yearbook inspiration

It’s a Snap! Capture the Perfect Picture With Your Phone.

Smile. Snap. Yuck. Delete. Smile again. Snap. Much better! It’s now that easy. Gone are the days of waiting with anticipation for the development of film to see if someone blinked or your hand wasn’t steady. Whether you grew up using a film camera or you grew up only knowing digital cameras, chances are you are using a digital one now. And with the more recent integration of cameras on cell phones, especially cameras that rival those of compact point-and-shoots, capturing more of life has never been easier. And we love easier! Especially when it means getting you more photo options for your yearbook! If someone had told us back in 2000 that in just three years there would be more camera phones sold than digital cameras we probably would have laughed at them. Because frankly, the camera phones of a decade plus ago weren’t that great (is that a pic of a cute kitten or my hairy Uncle Jim!?).

Smartphone makers have gotten, well, smarter in their technologies. So much so that many people don’t even use their digital cameras anymore. But even though the cameras have drastically improved, they are not all created equal. And neither are we as amateur photographers. What might look good on the screen of your phone, doesn’t necessarily mean it will look great in print. So we’ve compiled some best practices that make shooting print-quality yearbook photos with your phone as easy as 1-2-3, cheese! (okay, that was pretty cheesy).

10 Steps to Capturing the Perfect Picture With Your Phone

1. Know your surroundings. Are you in low light? Is the sun directly in your picture? Take into consideration where you are, what time of day it is and where the light is in relation to your phone. Adjust your phone settings to what is optimal for your location. The better lit your subject, the clearer your image will be. Which brings us to our next tip.

2. Read the manual. We know, it’s probably pretty boring. But knowing what your smartphone can and can’t do will really help. So read your phone’s manual – or at least the camera portion. Your photos will thank you. And those in them will too.

3. If You Have HDR – Use It. High Dynamic Range imaging (HDR) captures three photos at different exposures and uses the phone’s software to overlap the images. Phones with this feature give you two photos when HDR is turned on – one with the adjustments and one without. Typically colors in HDR photos will be more vibrant as it makes sure photos are never under or overexposed. HDR is especially great for landscapes, portraits in harsh sunlight and when the setting has very low light. Just be careful when taking action shots; the camera takes three successive photos so it takes longer to capture the whole image. Movement can cause the final shot to look blurry or cause a halo around your subject.

4. Use auto-flash sparingly. Although a great feature to have, it doesn’t always produce the best pictures. Unlike a regular camera, the flash on a camera phone aims the light from the flash directly in front of the device. If the area you are attempting to photograph is poorly lit, the flash may wash out the subject or capture unnatural looking colors. And the result will be a blurry or overexposed shot. There are occasions, however, in certain light settings when a flash will really lift a shot and add clarity by filling in shadows and illuminating your subject. When in doubt, snap a photo with flash and without to test which produces a better result in your current setting. And always avoid shooting into bright lights or you’ll end up with silhouettes around your subjects.

5. Find the perfect white balance. White balance refers to the camera’s ability to adjust color to match what the human eye sees naturally. The color white looks white to us in any given lighting. Camera’s shift colors in certain lighting to better compensate for this balance. And since you’ve already read your manual, you’ll know if your phone has a white balance preset function that assists with lighting (most newer camera phones do). If you must adjust the white balance manually be aware that certain lighting may cause your camera to over-compensate by making the image appear blue or red.

6. Know your camera’s resolution. For the most part, the higher the resolution (or megapixel), the more detailed your picture will appear – and better it will print in your yearbook. Low-resolution photos will almost certainly appear pixilated in your yearbook andwe don’t want that! We recommend camera phones with at least 6 megapixels for good-quality printing. The max you will need for print-quality in your yearbook would be 12 megapixels. That will get you a photo that can be blown up across an entire spread and still print clearly. Anything more than that may give you issues trying to upload it due to its large size. Here’s a rough guide for standard camera phone megapixel numbers and size to keep your photo at in order to ensure the best print quality:

3MP = maximum 5" x 7" photo (okay if it's kept small) 6MP = maximum 6.5" x 10" photo (plenty big for candids) 10MP = maximum 8.5" x 14" photo (perfect for full page) 12MP = maximum 9.7" x 14.5" photo (full spread size)

7. Careful of That Zoom. Zooming in on your subject is great when you’re far away, however the resulting quality isn’t always equally great if you’re using digital zoom. Getting too close can sometimes cause distortion and blurriness due to reduced pixels. It’s good to make sure you’re zoomed in close enough to have your subject recognizable, but far enough away that you don’t cause pixilation issues if you’ve got digital zoom. Camera phones with optical zoom don’t enlarge your subject by enlarging pixels though, so if your phone has optical zoom, zoom away!

8. Keep still. This seems fairly obvious, but we thought we’d throw it out there as a reminder. As with all photography, the steadier your camera, the clearer your image will be. This is especially important if your phone has a slower “shutter lag” or the time between when you press the shot button and when your camera actually takes the shot. Since this can be up to a second or two, make sure you hold the camera still for long enough or your shot may be a blurry mess.

9. Don't Forget to Focus. Make sure to always use your phone’s focus features before taking a picture. Many of the newer smartphones have auto-focus tools and simple touch-screen features that make it super easy to make sure you’ve got your subject front and center. These built-in focus features make blurry subjects easily avoidable.

10. Keep your lens clean. Phones spend a lot of time being stuffed into things like pockets, bags and purses. Even with a protective case, they can still get dirty, especially the camera lens. Fingerprints are often the worst culprits of a blurry shot, but the constant rubbing against a pocket can smudge even the tiniest lens. Before snapping a shot, give your lens a quick wipe using a soft cloth. One to clean glasses or made specific for electronics is ideal. If you don’t have one handy, your sleeve or pant leg should suffice, as long as it’s a soft material.

Taking photographs should be fun. The good news is, many of the newer camera phones are smartphones and take a lot of the guesswork out of shooting photos with their auto features that take into account a lot of the above. But the better you know your camera phone’s capabilities, the better chance you’ll capture the perfect shot. We want every picture you take this yearbook season to be the “one”!

Stuck In The Middle | Yearbook Filler Pages

While there are obvious things that NEED to go into the yearbook (i.e. sports, clubs, student body, awards) in between these things there may be a page or two that just needs "filling". A page that needs something placed on it so the next section can start on the right side of the spread...a "filler" page. What do you fill these "filler" pages with? Funny you should ask...because we just happen to have some examples right here to show you! Of course, a fun spread to create is the one about the Yearbook Staff! You've worked hard on this yearbook, your crew deserves some credit! Be creative with group/individual photos! Have fun!

Spirit and dress up days are GREAT photo ops! Chances are, your staff will have quite a few great shots from these activities! Reviewing the best-dressed from these days is a fun way to fill in a few pages!

What about what happens outside of school? So few students know much about the personal lives' of their peers unless they are close friends. Why not spotlight how students spend their time outside of the school by doing a feature on who works where?

If your pages that need filling are at the end of a certain grade, you can use superlatives or just a 'student life' feature for that specific grade like the ones below!

No matter how you decide to fill your pages, it's your responsibility as the yearbook staff to use content that your readers want to see. Making sure your student body is interested, intrigued and entertained will result in a higher number of yearbooks sold!

Be creative! Have fun!

And as always, Happy Yearbooking!

The Idea Garden Team

Yearbook Design Inspiration | Winter Special Events

Now that the holiday season has passed, many schools have winter activities to help keep away those mid-year doldrums. Homecoming and prom aren't the only dances that should be chronicled in your yearbook...Winter activity weeks and dances are a great way to remind people of the fun that was had ALL YEAR! Make sure you have yearbook staffers at each event with cameras in hand. They are the people that know what the yearbook spread in question needs and the style of photography that will match with the rest of the events already in the book! As far as designing pages goes, you can continue the look of your yearbook theme on a dance page by simply choosing a color tone that "goes" with the season. Light blue definitely lends itself to an icy winter theme...even if your area is neither icy or wintery!

If your event is formal, making the page glam with glitter is ALWAYS an option! With so many different color options available, a glittery background to match your theme is almost certainly available!

If the images are where you'd like the attention to fall, use big, striking photography across a spread. Nothing says "we had a great time" like candid dance floor photos!

Have some winter fun and, of course,

Happy yearbooking!

The Idea Garden Team

Selling More Yearbooks 101

If you're one of the many school that use yearbook sales as a way to raise money for your student body, you know how important it is to SELL MORE BOOKS. The only way to sell more books than you did last year is to advertise and market this year's book! Depending on your publishing company, you have around two or three months at the beginning of each school year to sell books...make them count! Create a sales and marketing plan with a new event each week that is out of the ordinary...something that will make people WANT a yearbook! Some of our favorite marketing tactics:

Creating a PRESENCE as the yearbook staff makes people curious about the yearbook. Design matching t-shirts to be worn on a certain day each week or when "on assignment" for the entire yearbook staff.

Set up a sales table at every school function parents will be at. Parents are the ones writing the check...you should market to them and make sure they know the books are for sale!

Set up a Yearbook Facebook page so people can ask questions and get their answers. Use this as a place to run contests (who WOULDN'T try to win a free yearbook?) and show sneak peeks of what's going to be in the yearbook!

Offer a payment plan! Many families use "no money for that right now" as a reason for not purchasing a yearbook. What if it could be broken into half down and two payments before delivery?

Create a form to be printed on brightly colored paper that announces to a student, "you're in the yearbook on page ____ !" to hang on locker doors. When a student knows they're in the yearbook, they're much more likely to want one!

Posters in the hallways and cafeteria only go so far. What about hanging posters in the bathroom stalls? Why not put a sign by the clock in each classroom? (yes, students look at the clock...a LOT!) Make sure you switch out all posters with different designs and/or colors. Once signage has been seen in the same spot for a long time, it just becomes part of the landscape...surprise their eyes! Keep it fresh and keep it clever!

Everyone has to walk into school...why not do some advertising on the sidewalk? Use sidewalk chalk to reiterate dates, prices and where kids can order their books!

When you know the parking lot is going to be PACKED (the big game, a concert, orientation night) place flyers on windshields.

Create a yearbook "commercial". Every school has a creative group of kids that would enjoy a creative project that will be seen school-wide. If your school doesn't have a "news channel" or website to play the commercial on, post it to a video hosting site (i.e. youtube) and send out the link so everyone knows where it is!

QR codes are an easy way to play to the "media" side of marketing. You can create a QR code for anything you have on the internet. Add QR codes to posters and flyers to get people to your yearbook facebook page, ordering page, or even the school web page that contains information about yearbook ordering.

Keeping people on their toes when advertising your yearbook is going to keep them interested and enthusiastic about their purchase. Now, get out there and start selling some yearbooks!

Happy Yearbooking!

The Idea Garden Team

Got It Covered | Exploring Options For Yearbook Covers

Your yearbook cover needs to "say it all" in one design statement. Your cover should motivate people to WANT to see what's inside. Whoever said you can't judge a book by it's cover, certainly couldn't have been talking about yearbooks! There are many options available to you when making decisions about yearbook covers. The most common is a four color printed cover.

If you'd like to add a little 'flair' to your four color cover, you can add some color foil and/or embossing.

Leatherette covers are often a more "traditional" look, but by using graphics that have a more modern edge, your cover can still be as unique as your student body!

If you really like bells and whistles, a leatherette cover with foil imprint and embossing may be just the cover for you.

Not all publishing companies offer all of the options mentioned above. When choosing who to print with, it's important to find out if they can provide your school with the options you'd like to see in a finished product. It's also important to find out if adding options to your cover will add cost or production time!

Speaking of time...it's time for another checklist! December is right around the corner and we want to make sure our readers are staying on task!

Print friendly version here.

Stay warm and happy yearbooking!

The Idea Garden Team