Posts in category Photography

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.

Get a great shot, get some cash!

There’s a great thrill in capturing an unexpected fumble or a pick-six on Friday night. Seeing a defensive block with the volleyball in the frame and the player in focus is a win. Snapping the shutter at just the right moment is the difference between a great sports photo and a mediocre one. And it could mean some extra spending cash.

With fall sports in progress, it’s an ideal time to submit action shots for our Great Shot Photo Contest, accepting entries Nov. 13-30. We’re looking for your best photos that show sports, action or movement.

And even better, that’s not our only category! You can also enter photos in a brand new category – Creative Lighting. We’d love to see photos featuring unusual uses of sunlight, artificial light or light in motion.

To improve your chances of winning, make sure:

  • Images are sharp and in focus
  • Faces are visible (for the action category)
  • The ball is in the frame (for sports like tennis, volleyball and football)
  • The photo depicts some type of action, motion or movement (for the action category). Avoid submitting emotion photos for the action category.
  • The photo displays some type of unusual or creative lighting, whether it is flash, sunlight or artificial light (for the creative lighting category)
  • The subject fills most of the frame
  • Photos are not overexposed, underexposed or poor quality (noise, low resolution)

Photographers can enter up to three times a day at our Facebook page (Click the “Great Shot Photo Contest” tab on the left) and vote for their personal favorites.

We’ll feature entries on social media throughout the contest and choose first, second and third place winners as well as several honorable mentions. Photographers will receive certificates and the top three photos will receive Visa gift cards, up to $500.

In addition, the People’s Choice category is back and we’ve added a K-8 division for elementary and middle school students to enter. We’ll pick the top three winners and honorable mentions in the K-8 category as well for certificates and gift cards. And don’t forget, advisers can enter too!

Here’s a flyer to hang in your room to remind photographers to enter. #balfourgreatshot

Good luck shooting!

Turn your fans into photographers with ImageShare

When the bulk of a yearbook is photography, it can be stressful ensuring every event is covered. And that stress can be exacerbated when it turns out photos are blurry or poor quality. Having another photo source can relieve some of that stress. ImageShare can help.

A free Balfour app available on iOS and Android mobile devices, ImageShare allows people outside the staff to share photos right from their mobile device. The app is free and available by searching for BalfourImage Share in your app marketplace. It allows anyone in the school community to share photos right from their mobile device. Contributors also have the option of uploading photos from their computer by going to

Yearbook photographers can’t be everywhere, so this is a great way to ensure all school events and activities are covered. It’s also a nice back-up when staff photographers miss a crucial shot, have poor images or not enough photos of an event.

As a bonus, the ImageShare app is an opportunity to get students and parents excited about the yearbook. Students are more likely to buy books if they know the games and events they’re at are being covered. Plus, advertising the app is another way to market the book. The more students are reminded about ImageShare, the more they’re reminded about the yearbook.

To get started, advisers should contact their yearbook representative or account executive to set up an ImageShare account. Then, use this customizable ImageShare flyer to spread the word. Note there’s a place on the flyer to fill in your project number and if you choose, an upload code. Your school community will need this information to create an account.

Once they’ve created an account, they can start submitting pictures. Up to five photos can be uploaded at a time and captions can be added as well. Images should be in JPEG or PNG format and must be 20MB or smaller.

The uploaded images are automatically delivered to your school’s StudioWorks+, myYear or BalfourTools yearbook project. Advisers and yearbook staffs can review all the photos and determine which ones will be used in the book.

If you’ve been stressing about yearbook photos, it’s time to relax. Let ImageShare take some of that photo stress away.



How to prep for school picture day to save time (and your sanity) around deadlines

School picture day is a rite of passage for students across the country. Page after page filled with smiling faces is what makes a yearbook so timeless. As the yearbook adviser or coordinator, doing a little planning before picture day could save you days—if not weeks—of work later in the year. Here are some tips to consider before, during and after school picture day to maximize your time and save your sanity.

Plan Ahead

Start by doing a little legwork with your school’s front office. What photography company do you use? Similar to yearbook companies, photography companies also have representatives who work with your school to coordinate picture day and delivery. Request contact information for your rep and reach out to introduce yourself before the big day. It is helpful to use this opportunity to:

     Ask when you can expect the portraits to be delivered

     Ask if portraits will be sent via disk or digital download

     Request large-format picture sizes to prevent print quality issues (640 x 800 pixels) 

If you are an elementary school and you intend on using the professional group photo for each class page, it is vital to confirm the group photo date now and when you can expect the digital files. Many photography companies do not release the digital files for group photos, or they are taken too late in the year to meet publishing deadlines. If you find yourself in this situation, picture day is perfect for snapping your own class photo after the students file through the line for individual shots.

Before picture day, decide what your class pages will look like. Do you have space for candid and quotes? Gather these on picture day while students are waiting in line for their portraits. Click here for yearbook question ideas for students.

Lastly, contact with your school’s administration and ask for their support on picture day for getting the teachers and faculty to sit for their individual portraits. Some principals will be eager to help as they also use these photos in the school. Collaborating on this will keep you from hunting down teacher photos at deadline time.

School Picture Day

Plan on getting to school early to meet the photographers and the photo representative. Putting faces with names is helpful for building a great working relationship with your rep. (They can save you in a pinch!) If you are not able to be there the whole day, ask for volunteers from other parent volunteers or your yearbook team. As teachers are bringing their classes down, ask for their support in checking the spelling of student names on the namecards provided by most companies. If a student’s name is misspelled, mark the change so the photography company can update the student record before it makes its way onto the portrait disk.

As students are filing in, have your camera ready to capture candid moments. Write down the names of students and their classroom teacher or grade so you can refer back and easily sort the photos after the day is over. If you plan to fill extra space in your yearbook with Q&As and quotes, now is the perfect time to gather this information. Not sure what to ask?

As mentioned in the planning phase, if your photographer will not release or you cannot get the group shots of the classes in time, today is an excellent time to grab the class and have them pose for a fun photo outside on the playground or in front of the school. Doing it now will save you individual trips to every classroom later in the year.

Let students know yearbooks are on sale by handing out order form. The more opportunities to promote the yearbook the better.

Does your school do something special in the yearbook for the oldest grade? Using picture day to capture those additional poses or quotes is ideal. See examples here.

Wrapping everything up

You’ve survived picture day! It may have been an exhausting experience, but you’ll thank yourself later, we promise. Be sure to send a thank you to the administration and teachers for their help. Being visible and proactive in your communication helps get teachers on board with the importance of yearbook.

Before you relax and get back to your normal routine, be sure to immediately file portraits into folders by teacher or grade. Transfer any quotes or caption information into a place for safe keeping (if using StudioWorks, enter caption details directly in the image description.)

Take time to follow up with the photography company representative to confirm retake day and the delivery of the portrait images. Mark your calendar so you can easily remember to reach out if you have not heard from them by the date promised. Note: It is best practice to only use the photos provided after retake day. Doing this allows the photo company to resolve duplicates and ensures you have a more complete and accurate collection of student images.

Feeling accomplished yet?


The Great Shot Photo Contest is back

Don’t get all emotional, the Great Shot Photo Contest is finally back. Actually, do get all emotional. It’s one of our categories!

We loved offering two categories in the fall so we’re doing it again with the spring contest. Students and advisers can enter photos in two divisions – emotion and involvement.

It’s easy to participate and a great way to spark a little competition and creativity in your students. As an incentive to enter, have students submit their best photos for a grade. We’ll feature different photos on social media throughout the contest and photographers can win up to $500.

You’ll be able to vote online for your favorites and we’ve added a People’s Choice award. The contest runs from April 3-21 on our Balfour Facebook page. Yearbook staffers or advisers (on their students’ behalf) are welcome to enter. You can enter up to three images per student, per day.

Here’s a flyer to hang in your room to remind photographers to enter. #balfourgreatshot

Get your photos ready! Contest entries will be accepting starting April 3rd.