How to manage the portrait section of the yearbook

We are officially “in the thick of it” which means deadlines are whooshing past us so fast that it’s easy to feel like you’ve gotten caught up in a West Texas dust storm. If you’ve been caught in one of those, then you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. 

The largest section of our book tends to be the portrait section. We hear these pages called the portraits, the mugs, the mugshots, the panel pages, and sometimes even “my nightmare.” 

There are so many moving parts to this section and it’s easily where most of the complaints stem. Some proactive steps will help ensure that this section doesn’t cause too much stress.

Check and then check again

Enlist the help of the entire school for this project. We print a packet of proofs for every class and give every Advisory teacher a packet. Students must initial on their image that it is them and that their name is spelled correctly. This also helps to make sure students appear in the correct section. Teachers then must sign to verify that all of their students have been truthful and the packet is complete. Keep these for your records and to verify to any parent who complains. 

Senior sign-off

Unfortunately, some seniors opt out of participating in senior portraits. More than once in my career, that decision was completely unknown to their mom and she was NOT happy. Now, we have every senior sign that they have opted out of the portrait and understand that they will not have a portrait in the yearbook. This can be time consuming upfront, but saves us so much in the end.

Name changes

Depending on your district’s policy, you can offer students the opportunity to change their name in the yearbook. Have a policy for this and stick to it for every student. Yearbooks can be used as identity verification for things like passports, so make sure students and their parents know that changing their name could impact that. 

Staff roles

Include what each staff member does on your campus. I find myself looking at my own high school yearbook thinking “what did she teach?” This is huge for historical record keeping and doesn’t have to be difficult. We have done it a few ways, but the best was a Google Form and have teachers submit their own, so that we have a spreadsheet. I like to make this an all-at-once event. They will verify that they have submitted and checked their Advisory’s portrait packet and include what they teach/sponsor for our records. 

“Do Not Print” list

Every school and district is different, but most will allow parents to opt their student out of being in the yearbook on their registration paperwork. This list is important to follow, as some students do have special circumstances that we need to respect.

But also, sometimes people just fill out the paperwork wrong and check the wrong box inadvertently. We send out an email to every parent and a letter home with the student explaining that they are on the “do not print” list with the paperwork needed to update that. I will contact every parent three times – two emails and a phone call – before I remove them from the portrait section. 

Last step

After we have done all that, the students will check through the flowed portraits one last time to check for misspelled names, incorrectly placed students, duplicates and to finalize our list of “not pictured” students. 

I can’t suggest or recommend a portrait editor enough. Having a student whose job is making sure this section is as correct as possible is so important. 

You’ve got this!