Yearbook Photographers: Manage a High School Yearbook Staff

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Introduction to Photography

When you are in charge of managing a high school yearbook staff, you have to be able to teach your students a variety of skills, including writing, journalism, photography and layout and design. On top of that, you also have to manage the business end of the yearbook to ensure you don’t drive your school’s budget into the red. Fun, huh?

When you teach photography skills, keep it basic. All a high school yearbook photographer really needs to know is how to point and shoot the camera. Much beyond that, you can help them learn advanced photography skills later. For now, you just need to get your photography staffers moving so they can bring in the photos that are so essential to your yearbook spread.

Start with these yearbook photography tips:

1. A yearbook photographer can anticipate a shot. You can’t take the perfect yearbook photo after the magic moment passes; you have to set up your camera in advance. If you’re at a basketball game, for example, and you see a kid running toward your basket, it’s time to point your camera at the basket, not the kid. Then you can click that button as soon as he takes the shot, and you’ll get your shot, too.

2. A yearbook photographer knows his camera. When taking action photos, use a burst setting that lowers the click-to-capture rate so you can take a picture of the action while it happens. If you’re outside at night, use one of the night flash settings to optimize the look of your photo. If you have a zoom lens, use it to minimize the amount of editing you’ll have to do on the photo after you take it.

3. A yearbook is full of action shots, not poses. Well, that’s not true; there are plenty of poses in the yearbook, but they belong in the portrait section, not the interest spreads. For a regular yearbook spread, all of the photos need to look like they were captured without the subjects' notice. Posed shots will take major points away from your book if it is scored by a student journalism association. We all know it’s not always possible to get a shot without cooperation from the subjects of that photo; but if you’re going to pose a shot, at least do your best to act like you didn’t.

Manage the Cameras

Set up a check-out system for any school cameras you are responsible for. Have your photography students sign a disclaimer in advance, agreeing to pay for any damage they cause and replace any cameras they break or lose. Then have them sign out a camera any time they leave the room with it. You will have to be strict on this, because they’ll get lazy. (Teenagers? No!) If a student forgets to sign out a camera, make him bring in his own next time.

When the students finish taking photos, do not let them just put the camera down and walk away. Teach them to see the process through, including uploading the photos to the proper computer or file and letting the designer or writer know that the photos are ready to go on the spread. Make this whole process part of the photographer’s grade.

Manage the Photographers

Your photographers need to be extremely enthusiastic kids with a lot of school spirit. They need to be the kind of kids who will already attend every school function anyway; your job is to remind them to carry a camera with them whenever they do.

Help photographers manage their time by setting up a system where the other staff members (writers, designers) can fill out a paper request for specific photos and give it to the photographer responsible for that particular yearbook spread. This way the photographers can keep track of their assignments and give the completed photos to the right students when they finish taking them.

Grade your photographers on these criteria:

1. Photo quality - have they taken the kinds of photos you’re proud to include in your publication?

2. Task completion - have they taken all the photos they were assigned to take? Did they give their writer and designer several photos to choose from, or only take the minimum required amount? Also included in this part is the fact that they took, uploaded, and organized their photos correctly.

3. Efficiency - Did they complete their photo assignments in a sufficient amount of time so that they could get the photos onto the spread well in advance of the deadline?

Managing a photography staff is like any other aspect of yearbook advising: it gets easier with time, and it flows smoothly if you set up an organized system and follow through with it.

This post is part of the series: Teaching Yearbook

Find ideas and inspiration for teaching yearbook students. Explore yearbook skills, lesson plans, and creative ideas for managing a yearbook staff and producing a publication you’ll be proud to call your own.

  1. Teaching Yearbook Theme Development
  2. Teaching Yearbook: Staff Organization
  3. Yearbook Tips: Caption Writing Lesson Plan
  4. Managing a High School Yearbook Staff: Photographers