10 steps for great yearbook photography

Photography can take a yearbook from good to great, but you don’t have to be a professionally trained photographer to capture beautiful images. With advances in both camera and smartphone technologies, the device used matters less than the techniques. So grab your favorite camera, and try out these 10 photography composition tips.

1. Be Ready

Preparation is key to any great photo, and it starts with the simple act of being sure you have all your equipment prepared, memory cards cleared and batteries charged. Be sure to arrive early, anticipate the action happening and stay late. Images shot during the game are expected, but being present for the preparations before and the emotions after gives your readers insight into the moments not typically seen.

2. Stop the Action

Whether you’re capturing a sporting event, a field day or the principal getting a pie in the face, properly stopping the action is important. This technique works best on a traditional point and shoot or SLR camera, but burst photography modes now make it possible on smartphones. Be sure you are properly exposing the image by letting in enough light through your aperture settings as well as using a high shutter speed.

3. Experiment with Angles

It has been said that the best photos are taken in the most uncomfortable positions. Crouching down, leaning over, standing on a chair or laying on the ground can make for interesting angles you wouldn’t normally see. Use your creativity to show the reading a perspective they may not be expecting.

4. Frame the Subject

As you’re looking through the lens (or screen), watch for elements that can help frame your subject. Frame with natural elements or with props interacting with the subject. This technique adds interest to any photograph.

5. Stay Focused

It goes without saying: always use photos that are clear and in focus. But experimenting with depth of field to throw certain elements in a photo out of focus can make for dramatic images. To use this technique, open your aperture as wide as possible or tap the subject on a smartphone to focus on a specific element.

6. Let there be Light

Lighting is an important element of photography, but that doesn’t always mean you need to use a flash. The absence of light can provide for interesting images. Use the natural light as much as possible, and when shooting outside, avoid backlighting your subject with the sun. Think about the sun as a “natural flash” so it should always be behind the person holding the camera.

7. Look for Lines

Leading lines in an image add an extra element of interest to your images but is one of the most under-utilized composition technique available. When shooting, look for lines that start at the bottom of the frame and guide the viewer’s eye inwards and upwards.

8. Get Closer

While cropping and zooming after an image has been captured is possible, it’s best to crop within the camera the old-school way: by walking closer to the subject. Capturing an up-close view eliminates distracting elements. Also, be sure to align yourself with your subject’s point of view. If you are shooting pictures of small children, shooting from a lower perspective gives you the view of the action from their eyes.

9. Rule of Thirds

One easy technique to apply to your photography today is to shoot using the “rule of thirds.” Imagine dividing your image into both horizontal and vertical thirds. Where these imaginary lines intersect is where you should place the subject. An off-centered subject makes for a better image every time.

10. Have Patience

Learning new photography skills takes practice, so be patient with yourself. Review your images immediately after an event and self-evalutate which techniques you feel confident about and which ones you can continue to improve.