yearbook layout

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”!

The Hype About Type

If a picture is worth a 1000 words, why bother with type? Using type on a page is more than just a way to tell the story, the type itself is a design element and should be treated as such.  There are hundreds of fonts available, with so many choices, it may be tempting to use them all...at the same time...on the same page...please don't! If you do, the design goddesses shall frown upon you and corrupt your entire font library.

(probably not)

(...okay, for sure not. please, just don't do it.)

Fonts can be classified into families:

There's a saying that says "fonts that play together, stay together". Okay, that might not be exactly how the saying goes, but our point is this: when you find a combination that works, stick with it.  The fewer fonts used in your yearbook, the more cohesive the pages will appear. While it's tempting to use all of the fonts available to you, it is usually better to limit yourself to no more than 2-3 fonts on a page. Less really is more!

If only using a few fonts sounds boring to you, let us prove you wrong! By changing weight, font family style, size and mixing only a few fonts, you'd be surprised at how creative your text can look!

Keep it simple, keep it legible. The goal is to READ what you're working so hard on writing, right? There are a few things you should steer clear of with your type.

If you'd like a printable version of these tips, you can find them here, here and here. It's a great idea to have them hanging where yearbook staff can see them. A little reminder can go a long way!

Happy Type Wrangling!

The Idea Garden Team

It's Crunch Time!

For those of you that have a "spring delivery" book, it's officially crunch time. It's time to proof pages, make finishing touches and proof some more. Many publishing companies require early cover submission when you've chosen to design your own cover, commonly called a "custom cover". Check your submission dates and make sure you're design staff is on track with your cover design, final files and any other custom options you may have chosen. Often times, custom printed endsheets also require extra production time, and should be submitted with a custom cover. Once again, make sure you're sending all the necessary paperwork, digital files, and printouts your publisher needs to ensure that once your info is received, it's all smooth sailing for your project! Handing any part of your yearbook over to someone else for production can be nerve wracking...making doubly sure that all things are proofed thoroughly, filled out completely and submitted on time will save questions or miscommunications between you and your publisher.

Even though we're over halfway through January, we figured a checklist would still be helpful for those of you rushing around making sure everything is checked off your list!

Printable version here.

See that light over there? It's the end of the yearbook creation tunnel...you're almost there!

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

...with a little help from your friends

Like we keep saying, designing an entire yearbook is a daunting task. Why not get a little help? Many programs, especially those created specifically for yearbook design, include templates. Now, keep in mind that when you look at a template, it's not going to be very impressive. Typically just gray boxes and a block of text...what makes them so useful is the ease in which you can modify them to make them your own. Look at a template as a "starting point". If you like what you see by just placing images into the image boxes, your work is done! If the layout needs some fine tuning, feel free to change what needs changing. Templates are, typically, not set in stone. Take advantage of the fact someone started the designing and layout process for you! Let's take a look at a few examples of both empty templates and layouts completed using these same templates:

See what a difference a few images can make?

Many yearbook layout programs also have an option to create your OWN templates. This is useful when you know you'd like the same five (or six, or ten, or twelve...) layouts used all the way through your book. Saving these templates so they are easily accessed by your entire yearbook staff will keep consistency at a maximum and guesswork to a minimum!

Templates can be a very useful tool when creating a yearbook. You've got enough to do...why not get a little help here and there?

Happy Designing! The Idea Garden Team