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Essential Yearbooking Gear

Adviser demonstrates photography equipment using essential yearbook gear

One of the top questions we see in yearbook adviser and yearbook coordinator Facebook groups involves yearbook gear such as cameras and organizational supplies. Using a combination of funds from budget money, yearbook fundraiser proceeds, or a grant, you can build a media room that achieves your goals.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, rather a smattering of options. Tailor your shopping list to match your program’s goals as well as your population. Do you really want your elementary yearbook club students passing around a $2000 camera? Conversely, should your competitive high school team aim for a Pacemaker with just point and shoot cameras?

Cameras

Camera Bodies

The camera body, or box, is where half the magic happens: the shutter release, mirror, viewfinder, and controls live on the box on a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera; see mirrorless camera below if your head is going to explode. Your yearbook photographers will control the settings here.

Purchasing a camera kit from a big box store or online may seem like a great deal. The lenses that accompany those kits usually aren’t “fast” enough to take photographs in the gym or an auditorium when the light tends to be tricky.

A used camera kit from a resale website is always an option for schools looking to buy yearbook equipment with limited funds. Save the money for a fabulous lens that will help you get the sharp images you want. Most bodies built in the last 5-10 years will have the ISO, autofocus, and shutter speed capabilities you need, even for those frustrating low-light gym photographs.

Some great beginning boxes are:

  • Canon Rebel
  • Nikon D3500

Mirrorless Cameras

Being lighter, and a potentially less expensive investment, mirrorless cameras are slowly replacing some DSLRs in yearbook classrooms. Mirrorless cameras will help emerging photographers because there isn’t as much gear to tote and they can look less intimidating.

Highly recommended mirrorless cameras:

  • Canon R6
  • Nikon Z6

Lenses

In many cases, investing in a lens aka glass will be more critical than a body. If all your school’s sports are outside, then the lenses that come in your kit will be perfect. If you photograph volleyball and basketball in a gym or musicals in a dark auditorium, then you are going to want a lens that can use the full ISO, aperture, and shutter speed range of your box. When buying any lens, make sure it marries your box. There are some off-brand lens brands such as Sigma and Tokina that are less expensive than their Canon and Nikon counterparts.

Two lenses to have

  • 35-70mm f/2.8
  • 50mm f/1.8 (more on the nifty fifty below)

Nifty Fifty

If you add anything to your cart this year, make it a 50mm lens. The depth of field and low-light capabilities you have are what the young people deem clutch.

Lens Cleaning Essentials

Each camera bag in your yearbook program should contain a camel hair cleaning brush 

Pro tip: A pencil eraser is a great tool to keep in each camera bag to clean the battery connectors.

Photography essentials

Lens Filter

These aren’t the photo-destroying filters your social apps provide, but screw-on glass filters for camera lenses. Use this circular filter for cutting glare and reducing light specifically with outdoor photos. Before setting out on a yearbook assignment with a polarized filter, take some time to play with it. Because it increases color saturation and cuts bright spots, it takes some time to learn.

Reflector

Reflectors, next to the nifty fifty, are one of the best, inexpensive photography items your yearbook program can use. They help you control light for outside portraits (think of fun ways you can take those pull quote pics up a notch) and also maximize limited lighting when doing studio shoots. A fun, and less traditional way to use a reflector is as a background.

Ring light

With mini ring lights being a cell phone staple in the early stages of influencers, pros have used the big ones for years. Ring lights surround your subject and eliminate most shadows over which three-point lighting enthusiasts geek out. (If you play around with your ring light and reflector, you can simulate the three-point look!) They make eyes pop. 

The best ring lights are at least 18”, and they come with both warm and cool light settings as well as a dimmer. Some tripods also have cell phone and tablet holders in addition to the traditional quick-release plate.

Studio Kit

Studio kits look impressive, but are they essential yearbook gear? Here’s how we’ve seen TreeRing advisers use studio kits:

  1. Class favorites, superlatives, or standouts
  2. Photo illustrations
  3. Pull quote portraits
  4. Retakes when your pro photographer won’t come back for a third (or fourth) shoot
  5. Setting up a photo booth at dances and school-wide events for a fundraiser

Many of the kits you can buy pre-packaged online will suffice for your yearbook program. Soft boxes vs. flashes are something to consider when looking at the rest of your gear.

Using a studio setup will give you a controlled environment to take specialized photos. Here, the winners of “Most Likely to Create a Startup” use props for their superlative photo.

Memory Cards and Card Readers

Memory cards are temporary storage. They are temporary storage. Memory cards are not permanent storage. Phew! PSA over.

WiFi SD cards are game changers for busy yearbook staffs: they transfer files from your camera to the predetermined storage space without cables and card readers. Some cards even have an app so you can review photos on the spot. These make for effective teaching moments.

If you don’t have the budget or tech capacity, for something like wifi cards, it is nevertheless imperative to buy at least two memory cards per camera bag. Make sure you have a card reader in each bag as well as a card reader on each computer in the yearbook or media room.

Additional Yearbook Gear

  • Rain Sleeves: keep your camera dry during outdoor events, such as soccer matches, in inclement weather
  • Cell Phone Lenses: clip-on lenses run less than $30 and can add wide-angle, omnidirectional (aka 360), or fish eye capability to most smartphones. We love these for fun runs, homecoming rallies, and school carnivals.

Yearbook/Media Room

Yearbook gear is not limited to photography equipment. In fact, providing environmental tools is as essential as camera gear.

Cubbies and Mailboxes

Magazine holders from the dollar store or cast-offs from the front office make great boxes for your students. Use them to send out important communications, such as emails from teachers regarding upcoming classroom events or new SD cards. Students can also use them for gift exchanges, camera check out, and peer edits.

Notepads

Doodling, brainstorming, and note-taking on paper are healthy parts of the creative process. In the early planning days, practice both digital and paper-based workflows so your team can decide which works best for them.

Mini Fridge and Snack Subscription

An exclusive yearbook fridge in the corner of your classroom becomes a perk of the position. Waters, juices, and the occasional box of popsicles serve dual purposes: appreciation and fuel. Involve parents in keeping it stocked: at back-to-school night, start a signup sheet for yearbook parents to supply your students with snacks each month. Parents may even opt to share the cost of a snack subscription service.

Coffee Maker

This is as much for you, Yearbook Adviser, as it is for your team. (And if you’re getting exasperated with us for suggesting you give children coffee, remember, cocoa pods and tea pods exist as well.) The point is to create a warm, hospitable environment for the hardest working people on campus.

Bulletin Boards

This is where you brag on your students by sharing a photo of the week and any awards they may have earned. Pin thank you cards and any positive emails you receive regarding the yearbook for all to see.

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