Posts by Balfour Yearbooks

Attend a Convention: Amp up staffers’ love for journalism with a cool field trip

One of the best ways to spark a love for journalism in your students is to attend a national convention. Journalism conventions provide opportunities to network with professionals, see award-winning publications and learn from experts.

Two of the leading scholastic journalism organizations in the country, JEA (Journalism Educators Association) and NSPA (National Scholastic Press Association), collaborate on national events, hosting fall and spring journalism conventions every year. This November, about 5,000 students will attend the fall convention in Dallas.

Why bring your students to a convention?

Education ignites motivation

Journalism conventions such as this feature high-profile keynote speakers, giving your staff a chance to learn from and be inspired by journalists from different fields and backgrounds. Whether it be a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer or an Emmy Award winning reporter, exposing students to the world of journalism and career options available can both inspire and motive.  Students also have the opportunity to attend a variety of journalism sessions, learning about everything from design and typography to understanding diversity in media.

Compete for awards (and bragging rights)

Write-off contests give students a chance to put their skills to the test and compete against student journalists from across the country and abroad. Contests span the journalism spectrum, covering everything from yearbook caption writing to broadcast commentary. Contests are judged by qualified professionals and educators from across the country, and awards are given during the closing ceremony. Click here to learn more about JEA/NPSA’s write-off contest opportunities.

Grow your network

Conventions give journalism students and educators alike the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals, learn about journalism career opportunities and develop mentoring relationships with seasoned professionals. Conventions are also a great place for students to visit with representatives from college and university journalism programs who attend as exhibitors.

Staffs also can have publications critiqued, attend round tables with professional media and see yearbooks from around the country.

For those unable to attend the convention in Dallas in November, CSPA (Columbia Scholastic Press Association) also provides a similar experience, hosting its annual spring convention every March in New York City.  JEA and NSPA’s spring event is in San Francisco this April. That’s ample time to save money and plan travel for one fabulous field trip. Need help convincing your administration to let your staffs travel? Check out Why Conventions Matter.

State organizations also host journalism conventions and offer critique services and awards to motivate your staffs and build individual and staff resumes. Here’s a list of state organizations.

Stop in for a Balfour Plant Tour while you’re in Dallas

Attending journalism conventions can spark creativity, energize your students and help build your staff. We hope to see you in two months in Dallas! If you’re coming to the convention, we’d love to show you around our yearbook publishing plant. Tours for you and your staff can be scheduled on Thursday, November 16. Sign up here.

Yearbook tips when you aren’t sure where to start

If you’re reading this blog, more than likely you’ve found your way into the wonderful world of yearbook. First things first, welcome! Doing the yearbook is an exciting and special opportunity to be a part of your school’s history. At the same time, it can be an overwhelming project. If you’re like many yearbook advisers, you’ve probably asked yourself a series of questions similar to the one above.

Where do I start?

How do I sell books?

Who do I contact?

I do the yearbook, so now what?

We’re here to answer those questions, guide you through the yearbook journey and help you have a successful yearbook delivery, whether it’s your first time doing yearbook or you’re a seasoned pro.

The first day of school has come and gone, and fall weather is making its appearance. As you start thinking ahead to what the year has in store, take a moment to check these items off your yearbook to-do list.

Meet with your rep

Set an appointment to meet with your representative in person. Along with your in-plant account executive, your rep will be your lifeline to all things yearbook. They can guide you through the process, calm your fears and walk you through the software you’ll be using to design your yearbook pages. In addition to your rep, you also have an in-plant account executive who is assigned to your school. They help coordinate the production of your yearbook pages inside the plant as well as help with software support.

Recruit a yearbook team and photographers

The yearbook is more fun with friends. Reach out to parents or teachers who are willing to help with creating and editing layouts, taking photos and coordinating sales on campus. Be sure to take advantage of Balfour’s ImageShare app which allows anyone in the school to submit photos for consideration in the yearbook right from their smartphone. Keep track of everyone on your team as well as other important school contacts with this handy sheet from the Balfour Adviser Guide sent in your starter kit.

Set 3-5 goals for your yearbook

What does success look like to you? Setting your goals now will establish expectations for yourself and your yearbook team as you tackle the rest of the year. Goals can include the number of books you wish to sell, the amount of money you intend on raising and the number of times you wish to picture everyone in the yearbook. Other goals might include spelling every student’s name correctly (hint: request a student list from the front office now) and meeting your deadlines so stress stays out of sight.

Set up online sales

Setting up an online store is a convenient way for parents to purchase yearbooks and student ads/dedications. Schools that offer online stores consistently sell more books, so set your store up early and begin promotions during the first month. Before setting up your store, your rep can help with budgeting to establish your sales price. Use flyers, posters and web buttons to promote your store and guide parents to the right location to make their purchases. Need more selling tips and ideas? Sign up for Balfour’s Yearbook Sales Manager Program.

Focus on photos now

Photo opportunities are happening every day, so your focus during the first couple of months of the year should be on capturing as many photos as possible. Having your yearbook team helping to cover as many events as possible makes designing pages easier once you’re ready to get started.



8 essentials to Jedi-mastering your yearbook theme

Light vs. darkness. Nature vs. technology. Fate vs. destiny. Good vs. evil. The underlying themes of “Star Wars” are woven into the story, giving it meaning.

And while yearbook themes are not quite as dramatic, they do follow the same Star Wars logic. A theme is the central message of a yearbook, with elements working together to support it. Patterns and ideas come up frequently to reinforce the concept. The repetition of words, colors and graphics gives the theme meaning.

So what’s the best way to develop a yearbook theme? Let’s begin with a little Jedi yearbook training:

1. Pick a word or phrase that embodies this year. Build the theme around changes happening, a word that represents your school or a fun phrase that connects with the student body. Choosing a theme that fits your school is a really big deal. A school going through transitions could choose “Shift,” “Go with it” or “Variations.” A school spirit theme could focus on the name, school colors, mascot or street: “Traits of a [mascot here]” or “We are [school name].” A fun or catchy phrase can lend itself to cool theme ideas: “Life as we know it,” “It is what it is,” or “Say what?

2. Create a logo to visually convey the theme. Select fonts that show the personality of the theme concept. (Hint: the font book is a great resource!) Use only those fonts throughout the book. Sketch or design the placement of the theme word/s and share with your rep so the cover artists can expand on the look.

3. Choose colors. Think about the personality of the theme. Does it call for school colors? Pastels? Bright, bold colors? Do you plan to use set colors throughout the book or pull spot color dependent on the dominant photos?

4. Select a graphic element that visually extends the theme. Look at magazines and Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. Think about lines, bars, circles and other shapes. Check out our post on supercharging your yearbook theme with visual validation. 

5. Brainstorm verbal connections. Carry out the theme with verbal reiterations of it. Think of words, phrases and synonyms that reflect the theme. Play off of individual words or the whole theme phrase.

6. Create secondary coverage packages that connect to the theme. Use the verbal ideas to flesh out sidebars that bring another layer of coverage. If the theme is “Life as we know it,” a module on the football spread could be called “Life as a…” and then feature players in different positions (quarterback, receiver, left tackle, center).

7. Consider a whole-book link. Whole-book links are small connections to the theme that run on every page or spread of the book. Often these are pictures or quotes that link to the theme idea.

8. Incorporate the theme into the folios. Adding the graphic element into the folios,  or page numbers, is a simple and subtle way to showcase the theme on each page.

Enough training for one day? Discussing these theme elements with your staff will ensure you’re on your way to being a Yearbook Jedi master. As Yoda says, “Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.”

Writing in the heat of the moment

Journalists emphasize the importance of writing in “hot heat.” In other words, it is important to write as the events unfold.  As school starts, Gulf Coast residents are struggling to deal with record flooding from Hurricane Harvey, but communities throughout the country may face difficult situations throughout the school year. Even those outside the community may be involved. Localize coverage by recording how students in your school assist with calamities in other parts of the country. It is far more effective than running stock photos from news services.


Follow these steps to get started.


Free write. Write continuously for 15 minutes at a time without regard to spelling, grammar or organization. Every so often, note the time, place and circumstances of what is happening around you.

Don’t self-edit. You don’t need to share free writing with anyone, so let yourself write as ideas and thoughts come into your head. Getting everything on paper will help you remember the situation exactly as it happened.

Use all five senses. It’s easy to remember sights, but don’t forget to note the sounds and smells of what’s happening around you. Also be aware of temperature and muscular tension. What does it feel like to walk through deep water or snow? What sounds did you hear as you observed the fire?


As you become more comfortable in the situation, listen to what people are saying.


Write down the most quotable quotes.  Those who you interview need not always be students or teachers from your school. Talk to everyone affected, including friends and family members to record their impressions and reactions.

Consider emotions. Remember people affected by natural disasters may feel overwhelmed by emotions and may not feel safe discussing their feelings. Respect their space.

Don’t forget the human element. Others may find some relief in talking. Let them talk. (You are not a psychologist; don’t analyze their responses.)

By the numbers. Listen for facts & figures as they are reported by officials. Statistics and numbers help better tell the story.


After returning to school, become a storyteller.


Choose an angle. Students and teachers will be very willing to share their stories. More than likely, their stories will provide an angle for your coverage.

Collect photos. Ask for photos of your area and surrounding areas from students and your photographers. Be sure to ask permission before running a photo in your story.

Layer coverage by using multiple secondary coverage modules in addition to your feature photo, headline and copy.Always include a fact box with specific information about the event. Use as many numbers as available.

Writing in the heat of the moment brings authenticity to your coverage, while adding quotes and details lends depth.

6 tips for getting started on your 2018 yearbook

With schools back in session, planning your 2018 yearbook is top of mind. Where should you get started? Spend a few days introducing the rookies to the yearbook world by covering these staff topics and procedures. This exercise also serves as a refresher for the returning staff so everyone starts out on the same page. 

Tip #1: Create a binder or Google doc with essential information:

  • -The bell schedule, school calendar and master schedule
  • -Student alpha list with grade levels
  • -Coaches with contact information
  • -Club sponsors with contact information
  • -Yearbook representative and account executive contact information
  • -Yearbook tech help number
  • Staff member directory with addresses, mobile numbers and emails
  • -Yearbook deadlines and work day schedule.

Tip #2: Go over camera equipment and check-out procedures. Have a photo editor walk through camera basics. Teach staffers how and where to download images. Use this handy camera check-out sheet to keep track of where your staff cameras are at all times.

Tip #3: Practice interviewing each other before going out for the real thing. Encourage “why” and “how” instead of “yes” and “no” questions. Emphasize gathering details and reactions. (Check out our post on Listening for quotable quotes.)

Tip #4: Show staffers how to access yearbook pages and where to save worked photos. Getting familiar with the workflow is important so staffers can be efficient as the school year progresses and deadlines approach. Now is a great time to create user log-ins for the software your staff will be using.

Tip #5: In the design software program, point out important tools, panels and inspectors. While you may not be ready to let student design real pages, it’s a great time to have your staff practice drawing text and picture boxes, placing photos and adding lines, shapes or color. Creating a practice spread to learn the basics or refresh veteran staffers can be helpful.

Tip #6: Walk through basic design principles and writing structure. Show several examples and practice together.

Don’t worry about covering everything—just hit the basics. Students will learn and assign more meaning to the skills as they put them into practice. It’s the beginning of a new year and we’re excited to be back to yearbook!