May 13, 2013 / Photography

Five summer assignments for yearbook photographers

Written by Bill Trueit

Few things demonstrate the dedication of a photographer to improve more than continuing to take images well after the last yearbook assignment has been completed.

Who is more in shape at the beginning of the cross country season, the person who ran all summer long or the person lacing up their running shoes on the first day of turnouts? Many long-distance runners exceed 100 miles a month. Likewise, serious photographers measure their photo fitness in exposures. Who will be a better photographer in the fall, the one who shot dozens of photos during the summer break or one who shot thousands of exposures?

Whether it is the last deadline in the spring or summer break, here are five suggestions on how to be a better photographer for the coming year.

1. Document the end of the year.

For schools with spring deliveries that do not do a spring supplement, your yearbook will miss a few important events like senior prom, sports playoffs and senior graduation. One great way to get a yearbook rolling in the fall is to meet as a staff a week or two before the school year starts and finish a spread or two documenting what happened at the end of the previous year. This cannot be done without advance planning and having the shots in the can.

2. Support other school publications.

Student newspapers are obvious. Seniors on a student newspaper are mentally and physically out the door before the end of the school year. If they publish a paper after seniors have graduated, support from the yearbook staff will be appreciated.

School administrators also may need your help. While the class catalog may be completed, school staff like to have new photos for the coming year. Shots of your school building and students working in the classroom can be useful. Your school may need to document reports to government agencies to demonstrate various goals. Photos of staff interacting positively with students help illustrate required reports by school officials.

3. Attend a yearbook or journalism camp.

Yearbook camps, like the ones offered by Walsworth, feature teachers from schools with strong programs. You may already have a great photography teacher at your school, but you will rarely attend one of these conferences without picking up new tricks from one of these instructors. Whether you go to a yearbook camp or a journalism camp, you will also come in contact with excellent photographers from other schools around your region. It’s like going to an all-star game for photographers. If you want to see if you’ve “got game” with some of the best student photographers around, do not plan a summer without a yearbook or journalism camp.

4. Attend local parades and festivals.

Parades and festivals have it all. Politicians, musicians, vintage cars, fire trucks, hot air balloons, motorcycles, sporting events, amusement rides, an unlimited variety of foods, animals of all sizes, and people of all types will be there. These events will take place during the best weather of the year. If you can’t get a good photo here, take off the lens cap!

Yearbook photographers should take their camera with them everywhere over the summer, even when going on vacation to a mountain resort. (Photo by Yama Sultani)

Yearbook photographers should take their camera with them everywhere over the summer, even when going on vacation to a mountain resort. (Photo by Yama Sultani)

5. Take your camera everywhere.

You never know what you will find. Last summer, I went to a mountain resort. I got a late start and when I arrived at the last stop on the gondola, the sky was hazy and the view of the mountain range was not worth much. I noticed a crowd a little off in the distance. When I arrived, I found myself in the front row of a wedding featuring a couple who were well-known mountain bike competitors. Other than the minister and a small bouquet of flowers, this wasn’t a traditional wedding ceremony. The bride and groom, along with most of the wedding party, were wearing biking gear right down to their knee pads. After the vows and a solo guitar piece, the party mounted their trail bikes and rushed down the mountain. Camera in hand, I was ready and captured a unique and wonderful event on the top of a mountain in the Canadian Rockies!

Summer is a great time to keep up with your skills and fill your portfolio with the types of images you won’t have the opportunity to get during the school year. Do not find yourself returning to school in the fall without having shot a lot of exposures. Your competition will get off the blocks fast and be able to out-distance you at the start of the next school year.

Bill Trueit

Bill Trueit is the former yearbook adviser and photography teacher at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Washington, and a part-time photographer. He has covered professional soccer and concerts, and has been known to shoot photojournalistic photos even while working as a radio reporter.