Simple Photo Editing Tips for Student-Submitted Pictures in Your Yearbook

Check out these easy fixes for student-submitted images that need a bit of help.
Image source: Flickr CC Graham Richardson

When creating a well-crafted yearbook, you’re no doubt going to need to recruit some student-submitted pictures. This is a key component to every yearbook because no matter how diligent or well-scheduled your photography team is, it’s impossible for the committee to cover all of the different facets of life inside and outside of school.

However, to get the real gems – the truly memorable images of student life – you’re going to need to filter through some less-than-desirable images. When you’re sifting through student-submitted pictures, you’re bound to encounter the blurry say-whats!?, the tiny image blown up into a pixelated mess, and the overexposed subject you can’t even decipher.

Pinpointing problems ahead of time can help you stop the issue before it starts. Last week we blogged about some typical picture problems and simple photography solutions to share with students. These tips can help the amateur or wannabe photographers still capture all the fun, cool, hilarious, reminiscent images… but make them that much better.

However, no matter how neurotic you are or how much instruction you provide, you will still be left with a slew of images that students are adamant be included in the book… no matter the quality. Therefore, you have to have a backup plan by equipping yourself with some standard photo editing skills. Learning these tips and tricks can help you keep everyone happy (by including their images), while also keeping the yearbook professional-looking and polished.


One important thing to note is that depending on what photo editing software you use, each of these will have a different command. However, most pieces of software will contain these components in some shape or form.

  1. Cropping – You’ve seen them before – the extra wide-shot image that contains multiple buildings, ocean waves, a bridge, a rainbow, clouds, speedboats, people bicycling along the bridge… and yet you find out the subject was the teeny-tiny person in the red coat standing on the bridge. Sometimes people try to group too much visual interest into one photo. It’s okay to keep a picture focused in on one thing at a time. This is where cropping comes in handy. Cropping can make a photo more interesting by focusing in and enlarging the main subject, while still bringing the dynamics of the subject’s surroundings into the picture – just make sure you’re working with a high quality photo so you don’t end up with a pile of pixels.
  1. Straightening – You may find some high-quality images in your pile that are just a little off-kilter. Don’t pass them by – simply use a ruler tool to straighten it out. Look for a strong horizontal or vertical line in your image (like the line of the bridge in the example above). Using the ruler tool will help you concentrate on that line, and then you can rotate the image until it is straight.
  1. Brightness and contrast – Maybe a student has submitted a really great image of the Homecoming bonfire, but everyone in the picture is difficult to see with the low lighting and smoke-filled surroundings. In that case, you can adjust the brightness of this underexposed image to help the subjects come to life. If you really want to make them pop, use the brightness in conjunction with contrast. Contrast takes washed out images (perhaps from using a flash at night) and makes them appear more dimensional and natural. Using these two tools, you can adjust the lights, darks, and mid-tones separately, which will help to balance the image.
  1. Color correction – Incandescent light – like that of a school hallway – has the strong possibility of making the pictures have a yellow tint. All light has a temperature and, just like the heat in your home, sometimes that temperature needs to be adjusted. Adding reds to a picture will make it warmer, while blues will make it cooler. So, for those jaundiced school photos, add in some blue color corrections to bring them back to natural-looking life. If you are going for a more dynamic, popping image, try using some saturation. This tool will help the blue sky, for example, take on other dimensions of color – like turquoise, purples, and bright whites.
  1. Touchups – Seeing spots in some of the images? Maybe the photographer was trying to focus in on a beautiful sunset, but a flock of annoying birds kept getting in the way… or may their camera lens was just dirty. Whatever the case, these spots can vanish through a few different methods. You can try cloning the background and covering them up, or simply grabbing the background color with the dropper tool, copying the color, and then painting over the spots.

No matter what direction you decide to take when editing these student-submitted hot messes, make sure to experiment and find out what works best for you. Simple photo editing can help the quirky candid photos become works of art that will bring life and spirit to your yearbook!