Creating Typography That POPS!

Pictavo recently added text outline and drop shadow to the already incredible toolbox users have access to when creating their yearbook pages.

Things work basically the same as they did in Pictavo Legacy although activating an outline or drop shadow and customization tools are in a slightly different place.

Once you’ve placed type on your page, you’ll find outline and drop shadow options in your contextual menu Effects pane.

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Once the box in front of the feature you’d like to activate is checked, use the +/- symbols to change the size of your outline or use the sliders to adjust placement and blur of your drop shadow.

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With the number of fonts, colors and different looks you can achieve by using these tools, your creativity is limitless! Check out these examples of outline and drop shadow in action:

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Notice that the drop shadow examples aren’t excessive and the outline is juuuust enough to give type that little extra something. Don’t be afraid to play around with settings to find your favorite look!

Flexibility: Making Pictavo's Art Collections Work For You!

The design team behind Pictavo works hard at creating libraries that will be not only flexible, but useful. One way we try to deliver on that goal is by utilizing colorable art wherever possible. This is particularly useful in templates, Snippets and collections designed with high school yearbooks in mind!

Sometimes it’s difficult to envision what a layout might look like with your own theme colors and photos, but it might be worth having your staff take some time and try a few ideas out. Take a look at how using school colors and a few extra accents changed the look of the following spreads!

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Template C1T3870 & Accents C1A3586 and C1A3587 turns into this with a few mouse clicks:

Template C1T3878 gets a little help from C1A3613 and C1A3614 to create an unforgettable football layout:

Template C1T3878 gets a little help from C1A3613 and C1A3614 to create an unforgettable football layout:

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And template C1T3871 keeps even portrait pages exciting when we add candids and accent C1A3611 into the mix!

And template C1T3871 keeps even portrait pages exciting when we add candids and accent C1A3611 into the mix!

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As soon as you start customizing templates, they take on an entirely different look. Have fun brainstorming with your staff and finding just the right look for your yearbook! Don’t be afraid to experiment and take advantage of Pictavo’s creative flexibility!

You Asked For It -- 55 NEW Yearbook Backgrounds You're Going To Love!

After launching a new yearbook creation software loaded with ALL NEW coordinating art, we had customers ask, “but what about sports backgrounds?” Good question, friends. What about sports backgrounds? And clubs? And fine arts? We got right back to the drawing board and developed a set of backgrounds sure to cover all the BASES (see what we did there?).

Take a look inside the backgrounds LIBRARY folder. There is a folder called EXTRACURRICULAR.

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Inside, you will find a series of backgrounds that cover MANY extracurricular activities! We understand there are always schools that have an interest that we may not know about, so on top of creating as many sports/club/group oriented backgrounds as we could think of, we ALSO added backgrounds that don’t have a specific activity assigned to them, just a playing or performance surface. For instance, in the screenshot below, you’ll see a bevy of grass or turf played sports along with a non-activity-specific grass background (L4B7360) to use alone or in conjunction with another background!

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For instance, if I wanted to create a Girls’ Soccer spread, I might use L4B7359 and L4B7360 together to create a starting point for my spread.

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Pictavo also has a few lesser-known sets of templates that you can find by searching GENERIC (for high schools or upper grades) or PLAIN & SIMPLE (geared toward elementary and middle schools). These, like all of our other templates, are a great starting point for your layout!

Templates T4T5814 were used here as a starting point for a yearbook layout.

Templates T4T5814 were used here as a starting point for a yearbook layout.

Once a template is dragged onto a page, you are free to modify as needed to create the perfect layout!

The same template, modified slightly to create a layout ready for photos and copy!

The same template, modified slightly to create a layout ready for photos and copy!

This layout is now ready for images to be uploaded and dragged into photo boxes! If you’re happy with your work of art and think you’d like to use it later, make sure to save it as a template!

Time Flies

Do you ever have one of those Saturdays where you have a lot of work to do so you really dive head-first into a project and when you check on the time you think, “How is it that time of day already?”


That’s kind of been our year.

Times ten.

But guess what? It’s been worth it. While the blog has sat here collecting dust with crickets chirping, we’ve been working hard on improvements to our already industry-leading software, developing even MORE knock-your-socks-off Art Collections and enhancing our Help system and yearbook kit materials to make the job of creating a yearbook not only easy, but FUN.

Over the next few blog posts, we’ll take a look at some of the new Art Collections and how to use existing Pictavo artwork in new and exciting ways. We’re so excited to get back into the swing of sharing the experience of yearbooking with our users we can hardly wait.

For now, here’s a little sneak peek at our four new Art Collections that were designed with Middle School and Junior High users in mind!


Time To Recruit A Yearbook Staff

It’s that time of year. The yearbook is finished, you’ve taken at least one deep breath, and now it’s time to start thinking about next year.

Certainly you have senior staffers that will be leaving you. How and who will you recruit to fill those positions?

Just like creating a yearbook, building a successful yearbook staff will require some planning, some trial and, likely, some error. First thing you should do? Envision what kind of yearbook environment you’re trying to create.

By knowing the type of student you want to attract, you’ll understand better how to recruit. This will drive the type of questions you want to ask. We realize that many schools offer yearbook as a class that students register for, but the type of interviewing we’re suggesting will help place said students in the positions that are best suited for their skill sets, help you find your leadership team and set the tone for what is expected from the students in the yearbook classroom.

It’s important that you attract a variety of students to your staff. Having a room full of creative, artsy types doesn’t do any good if no one can stay organized, plan an event or help track sales. You’ll need to decide for yourself what the ratio of staffers to editors to photographers is and how you want to break down these groups. Have an idea of what your ideal team looks like. Take the opportunity to align your recruitment efforts with your staff needs.

Not sure about what positions are on a developed yearbook staff? Take a look at this list and decide what positions or responsibilities your team could add to become more complete. Even if your positions and responsibilities don't align exactly with this list, maybe you'll find a better way to disperse responsibilities or assign tasks!

Happy Yearbooking!

Responsible Reporting

Reporting? Isn't that just for newspapers and broadcasting? applies to yearbooks, too! While you may not fancy your staff as "reporters", that is exactly what you're sending them out into the world to do: report.

When publishing a high school yearbook, equal weight should be placed on both journalism and photojournalism. It's easy to get lost in the imagery of your yearbook layouts: big beautiful photography that tells a story in itself. It's not enough! Those images need a well-written piece of journalistic magic to fill in any gaps there may be. In today's social climate, it becomes increasingly important to report accurate and pertinent information to your audience. What your audience (student body) is looking for in their yearbook is, essentially, a volume of your school's history. So, how does one decide how to caption photos or choose information for features? It's called news judgement.

News judgement is a phrase used to describe the act of vetting a news story and judging whether or not it's of importance/novelty to your audience. Those journalists said to have good "news judgement" are inherently good at delivering the type of story their audience wants to read at the right time in the right tone. Because, let's face it, if a publication misses the mark, people will notice and in the age of social media with terms like "fake news" being tossed about, it's best to not take any chances.

What should you consider when choosing how to report on a year-in-the-life of your school?

Timeliness - is the feature you're considering pertinent to the year in question?  This is particularly important for those that lay out their yearbook using a chronological format.

Novelty - is the story as rare as it is entertaining? If the answer is yes to both, your story will deliver on more than one level.

Conflict & Consequence - does your story deal with two or more opposing sides? As long as equal coverage is given to all sides and your story reads without bias, stories of rivalry are of high interest to many audiences. Following up the story with the outcome or consequence completes your news circle. In a publication like a yearbook, interviewing people from the opposing sides during and after the conflict is the most complete and thorough way to cover the story. There is no "next issue" to follow up in, so don't leave your readers hanging!

While there are many aspects of reporting to consider while choosing content for your yearbook, these are solid initial guidelines to follow. A great place to look for more journalism curriculum is the Journalism Education Association. JEA provides advisers the tools for teaching students responsible and effective journalism. With a JEA membership, teachers have access to a well-thought-out curriculum written and curated by industry professionals.

Taking the opportunity to not only organize a bunch of photos with captions on pages, but to actually report on the happenings of your school year will make publishing and distributing your yearbook not only fun but oh-so-rewarding, as well. Deliver a piece of history your staff can be proud of!

Location, Location, Location

While usually referring to real estate sales, the importance of location can absolutely apply in almost any sales or marketing situation. As this year's yearbook sales campaigns ramp up, it's important to make sure you're taking advantage of LOCATION wherever you have the chance.

Where are you selling? Consider not only being visible and accessible in places where a lot of students and parents will see you, but also that you're in an optimal place for your sale to happen at said event. For instance, if the yearbook staff is setting up a sales table at a parent night, why not set up near another place parents are expected to pay for something? Their billfold is already out...take advantage of it!

Where are you advertising? Think about the places students look or visit the most in a day. Put yearbook teasers, information and sales countdown posters in ALL those places! Not sure what we mean? Bathroom stall doors, on or next to mirrors in locker rooms or bathrooms, next to classroom clocks, next to drinking fountains, outside the lunch room (or wherever students wait in line for lunch) just to name a few.

Who is helping with your visibility? There's no denying social media has a lot of weight in not only teen communication, but with parents as well! Take the time to create a social media schedule or plan. You surely have yearbook staff members that happily post information pertaining to sales...but how wide in the net they cast? Recruiting student body members (and parents!) that have a different reach is imperative. Make sure all your bases are covered. Trouble getting people to share information about the yearbook? Offer a discount on the yearbook for their help. Once word gets out about a potential discount, you'll have people lining up to advertise for you next year!

No yearbook program can be successful without a well thought out sales campaign. Stay on top of what events are worth selling at and keep an eye out for new ways to communicate with your potential buyers. Sales doesn't always have to be high pressure or can be creative and fun! Enjoy the challenge!

It's a Snap! 10 Tips For Taking Better Photos With Your Smartphone

In a day and age where a smartphone’s camera technology is one of the most marketed features, it’s safe to assume that as mobile phone cameras continue to improve, so will the images they produce. We know that your yearbook staff photographers will be at events, capturing important moments; but what about behind the scenes? What’s happening up in the stands? On the bus on the way to the big game? These are the moments that make up student life...and the moments that will, likely, be captured by smartphones. Cameras on smartphones have become so advanced, that few people feel the need to also own a point and shoot camera anymore.  While they’ll probably never take the place of a dedicated DSLR with a larger image sensor, advancements like optical image stabilization, dual cameras and specially designed lenses are making it nearly impossible to tell what type of device captured an image. Taking a few moments to familiarize yourself with the camera technology included with your cell phone and learning how your device behaves in different situations will ensure that your yearbook will be full of beautiful photography...traditional camera or not!

Learning to use the camera settings on your smartphone will help take your phone-ography to the next level!

Learning to use the camera settings on your smartphone will help take your phone-ography to the next level!

10 Tips to Capturing the Perfect Picture With Your Phone

1. Know your settings. Reading manuals is boring - we know. Using all the camera settings available to you and learning to take advantage of your camera’s strengths will result in images no one would know were taken with a smartphone.

2. Know your surroundings. Are you in low light? Is the sun directly behind your subject? 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 or position yourself at a different angle so the light works with you rather than against you. The pickier you are when taking your photo, the less editing you’ll need to do later.

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 flash sparingly. Although a great feature to have, the flash on your phone doesn’t produce the most natural looking photos. Unlike an external flash (the type your DSLR uses) which spreads light out and wraps your subject, the flash on a camera phone aims the light from the flash directly at the front of your subject. If the area you are attempting to photograph is poorly lit, the flash may wash out the subject or capture unnatural looking colors. The result will be a blurry or overexposed shot. On the occasion when the area you’re shooting in is just dimly lit rather than dark, the flash on your smartphone can act as a ‘fill light’ lifting dark areas and filling in shadows successfully. When in doubt, snap a photo with flash and without to test which produces a better result in your current setting. Try to avoid shooting into bright lights or you’ll end up with silhouettes around your subjects.

5. Stop using filters. While it’s fun to try out new filters and post images on any one of the dozen social media platforms readily available to you on your phone, fight the urge! When you save an image with a colorized filter or as a black and white image, you’re taking away the opportunity to use it in it’s orignal state or edit it differently for use somewhere else. Only use filters if you can apply to a copy or only to the version of the image posted in that particular app.

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 and we definitely 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 (fine 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. Crop, don’t zoom. Zooming in on your subject is great feature in theory, however when using digital zoom the result will almost always mean a loss in image quality. When using a digital zoom feature, you can typically see on screen the degradation in quality. The smartphone is actually just extrapolating what already exists in previewed pixels...basically the device has to guess what the missing pixels should look like. Things get ugly quickly--don’t take chances. Get as close as you can, use the best camera orientation for the photo and then crop creatively later.

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 speed” or the time between when you press the shutter button and when your camera actually takes the shot. Since this can be up to a second, make sure you hold the camera still for long enough or your shot may be a blurry mess.

9. Don’t Forget to Focus. Always use your phone’s focus features before taking a picture. Many newer smartphones have auto-focus tools and simple touch-screen features that make it incredibly convenient 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, your camera’s lens can still get dirty. 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, but your t-shirt will do in a pinch.

Taking photographs should be fun. The good news is, many newer smartphones are equipped with an impressive camera and take a lot of the guesswork out of shooting photos with their auto features. Image quality, as long as used at the original size (typically at least 2MB, do not use a compressed version when sharing or exporting) will be high enough resolution to print a 5x7 or smaller (approximately). 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”!

PHOTOGRAPHY - Creating A Yearbook People Love To Look At

We all know good photography is important in a yearbook. Let's spend some time discussing what it is that makes photography good and how to get what you're looking for whether you're the photographer or the staff member laying out pages.

Artful vs. Journalistic - If you're laying out yearbook spreads and have a vision in mind, use the most descriptive words possible. Starting with artful vs. journalistic can head the conversation down the correct path. Artful images are nicely composed, easy to look at...something you might see in a calendar. These images are great filler or background images (e.g. sun setting over soccer fields, cheerleaders' poms in a pile, homecoming floats lined up in the parade). Journalistic images tell a story and draw people in. They're emotional images that deserve to be the dominant piece of your layout (e.g. team winning the big game, faculty member receiving teacher of the year award, the impact a tragedy has on your student body). Beginning with "artful vs. journalistic" and following with specifics of layout, orientation, etc. will keep staff members on the same page and eliminate communication gaps that occasionally happen when working on a large project together.


What Makes A Picture Great? - Photography tends to be one of those "I know it when I see it" things. It's hard to put your finger on, exactly, what it is that makes your brain say "Yeah! I like that!" There are, however, some factors to research and consider before heading out on an important assignment!

Rule Of Thirds - Dividing your frame into a 3x3 grid. Place your subject, or the focal point,    along a vertical or horizontal line and a point of intersection.

Leading Lines - Using strong lines in a photo will help move the viewer's eye from the foreground to the background.

Point Of View - Changing the point of view can bring the view into the image by creating tension or showing scale. Consider taking both "worm's eye view" and "bird's eye view" photos of a few different subjects as a photography exercise.

Framing - Use a foreground object to help frame-in and draw the viewer's eye to your subject.


Two More Tips You'll Thank Us For - Making Ordinary Extraordinary

1. When the opportunity for portraiture arises, take it! Oftentimes, a student feature requires an image of a student. Just as often, a member of the yearbook staff will go find said student, ask them to 'stand against that wall right there' and take their photo. NO! After all of the fast-paced sporting events, poorly lit gymnasiums and boring rows of students in their club/activity photos, you finally have the opportunity to take an interesting photo of an interesting student! Student of the week for Art Club? Take the photo in the art room while the student works on a piece or cleans brushes after. Student went to the State Fair showing their horse? Absolutely arrange to photograph them on their prize-winning show horse! Show students in the environment that pertains to the reason for the photo. This will generate interest and draw the viewer in. Wanting to know more is the only way someone will read what your staff has worked so hard researching and writing!

2. Get in on the action! If you have been trusted with capturing images for a game or event, take it seriously. Get BRAVE and get down on the sidelines, court-side or into the front row of whatever event you're photographing. You're documenting history for your's okay to get up close and personal! Don't forget about the fans, either. Turning your camera on the crowd will get some fantastic candid images of school spirit at its finest!


Get The Shot: 10 Suggested Images To Capture At A Graduation Ceremony

The greatest moment of many high school seniors' year is the very end of it. Walking across a stage and getting that piece of paper that basically says, "Good Job! You don't have to come back here ever again!" Graduation ceremonies are an important part of every school year. Photographing the day so the story can accurately be told later is key. Even if you aren't charged with capturing the day for the yearbook, photographing the day with a more photojournalistic approach will absolutely leave you with images worthy of sharing with the yearbook staff via Pictavo Community!

Here are our top 10 suggested photos to take at your school's graduation ceremony.

1. DETAILS - Grab a cap and gown and all the trimmings (tassel, stole, cords, etc.) along with a commencement program. Arrange them together and take photos from a few different angles making sure to get details like the date on the front of the program, class motto or school flower, if available. Got some students that decorate the top of their mortarboard? Get those detail shots now!

2. PREP - As graduates arrive and they help one another straighten their gowns, collars and tassels, get a few pictures! These un-posed real life shots tell so much more about those moments than any organized, traditional photo ever could. Getting a shot of best friends giddy with anticipation or holding back tears while they help each other prep will bring viewers into your day.

3. THE LINE UP - The grads are lined up and ready to go...see all those matching robes waiting in anticipation? Take some interesting angle shots. Getting low and grabbing a photo of the line of feet with graduation robes hanging above them is a great filler shot for a yearbook spread about commencement or baccalaureate.

4. SPEAKERS - Don't be afraid to go where you need to get the shots you want! Be respectful of the ceremony and spectators, but don't sacrifice shots of speakers and important moments of the ceremony! Position yourself so you can get shots of speakers' facial expressions as they read their message for the graduating class.

5. GRADS GRADUATING - Obviously it would be impossible to include every grad walking the stage in your yearbook spread, getting a few to include is important! If you're lacking coverage on a few seniors, this is your last chance! Capture them receiving their diploma and include them in the spread.

6. EMOTION - Commencement ceremonies can get long. Use the time to catch the grads that are caught up in the moment. Someone will see their grandparents and wave enthusiastically, someone may be moved to tears by a speaker. Watch for the emotions of the day and get the shot!

7. THE TOSS - The hat toss. It's a given. Everyone has seen them, everyone knows it's going to happen. But the time the moment is special is when it's YOU. Get the shot for these grads.

8. POST GRAD GLEE - The graduates will surely gather somewhere to take photos with one another along with their families. Get ready and shoot, shoot, shoot. Everywhere you turn will be happy grads hugging, laughing, posing and just enjoying this time. Snap away! People don't need to be posed or looking at your's often better if they aren't. Capturing true emotion rather than the frozen smile most people produce when in front of a camera is what makes the images you're capturing special.

9. DIPLOMAS - Let the grads pose with their diplomas, too. They worked hard to get here...get them to show them off! Personality while posing is welcome!

10. SAYONARA! - Snapping just a few images of grads walking away in their gowns, holding hats and diplomas will come in useful. Need a last page of your yearbook? Bingo. This is the only day you're going to be able to get this shot...take advantage!

Approaching graduation day with a photojournalistic approach is going to deliver images that are yearbook worthy!

Approaching graduation day with a photojournalistic approach is going to deliver images that are yearbook worthy!

Take these ideas with you to commencement and you'll successfully capture the day. Creatively capturing the event may be a little more work, but your yearbook will be that much better for it!


Now What? Creating Yearbook Templates Like A Pro

Many advisers wonder what to do with their classes once their yearbook is submitted. How about starting on next year's book?

Creating a yearbook is a huge undertaking. What if you could shave off a task or two before the previous school year was over? Obviously it isn't possible to start assigning photography assignments or writing features, but it's possible to start organizing. What went well this year? What needs some work? Make those notes and change procedures now.

If you aren't a school that already takes advantage of templates, now is the time! In fact, spring is an ideal time to start designing a book's worth of custom templates for the following year. This is also a really great design exercise for your students...whether done in the spring or the fall. The most creative version of this exercise is using the internet (Pinterest - or Padlet if your school wants more security than Pinterest offers) to find layouts you're inspired by and applying the same look or feel to a layout for your yearbook. For example, we chose a layout from a newsletter we have pinned on one of our Pinterest boards and recreated it using Pictavo. Do this a dozen or so times and you've basically got a library full of templates to tweak once a theme is decided upon next year. Have twenty students? Have them each choose two layouts as inspiration and recreate, you suddenly have forty templates to choose from.

Original envato designed "student newsletter" template pinned to our Design Inspiration board.

Original envato designed "student newsletter" template pinned to our Design Inspiration board.

Practice layout created using Pictavo. Same basic design elements applied to a yearbook layout, inspired by, but not identical to, the layout above.

Practice layout created using Pictavo. Same basic design elements applied to a yearbook layout, inspired by, but not identical to, the layout above.

Keep in mind that your new library of templates won't all use the same fonts, spacing or design elements. It will be up to the yearbook staff to edit and create a sense of theme or connection throughout the book. For a truly cohesive yearbook theme, we suggest creating a style guide early in the year for your staff to follow.

Almost There - Proofing your yearbook before submission

Create a team of yearbook 'proofers' to check your staff's work!

Create a team of yearbook 'proofers' to check your staff's work!

 It's spring. That means time to submit your yearbook. You've worked hard and the finish line is well within reach, time to double check all the work your team has done before calling it a year!

The best plan of attack for proofing your yearbook is this: NEW EYES. Don't rely on the person that worked on the book to be able to find their own mistakes. Always let someone else take a look at it. If your book is particularly large, create an entire proofing team.

Break the book into sections so each person has a task that feels possible rather than overwhelming. For instance, have a separate person check each of the following: headlines, spelling of names (one person per grade), matching of names to faces, images make sense on the spread (sometimes there are placeholders that don't get replaced), captions (full sentences, proper grammar), text boxes (no "double click to edit text" hanging around anywhere) and just overall layout (make sure nothing is covering an image, words getting hidden, etc.)

If you can pull together an entire group of people to page through your yearbook and all give the seal of approval, you are, officially, ready to submit. Congratulations!