Your Questions Answered

Written by Mike Taylor, CJE

Over the last several years, I became known by the title of Ask Mike. This is mainly due to the questions I get when traveling around the country or through my podcast called Ask Mike. Now it’s time to answer some of those questions.

D’Angilo in Kansas writes:

Hey Mike, when we look at our spreads, we have maybe seven or nine people pictured. We have 2,500 kids at our school. How are we ever going to get everyone in the yearbook?

Well D’Angilo, your photographers need to have a steadfast rule that they take photos of multiple people. Do you create a shot list? This list would allow the photographer to know what you are thinking for each spread. Does the designer want some vertical shots, reaction shots or groups? The list should be comprehensive. The writer, designer and photographer should all meet prior to the event so all understand.

A simple way to eliminate boring spreads is to apply shots of one person, two people and small or large groups. Let me explain.

  • One person in a shot is reflecting on whatever it is they are doing – hitting a golf ball, making a clay bowl or playing the flute. They are intense and really showcase their passion.
  • Two people in a shot is a relationship – coach/player, teacher/student, best friends. Whatever is happening is happening to this relationship.
  • Small or large group shots show interaction between people. Some people could be yelling, some talking or some even reacting to a point scored by a team.

You want the photographer to get strong reaction shots, as well as apply great composition. Another consideration would be quotes. Since the photographer is at the event, create a shot list that will allow the photographer to write down the quote he or she would like used in the caption or story.

Walsworth has more great resources in our Yearbook Suite curriculum as well as great PowerPoint presentations, eBooks or podcasts on these items.

Yearbook spread from Hagerty High School

Lauren Rose in Florida asks:

Mike, I didn’t like the way the cutouts of people looked in my book last year. It seems like they were too small and too spread out in our sidebars. How can we fix this?

Lauren Rose, this is a common problem across the board. Staffs need to think of the sidebars or mods as they do an entire spread. What is the first thing we teach you to have on an entire spread? Dominance. Something that will attract the reader. When creating a sidebar or mod, place something bigger in the space and build around it. With cutouts, you may want to group them, leaving little space from one to the other. Then place your copy and finally, leave white space. There’s an example above on the right from Hagerty High School.

Stacey in Washington asks Mike:

We want to stop getting posed photos for our book. These types of pictures do nothing for us. But every time we go out to take great shots, everyone in school poses. They are middle school kids and love to pose. How can we stop this?

This is common in many middle school books, Stacey. It is often because the cameras and photographers come out very seldom. As a result, when the kids see the photographers are out, they naturally pose.

A great way to stop this is to be out more often. Have photo scavenger hunts, or simply ask the teachers first and then have academic photo days. Often times if you act professionally, are quiet and do not interrupt, teachers will allow you to photograph great happenings in their classrooms. These events could be group presentations, guest lectures or hands-on activities. The key here is not becoming a distraction. Photographers should take their photos and no one cares you are there.

Avoid taking posed pics during social activities. If you are taking lunch photos and you see students posing, don’t take that photo. The student body will stop posing.

In a podcast I did with Mark Murray from Texas, “How do I take even better photos?” he addresses how photographers can get the best photos. Take a listen. It’s really interesting. 

Keep Asking Questions

These are three very common occurrences and questions. If you and your staff have a question or concern, you can simply go to my twitter: @yrbkmiketaylor and ask away. Be sure you use #AskMike at the end of the question. I rely on those questions to build my podcasts, articles and PowerPoint presentations. I hope you are planning to attend a summer camp and an Elite Weekend this fall. You will be glad you did!

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Mike Taylor, CJE

Mike Taylor, CJE, sees things differently, and as a journalism specialist for Walsworth, he uses that creative edge to help yearbook staffs across the country put together the yearbook they dream about. A former award-winning yearbook adviser, Mike has been awarded the JEA Medal of Merit, CSPA Gold Key and Florida Scholastic Press Association Gold Medallion. Follow Mike on Pinterest at taylormjc.