How To Shoot Awesome Yearbook Photos Every Time

Yearbooks serve as an excellent, pictorial record of the past year in the life of a student. The highs, the accomplishments, the challenges, etc. Yearbook photography is big business as the end of each school year approaches, as a yearbook covers everything from academics and sports to student life and social activities.

Safe to say, photographers have many chances to take interesting shots of students in all walks of their school life. That’s why yearbook photography is such a multi-faceted style of photography. Here are some tremendous pointers on doing the best at yearbook photography.

Graduation Photo

Get Students to Practice Poses

Much of the success of your yearbook photography depends on how at-ease you can make your subjects pose. Students may be self-conscious, so it’s a good idea to have them relax and go through various practice poses before you take the legitimate shots.

Getting students to loosen up in this fashion also means you’ll establish a better rapport with them — which helps all the more in getting great poses and awesome yearbook shots.

Get Students to Think About What to Wear

Should the lacrosse team wear their uniforms in their photos? Should the debate team dress more formally or more casually? Should a club dress in their uniforms, or should they be individuals and dress uniquely?

Getting the students to plan ahead with regard to what they’ll wear is a surefire way to snap photos that students will be happy with.

Deal With Student Makeup and Hair Issues

Guys and girls are both concerned about their hair, so help them out with some basic grooming advice. Hair should be out of one’s face, clean and washed, and makeup should be neatly applied. Overall, students may be somewhat unsure about what’s appropriate in photos, so take charge and let them know what looks best in student photographs.

Shooting Group Photos

Whether it’s the drama club, school newspaper staff, or entire classes, group photos are one of the biggest highlights of any school yearbook. Here are some surefire ways to get the best results when shooting students together:

  • Don’t leave empty spaces in between students, as this looks awkward
  • Ensure the photo’s framing doesn’t exclude anyone in the shot
  • Take shots from different angles and with subjects in different poses
  • Photograph groups from afar (landscape or portrait), but with sufficient space and background around your group, so that you can use cropping more flexibly in the editing stage
  • Use the list of students you have from the school to double-check that you didn’t leave anyone out

Shooting Profile Pictures

The other main scenario you’ll encounter when doing yearbooks is taking profile shots of students. Again, there are a few non-negotiables that you’ll have to do diligently:

  • Use the same focal point, like the eyes, and have your subjects always look directly in the camera lens to create a more personal connection with the audience
  • Use an identical setup for all profile pictures, including the same background and lights
  • Get the student’s whole face in the shot, and ensure that the face is clearly seen, even if the student is wearing accessories and using props

Shoot From up Close

Nothing says yearbook like getting up close and personal with your subjects. Yearbook photos offer a lot of opportunities for action shots, whether it’s a marching band, a sports team on the field, or a school event or fundraiser in full swing.

To capture the most important and interesting elements of such scenes, be sure to get in close to the subjects. Physically move in close with your camera, so that you’re as near as possible for the shot. This technique adds a layer of realism to yearbooks that boosts their overall value.

Senior Dinner
image by Roman Boed

Look for Emotion

Yearbooks are great opportunities to capture the emotion in students’ lives throughout the year. They’re a veritable track record of all the highs and lows that happen with school activities. Look for that emotion as a photographer, and go in and shoot it with aplomb.

Get in close during that celebration when the school’s football team kicks the winning field goal. Similarly, also capture disappointing events, like players’ reactions when they lose a big game. This’ll add much-needed balance to a yearbook.

The same thing goes for big events like graduations and dances. Capture the reactions of students as they go through various milestones in their school year and lives.

Vertical vs. Horizontal

You’ll want to shoot more scenes vertically rather than horizontally, so go for portraits instead of landscapes. By taking more vertical photos, you actually get to fit more of your subject into each frame.

When all is said and done, your collection of yearbook photos should have mostly portraits instead of landscapes. This way, you won’t have to deal with excluding important elements as much.

The Subject’s Point of View

Here’s a great chance to offer yearbook readers something they may not be expecting: Take shots from the subject’s point of view for something entirely different.

Instead of always focusing on your subjects and what they’re doing, shoot what your subjects are looking at, for a change. This could be the crowd that the marching band sees when they’re going through a parade route or the view of the stage during graduation from the vantage point of students sitting in the audience. This approach is something that you can get very creative with since there are many chances to shoot from the student’s point of view.

A Big and Exciting Project

There’s a lot of prep that should really go into yearbook photography. With all of the various scenes of student life you’ll be photographing, there’s no way you can do this without careful consultation with the school faculty and the students themselves.

Taking shots for a yearbook is a huge project that’s pretty time-intensive and demands a lot of commitment. After all, as the photographer, you’re trying to create a memorable and interesting record of student life over the past year — this is something that students, their families, and friends will look back on years from now. So make it count.

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