Don’t tell anyone, but yearbook advisers are really more like coaches than teachers.

Like coaches, yearbook advisers provide training in fundamentals and skills, they motivate and challenge, and they stress teamwork. They arrange schedules and plan for “practices.” They evaluate their personnel and assign positions based on talent and skill-level. They fret over obtaining and maintaining essential equipment, and they are always worried about funding, budgets and receipts. Some even take their “team” to summer camp.

Yearbook advisers might enjoy what they are doing more and stick with it longer if they would think of themselves more as coaches. When coaches don’t have the talent they need, they go out and look for it. In other words, they recruit (for our purposes, we will assume they follow the rules!). In the long term, implementing a carefully planned, deliberate staff recruitment plan can make the yearbook adviser’s job much easier and improve the overall quality of a publication. By recruiting and then retaining a multi-talented and diverse group of students, an adviser can build a yearbook staff into a yearbook journalism program.

Recruiting begins with an application process. Each adviser’s situation is different, so the process will differ from school to school. Our recruitment plan begins each year in late February or early March when I send teams of yearbook and newspaper students to our feeder middle school to make presentations to all the eighth grade language arts classes. The students explain the benefits of studying journalism and working on a publication staff. They show off our publications and emphasize the real-life skills that students gain from working with the latest desktop publishing equipment, from meeting deadlines and doing interviews, and from collaborating with a variety of other students. It doesn’t hurt that they talk about our trips to national scholastic journalism conventions and the opportunities for recognitions and awards to put on their college applications. We have a Quill and Scroll honor society chapter as one way of recognizing scholastic journalists. We also enter a number of competitions at the state, regional and national level to provide opportunities for students to earn recognition for their work.

In my early years as an adviser, I only had my students make presentations to honors-level classes at the middle school, but I soon realized that this strategy did not result in the diversity that I wanted and that my staff needed. There are enough jobs to be done in creating a yearbook that it is counterproductive to have 20 high achievers who all want to have their own way. A room full of creative geniuses might come up with cutting edge ideas, but they might never get the work finished to meet a deadline. A staff of really popular athletes and cheerleaders might not have any difficulty doing interviews, but they might not have the time to stay after school to get their work done.

After I collect the applications from the eighth grade students, I send recommendation forms to their teachers. I ask the teachers to evaluate the students on their creativity, their writing ability, their maturity level and their ability to work with others. When I have a large number of applicants, I sometimes do interviews before I can make my final decisions. Over the years we have made it so special to be selected for a high school publication staff that the eighth graders eagerly await the day when the lists are posted.

At the same time I am taking applications from the rising ninth graders, I start announcements encouraging students already at the high school to come by the staff room to pick up an application. I talk to my fellow English teachers, our art teacher, our guidance counselors and our business teachers, asking for the names of students I might want to recruit personally. I send these students an application with a personal note telling them that their teachers have told me about their special interests and skills that they might want to contribute to our yearbook staff.

Diversity is important in several respects. I want students from every grade level so that we will know the interests/opinions of all the different age groups in our school. I want top academic students who have strong writing skills, and I want students who like to work hard completing the many small jobs that make a big difference in whether or not our yearbook is completed on time. I want popular students, but I also want thoughtful, creative students who have time to make a commitment to our program. I want students who understand the “big picture,” but I also want students who can focus on the details.

Having a diverse staff pays off. Yearbook sales improve when the yearbook is inclusive — when we include as many students as possible in the book through photography, copy and alternative copy. A diverse staff can produce a publication that more closely mirrors the diversity of a student body. Coverage is inevitably better when we have a wide range of interests and backgrounds represented on the staff.

Many of my students remain on staff all four years of their high school career. I retain these students by providing new challenges and leadership opportunities and advanced skill development. As their skills and commitment increase, they take ownership of their publication. We know from practical experience as well as research that the students who get the most out of high school are the students who feel like they “belong.” After a year or two on staff, my students know that the yearbook room is truly where they belong. 

Recruitment is important to coaches and yearbook advisers because both rely on the commitment of participants to produce a team effort. Both need a variety of talents and skills in order to succeed. Yearbook advisers don’t have to count wins and losses, but they do need support from school administrators and the community. Yearbook advisers could sure use a whistle every now and then when the staff room gets a little out of control, but thank goodness they don’t have to wear sweaty T-shirts and polyester stretch pants.

AuthorYearbookSouth Staff

Having all the images you need to tell the whole story is easy if you just think of PHOTOS in FIVE

One of the biggest challenges to a yearbook program is getting photographers ready to go at the start of the year. This is especially true for my middle school program that has a 100% staff turnover every year. It is critical to get photographers ready to cover events as quickly as possible. I use a series of short, memorable rules to make sure we get all the photos we need starting on Day 1.

The first lesson I teach is to get complete coverage of an event. A great yearbook spread can be created if you photograph the event from different levels. Our five levels of photography ensure that we have what we need. Required photos are: Scene, Group, Person, Action, Detail. For a sports event this would incorporate the field or court (scene), the fans and crowd (group), the coach (person), the highlight plays (action) and the equipment (detail). An academic shoot would include the classroom (scene), the participating students (group), the teacher or student leader (person), the event or class activity (action) and the equipment for the activity (details).

The other rule that my photographers learn early is to “shoot big.” This rule works in two ways. The first is a camera setting. Always set your camera to a high resolution and leave it. This will give you photos that you can use and crop in many ways. I also expect photographers to take lots of photos. Five to seven hundred photos from one event is reasonable. A little luck is involved in great photography. The more pictures you take, the better your “luck” will be.

Photographers will still need to learn the rules of composition. They will receive instruction on depth of field, aperture values and shutter speeds. This will take time. Teaching the five levels first will have your staff taking good photos quickly, ensuring that coverage is solid from the start.


One | SCENE 
Time to shoot wide. Show the surroundings and give your reader a sense of space. This might be the stadium, the gym or the classroom. This is often the photo that is left out but will be most remembered10 years from now if you use it on a spread. You want 15% of your shots at this level. 
Photo by Carter Butte

Two | GROUP 
These are your storytelling shots. Use them to show interactions between people. Crowd shots during games and pep rallies work well for this level of photos. Look for a subject that stands out, but maintain the framing elements. Aim for 20% of your shots at this level. 
Photo by Jasmin DeLuna

Three | PERSON 
Every event is going to have an individual who stands out. This might be the coach, teacher or a student. Be sure to capture the person from head to toe. You may choose to crop the photo later, but you want options. Individual shots make great COBs. Try for 20% of your shots at this level. 
Photo by Carter Butte

Four  |  ACTION 
These are the shots that every photographer lives for. The game-winning score and the emotional reaction live here. This is where science experiments explode with color. These shots require perspective. Shoot from multiple angles and target 30% of your shots at this level. 
Photo by Jasmin DeLuna

Zoom with your lens, and with your feet. These are the often-missed photos that round out your coverage. Using light and framing are critical here. Shooting tight takes practice, but one great shot could put your spread over the top. Try to have 15% of your shots at this level.
Photo by Adam Fioretto


AuthorYearbookSouth Staff

After years of planning and saving, Julia finally opened Sweet Success, the store of her dreams, selling chocolate treats to people who shared her passion for candy. Because finances were limited, she poured her money into sugar and cocoa, not advertising, believing that word of mouth and reputation would increase her business. When friends stopped by, she offered discounts and freebies to encourage them to return. Her staff consisted of family members and friends who needed the work. Julia closed her doors within six months, her business bankrupt.

As you read this scenario, you were undoubtedly thinking, “Of course Julia went bankrupt; she didn’t train her staff correctly; she didn’t advertise; she didn’t charge enough; she didn’t follow a sound business plan.”

But were you also thinking that your yearbook program could be enhanced were you to follow the same business model that Julia so clearly ignored? Do you promote your product? While you probably accept advertising, do you also advertise? Do you choose your staff carefully or take all who apply? Once you have a staff, do you take the time to train them and then offer regular refresher courses?

Following are ways to bring sound business practices into your own yearbook program.



Good businesses know what they want and then set goals to achieve their vision. For instance, a car dealer knows he won’t increase sales by closing his eyes, tapping his heels three times and wishing really hard. Instead, he will study data, develop a plan, enact the plan, and revisit and revise the plan. The same technique holds true for your yearbook program.

Set SMART goals. A goal is not to “increase book sales.” A SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goal is to increase book sales in one year from 50 percent to 65 percent. Once that goal is set, then an action plan can be formulated to achieve it.



Choose your staff. Every potential staff member should go through an application process (even if, ultimately, you will take every applicant). This not only allows you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your potential employees, it sets clear expectations for every staffer.

Train your staff. Every job requires training. Your best opportunity is for staff members to attend a summer camp. If this is not possible, then a staff retreat before school starts will allow students to begin their training, learning not only how to produce a product, but how to work with others - both crucial skills.

Communicate with your staff. Good businesses establish clear expectations of behavior. This includes everything from sharing goals to arriving on time to appropriate behavior. Communication is also reciprocal and on-going. 

Pay your staff. One way I honor my students as employees is by paying them to sell business ads. They earn 10 percent of each business ad they sell. The yearbook program also sells enough business ads to pay all costs for students to attend summer workshops.



(Your Program, Not the Book)
While selling ads is important, making sure that those who count (the administration, teachers, student body, community and staff members’ parents) are aware of all that your students are achieving.

Keep the administration in the know. Schedule times for the principal to visit your class. Let him/her know how much you enjoyed that late night work party in a quiet school; tell him/her how hard the custodians work after hours; make sure students covering events take the time to greet him/her at that event. Always be pleasant and visible.

Thank those who help. This is not only sound business, it is good manners. Write notes to the custodian for cleaning up after you, to the secretary for checking schedules, to the teacher for allowing you to distribute that survey, to the businesses who purchased advertisements. Have a group photo made into “greeting” cards at your local copy shop with the message “Thank you for your support.” Send it to everyone who helps you (advertisers, parents, senior photographer) so that they see the faces of the students they have impacted.

Perform community service. All good businesses give back in some way or another. You can perform community service in many ways: share outstanding ad photos with businesses; take “publicity” photos for the administration when they need them; allocate a minimum number of yearbooks to distribute free to students (chosen by their counselors and delivered discreetly) who would otherwise never be able to afford one.


Job Performance

Your business is only as successful as your product and your people. If you want to be respected, do a great job.

Make appointments. Good businessmen call ahead. While this is not always possible, making appointments for interviews and ad sale follow-ups show that you are not only professional, but you wish to be treated as such.

Check your facts. Make sure that your quotes are accurate. Find out actual costs of supplies. Ask questions before jumping to conclusions about anything from a staffer missing a deadline to a broken camera.

Only promise what you can deliver. If you tell the DECA teacher that you are devoting three spreads to his program, you better do so. If you promise your students that they will receive their books on May 15, meet your deadlines.

Which reminds me — meet your deadlines. Of all the business practices that make the most sense for yearbooks, this is it.



The best advice I ever heard from an administrator was this: “Feed the teachers or they will eat the children.” This philosophy works even better for yearbook staffers.

Plan bonding activities. Businesses hold retreats and company picnics. Yearbook staffs should do the same: organize a bowling competition with the newspaper staff; meet at a staffer’s house to watch a favorite movie; host deadline celebration parties.

Celebrate successes early and often. Successful businesses learned long ago that a paycheck alone does not keep employees happy. Public, sincere recognition of a job well done offers rewards beyond money. Did Sarah write a great lead? Read it to the entire class. Post Nathaniel’s amazing photo for all to see. Choose a Staffer of the Week.

You are your staff’s greatest advocate. As you celebrate all the joys and successes of being part of this incredible business of running a yearbook, know this:

The success you achieve is not measured in Pacemaker awards or profits. Rather it comes from the students who major in journalism or design their own Web pages; it is seen in the photos they take of their own families years from now; it is their ability to set and achieve a goal. It comes years later when they tell their own children, “If you take only one class in high school, make it yearbook.”

Contributed by:
Kathy Daly
Herff Jones Special Consultant
Smoky Hill High School, CO


AuthorYearbookSouth Staff