How to handle missing student portraits when designing class pages

Once school picture day has come and gone, many yearbook staffs are busy considering how to display all those smiling faces. A common question we get is, “How do I handle students who did not sit for their official portrait?” Do you ask parents to send in a photo? Do you leave them out completely? Is there a middle ground?

The short answer is yes.  There are many solutions to consider depending on the goals of your yearbook and the amount of time you can dedicate to the work needed. It’s important to be as inclusive as possible, giving those who were not able to attend picture day or who moved in after, a chance to be featured. Why does this matter? Having the most comprehensive student coverage is good for sales and marketing of your yearbook. Here are a few steps to achieving a comprehensive student section.

Deadlines Dominate

Before deciding on a solution, consider the publishing deadline for your portrait pages. This will help eliminate and consider specific options.  If you commit to tracking down and photographing every student, chances are you’ll be inserting student images into your pages moments before you publish, and that may not work with your school’s production schedule. Work with your representative on a solution that marries your needs with the needs of your delivery date. If your portrait pages are due in early February, give teachers, parents and students a deadline one week prior to your official publishing date as a buffer.

Choose a solution

Here are some options that work well for schools:

1. If you are showcasing students by teacher, it’s easy to print out your pages and hand them to the teacher with this attached checklist. On here is a space for teachers to list the students who were not photographed. Work with your administration to pull students from classes or lunches and take their snapshot to be included in the yearbook. Choose a neutral background that will coordinate well with the professional photos taken. Individual students can be added to the software and added automatically to the class or teacher pages where they belong. Not sure how to accomplish this? Give your account executive or our tech support team a call.

2. Consider asking the teachers for a list of students without photographs and display their names under a “not pictured” section on each teacher or grade page.

3. Some staffs choose to have fun with the blank “not pictured” spaces by incorporating their theme. Be sure to consider space limitations and whether including a “not pictured” graphic will push your portrait count past the page count allotted.

4. Another fun idea is creating a page or spread in your yearbook for new faces. This solution is inclusive of both student show missed picture day and those who moved in after their class pages were published and otherwise would not be listed in the yearbook.

Communication is Key

Be sure to let teachers, faculty, and sometimes parents know the plan and protocol for getting their students’ smiling faces in the yearbook. Put together a policy and post it on your school or staff’s website where parents locate ordering information. Also be sure to set expectations that sending in photos only applies to students who did not take their professional photo. Offering to replace photos for all student is not advised.

Check the ‘do not publish’ list

Schools and districts across the country must comply with the FERPA act, allowing parents to opt out of having their student’s information and photo from publication. Start early investigating how your school handles this issue. Some parents sign these forms, not realizing it excludes them from the yearbook as well as other digital publications. Here’s a handy form that can be used to contact parents and verify their intent.

Being inclusive is important, but setting a deadline, choosing a solution and clearly communicating the plan will save you time and sanity as you prepare your portrait pages for publication. For more information, check out page 28-31 of your Balfour Adviser Guide.