How to Make Your School's Yearbook Picture Day Successful

how to make your school picture day better

Fun fact: Up to 60% of a yearbook can be portraits.

It’s the biggest part of your yearbook. And, perhaps because of that, it can be the biggest pain to complete. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our friends at Geskus Photography have some school picture day tips they think every yearbook adviser should know. We read them over and agree: if you follow these, your yearbook—and your school picture day—will be a huge success. So, we’re going to share them with you.

Here goes:

6 Tips to Make Your School Picture Day Better

Plan for turnaround time. Even with software that flows your portrait pages for you, class pages can be a timesuck. You’ll want to plan ahead.

Make sure you know your photographer’s expected turnaround time before scheduling your school picture day (in fact, you probably want to weigh turnaround time when you’re considering school photographers).

A good turnaround time for school portraits is 3 to 4 weeks. At that rate, you’ll be able to have your school picture day in mid-September, hold a retake day in November, and still have all portraits for the yearbook before Winter Break. If the timing goes beyond that one-month window, you’ll be looking at a pretty big chunk of time that you can’t work on the meat of your book.

Ask your photographer about training. Chances are, the school photography companies in your area have been around for several years. But don’t let that fact fool you into thinking a 20-year veteran will be walking through your front door to take photos. After all, even the most experienced school photography companies hire inexperienced photographers.

And that’s OK. (Hey, we all have to learn, right?) What’s not OK, though, is letting an inexperienced photographer run the show when he or she gets to your school. You’ll want to make sure that type of photographer shadows a veteran for a whole school year.

The reason? Well, there’s a bunch of them. But, at the most basic, you don’t want blurry or out-of-focus photos in your yearbook, right? Didn’t think so.

Don’t rush your school picture day schedule. When it comes to school portraits, a photography company needs to juggle getting that great shot and getting that student back in the classroom.

Rushing a photographer, though, can increase the rate of retakes. And that can further disrupt class time for students. To help make sure that doesn’t happen, you should talk with your photographer during portrait day preparation to understand how long each group will take.

Here’s a grade-by-grade cheat-sheet, if you don’t have one:

  • Pre-K and Kindergarten: Plan for upwards of one minute per student. (About 25 minutes for a 20-30 student class.)
  • Grades 1-5: Plan for 45-55 seconds per student. (About 20 minutes per 20-30 student class.)
  • Middle and High School: Plan for 45 seconds per student. (About 18 minutes per 20-30 student class.)

If you’re at a larger school, you’re probably looking at these numbers, thinking, “Gosh, there’s no way we’d get through the day.” If that’s the case, you’ll want more than one photographer on hand to take portraits.

Get your photographers some help. If you’re going to do school picture day right, you’re going to want some parent volunteers on hand to help the day run as smoothly as possible.

Why parents? They’re great for “prepping” students.

Having a few moms or dads to hang out and make sure the student is ready for their portrait can cut down on the amount of time each student needs with the photographer. Even if it’s not their child, a mom or dad can usually tune into a child’s needs and make sure students are looking sharp the moment before they step in front of the camera.

(Bonus tip: A lot of school photographers offer parent volunteers free portraits as a thank you.)

Deliver the right information, the right way. School photographers start work on picture day way before they arrive at your school to set up their shoot. And that work begins with data.

When you’re getting photographers the information they need to organize a photo shoot, ask them what pieces of information they need and how they need it. Often, an Excel spreadsheet is best (and a PDF is the worst), but check with your photographer to find out.

They’ll be using that information to organize students in their database and create the PSPA formatted portrait you’ll use for the yearbook.

Ask your school photographers questions. You know the saying: No question is a stupid question.

That certainly applies here. Make sure you ask whatever question comes to mind. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open and doing so can actually make a photographer’s job easier. Which, you know, means you’ll have a less stressful school picture day and you’ll get a better result for your yearbook.

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