you have a motto? Are you a military academy or religious school? Does your school simply reflect the values of your community? Try to depict and capture these values. The nature of your institution may change over the years, and you will want to remember its character while you were there.
Every school has landmarks, but your school’s truly important geography may not be where you imagine it. Sure, you want a picture of the main building, but you might also want to depict the water tower, the basement, the teacher’s lounge, a favorite pinball machine – the places that people frequent and might really want to remember. Encourage your Landmark Committee to get the out-of-the-way places as well as your Tower of Learning.
People and landscapes change over the year. Tell that story with sequences of different haircuts and of landscapes in wind, rain, snow and sunshine. Establish interim dates to get your committees together to remind them that a whole new season and a new series of activities is about to begin.
Since students today may spending as much time with keyboards as books, a few screen shots of emails, IM conversation and the school web site and online activities would be representative today.
Gathering Images on dotPhoto
You can give your committees a communal place to put their photos on dotPhoto by establishing albums for each activity, and then turning on “guest uploads” in each album. This will enable committee members to upload to the album, but they will not be able to edit or delete images. Of course, there can be abuse of this privilege because anyone can upload images, but you will still control every aspect of the account, and you can delete images or remove this privilege if things get out of hand.
Alternatively, you can create multiple accounts for groups, and download images from those accounts when you want them. This would also enable camera phones to upload directly to each dotPhoto account. (dotPhoto does not currently allow multiple camera phones to upload to a single account.)
Monitor your photo collections as the year progresses
If you monitor the images coming in, you will notice natural shortages and certain strengths developing. Make up the shortages, but play to the strengths, too. You’re looking to create an entertaining book.
The Photo Editing Committee
You’ll need a representative group of people to select the best photos and to
edit them. Try giving each committee member one or two pages of design freedom. Why not let the social sub-groups in the school demonstrate their particular design sensibility? Online editing tools at dotPhoto help remove red-eye, crop and clean images.
Captions can be fun and interesting. Let your humorists run wild with your final photo selection, then edit them again to add back some real information. As long as the captions are not hurtful, your readers will enjoy looking at the photos and comparing your students’ witticisms.
The written word
Yearbooks are mainly photo books, but words can be inspiring, topical and evocative. Wouldn’t it be fun, for instance, to ask the senior class where they will be in 25 years? Excerpts from a speech by a distinguished guest can be memorable – perhaps you can request an advance copy of the graduation speech. In looking back at my high school yearbook, I enjoy the senior quotes and the words that students chose for themselves. How about choosing the most interesting High School “High Points” and “Low Points”?
If you’re compiling lots of printed facts, you’ll need to check your facts before going to press. Ensure that the photos match the correct names, and even that student activities reported match actual student participation. Yearbooks tend to become the permanent public record.
Make a yearbook “Show” and share it free to promote your book
Take the best 200 photos and create a dotPhoto Show that you can share online. (These are free to create and share.) You can narrate each photo by attaching a microphone to your PC, and even upload your school song as an MP3. If you create and share these free shows throughout the year, you can keep the enthusiasm going for the yearbook project. At the end of the year, students can buy a DVD to share with their family and friends on television.
Make a List
Unfortunately, most yearbooks start with a list and live by the list, which is why I’ve purposely left it to the end. You need a list to ensure that your yearbook includes all the seniors, the staff, and the school-sponsored activities. However, remember that your yearbook is meant to be fun. The more fun you have – and the more fun that you appear to be having in your yearbook – the more it will be treasured and enjoyed.
Look at Some Other Yearbooks
Take a look at what others have done. To which pages are you instinctively drawn?
If you have further questions or suggestions about creating customized yearbooks, please leave them here!