Don't Know What to Include in a Yearbook? Start With This List

what to include in a yearbook

Trying to figure out what to include in a yearbook is a lot easier when you have a starting point. Without one, you can end up flustered, frustrated, and forgetful. And that’s not a good look for anybody.

That’s why, in this post, we’re going to list out all the things you can put in your book. Consider it a ready-made starting point for you and your team.

You can use this list of common yearbook sections, page and spread types, special features, photo types, and finishing touches to determine what’s going to make the cut for your yearbook, and to kickstart your brainstorming sessions about yearbook coverage and layout. Better yet, pair it with our yearbook ladder template, and create your entire plan of what’s going in your book and where it’s going to go.

What to Include In a Yearbook: The Essentials

Six Sections You Can Include in Your Yearbook

Yearbook sections are essentially chapters for your yearbook. They’re the biggest, baddest way to group your pages into common topics, so that your book feels well organized and easy to browse.

Here are the most common yearbook sections we see included in the yearbook:

  • Portraits. Pretty much the heart and soul of a yearbook, right? Everyone flips to the portrait section of the yearbook to see themselves and their friends. Faculty, staff, and administration should all be included, too, and it’s always a great idea to give your graduating class star treatment.
  • Student Life. More than any other section of the yearbook, student life is the one that lets you capture those big, schoolwide moments that stand out from the crowd. Think high school homecomings, elementary school Halloween parades, and middle school battle of the bands. All of them—and anything else that involves your whole school, like fashion trends, hit songs, and social media frenzies—is fair game for including here.
  • Academics. Look, lots of fun stuff happens throughout the school year. But you know what else happens? A whole bunch of learning. For a while, that whole academic side of school was underrepresented in the yearbook. Until now. Yearbooks, especially high school yearbooks, have been slowly including a lot more coverage of what students do the most during school: learn cool stuff. Adding a section focused on covering cool electives, neat projects and school-wide accomplishments is definitely on trend.
  • Athletics. Big sections of middle school and high school yearbooks end up devoted to sports. The coolest spreads we’ve seen included in those yearbooks have a magazine-like quality in their design and tell stories that give readers a fresh perspective on a particular sports’ season, like pre-game rituals, in-huddle pep talks, and post-season celebrations.
  • Clubs. If student life, academics and athletics paint a picture of what happened during the school year, your clubs section paints a picture of what motivated your students. Include any and all clubs here to show the diversity of your school’s interests and accomplishments. (And, hey, if you run a yearbook club, this is the perfect place to give those participating students some props.)
  • Ads. Maybe it goes without saying, but if you’re going to include ads in your yearbook, they deserve their own section. It doesn’t matter if they’re from local businesses or proud parents, they’re pieces of the book that fall outside the story of your school year and your readers should know that. A nice section break before you turn the pages over to your sponsors should do the trick.

Five Page & Spread Types to Include in Your Yearbook

Deciding what to include in a yearbook also means weighing how to cover that material. After all, if you can’t turn that material into a story worth following, is that something you want to give to your readers?

Luckily, you can capture attention in a bunch of different ways. Each has its advantages and most can mold to fit the material you have.

Here are five page and spread types that you’ll want to include in your yearbook:

  • Collage. The most common way to fit a ton of faces onto a page or into a spread, a photo collage is also the easiest to overdose on. You’ll want to avoid cramming too many photos on too many pages. Otherwise, you’ll never tell the story you intended. Prevent that by following these tips: Make sure each photo is big enough so that everyone pictured is easily identifiable. Use only the best photos. Complement portrait pages and recap events where you’re unable to spend the time it takes to tell a compelling story.
  • Photo Essay. A photo essay is a lot like a collage, but it’s way more purposeful in its goal: Tell the story of a specific moment and evoke strong emotions from the viewer. Sometimes, they include captions or small blocks of explanatory text. Other times, they don’t. The one thing they always have, though, is amazing photos. If you have a bunch of them, this is a way to use it.
  • Photos + Copy. High school yearbook programs have been using their spreads to tell stories for awhile now. The winning combo is usually something like this: one great photo + lots of really good ones + short story on what happened = success. You can replicate that combo all day long, and no one would get tired of it. Use it a bunch.
  • Essay. Dedication pages, letters from principals, yearbook staff notes … all of those pages focus more on the written word than photos and graphics. And that can be a good thing. Including these types of essay pages can help you center your yearbook around a theme or a key message you’re trying to convey.
  • Section Dividers. The yearbook isn’t much different than any other type of a book in one key way: It needs to give a reader a heads up when it’s ending one part of the story and starting another. Include section dividers in your yearbook, and you’ll be able to do just that. They’re perfect for saying, “Hey, we’re done covering academics. Now, it’s time to talk about athletics.” Plus, there are some seriously awesome design ideas for these page types.

Include These Seven Different Photo Types For Some Pop

It’s seems obvious to say that photos are something you should include in your yearbook. But what type of photos you include … well, that’s something else entirely.

Different types of photos can give your yearbook different vibes. And that’s a good thing.

Here are seven different types of photos you can include in a yearbook, and how to use them so people look twice:

  • Portraits. No, we’re not talking about those headshots your photographer comes to take. (Those are totally necessary, too.) We’re talking about those posed photos of one or two people that make you stop and go, “Whoa.” These types of portraits are great for section dividers pages, for use in mods, and for use in special features.
  • Groups. An essential photo type for getting more people into your yearbook with less photos, the group shot is one that’s done often, but not often done creatively. You can change that. A good group shot can easily be the focal point of any page—you just need to have a few good poses in your back pocket.
  • Candids. Go down your list of yearbook coverage ideas, and you’ve got your sporting events, your science experiments, your lunchtime antics … well, this list could go on for awhile. It’s fairly obvious, then, that you need a huge amount of photos to make your yearbook. And not all of them can be posed. It wouldn’t hurt, then, to have a few amazing candid photos build your pages around. Besides, these shots are the ones that capture the raw spirit and emotion of everything that happens throughout the year. They tell the real story.
  • Scenic shots. There’s a place, maybe even a few, in your building that people instantly associate with your school. If you can capture that place—and the accompanying feelings—in a photo, you’re way ahead of the game when it comes to building out a school-specific theme (and aren’t those the best kind, anyway?). Work to get those shots. They’re great for covers, backgrounds, and special features, like autograph pages, dedications, and principal messages.
  • Macros. If you haven’t heard of macro photography, it’s basically extremely close-up shots. Often, it refers to making something larger than life, but it’s also great for getting intimate details of some everyday objects. It’s great for presenting those objects in a wildly different way: think locks on lockers, the coils on a notebook, the shavings off a sharpened pencil. These photos work well as background images or as part of a photo essay or collage page.
  • Baby Pictures. We know, we know… By now, pretty much everybody knows about this super-cute idea, so you’ll have to forgive us for including it here. When you’re doing a dedicated section for your graduating class, baby pictures are a great way to show how much those students have changed during their lives. And if baby photos feel a little too cliche for you, consider Kindergarten portraits or photos from Freshman year (depending on what type of yearbook you’re creating).
  • Historical Photos. Though you might wonder what role historical photos would have in your yearbook, they can offer a compelling look into how your school has changed over time. Take a look at this amazing photo gallery of mashed-up photos from past- and current-day Detroit, and consider flipping the layering (so you have historic photos as the backdrop and new photos as the focal point) to create a unique theme or photo essay.

Five Special Features That Make Yearbooks Even More Lovable

Up to this point, everything we’ve mentioned could be included in your yearbook year after year after year. And, as long as you changed up the coverage just enough, everyone would love it.   You can make folks love your yearbook even more, though.

To do that, include special features in your yearbook.

These features often become hallmarks of a yearbook, and we’ve compiled a list of five that are worth your consideration:

  • Graduating Class Coverage. Whether it’s extra room for short bios and quotes in the portraits section or full-on dedication pages from parents, giving your graduating class special treatment is always a good idea. There’s tons of reasons why, but the one that always sits at the top of the list for us is this: It makes the yearbook even more special to your graduating students (which just so happens to be an easy way to build a strong yearbook culture at your school).
  • Awards & Superlatives. Yearbook awards and superlatives are usually reserved for seniors, but that doesn’t have to be the case. School traditions can wildly influence these special pages, so superlatives can become places where students create awards for themselves or “most likely to” awards turn into “when I grow up” predictions on careers.
  • Principal’s Message. Schools that see their yearbook as a means of strengthening their community usually have their school’s leader write a message that sets the tone for the yearbook. At the high school level, it’s often tied to the book’s theme; at the elementary school level, it’s often tied to a yearlong theme, mission statement, or yearbook cover. In any case, a yearbook principal message is worth including if you want to set a tone for your book.
  • Autographs. Well, not really actual autographs.It’d be weird to give students a book with signatures already in them… But a place to let students put them is always nice. The inside covers of the yearbook are as good a place as any for signatures, but an extra page or two can be give students extra room … and give you a break from trying to figure out what to do with those extra pages you forgot to plan out.
  • Year-in-Review. Year-in-review pages are super popular. They’re the quintessential set of pages that can connect your school year to what happened in the outside world, and including them can provide students with a reminder on “what life was like” at certain points of the year. Nearly every yearbook company out there will give you templated year-in-review pages to use, but you’ll want to make them your own, too.

Four No-Brainer Finishing Touches To Include in Your Yearbook

So far, we’ve covered the big stuff on the list of what to include in a yearbook: section ideas, page and photo types, special features. No yearbook, though, is complete without finishing touches.

Some of the items on our list of finishing touches are “nice to haves.” Others, though, really should be included. And one actually kinda-has-to-be … or your book would look really funny.

Anyway, here’s our list of finishes touches you’ll want to include in your yearbook:

  • Cover. OK, so maybe you don’t consider the yearbook cover a finishing touch. But that’s quibbling, isn’t it? After all, your book needs a cover. It can be traditional or modern, school-specific or ready-made, but it needs to be there. And it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Plan your cover early, so the designs of your interior pages and spreads can flow from there.
  • Folio. If you’ve never heard of a folio, it’s basically a fancy word for the page numbering that appears on the outside portion of pages, usually at the bottom. It can also contain the title of your yearbook and the title of the section that the page is in. How much detail you decide to add to your folios is up to you, but adding page numbers is definitely a good place to start. Especially if you’re using a …
  • Table of Contents. Being lost in a yearbook is probably the best place to be lost, but, as a general rule, being lost isn’t much fun at all. Big books with big sections are big strains on attention spans. If you think your readers are gonna be left wondering where all the clubs coverage is in your book, you might want to invest in a page or two at the front of the book to break it down for them.
  • Index. If you’re focused on creating a more inclusive yearbook, you’re probably marking off how many times each student appears in the yearbook. And if you’re using great yearbook software (*cough* like TreeRing *cough*), you’re probably able to turn that list of appearances into an index pretty darn easily. Why not include one in your yearbook? An index does more than just help students find themselves; it also lets you add extra candid photos, package leftover content into mods, and even spotlight your staff.

So, that’s it. 27 ideas on what to include in your yearbook. In the immortal words of The Notorious B.I.G., “If you don’t know, now you know.”

All kidding and rap references aside, we seriously encourage you to use this list to start planning what sections, page and spread types, special features, photo types, and finishing touches you’ll be including in your yearbook. Whatever combination you come up with, we know it’ll be awesome. We also know that it’ll save you a ton of time if you use this to kickstart your brainstorming sessions.

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