Ask a Photographer: How to Take Portraits for your Yearbook

It comes as no surprise that your yearbook photos are important – a picture is worth a thousand words, after all. If you’re taking pictures especially for your book, it can be hard to know where to make a start!

Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket, we’re all super used to snapping quick photos. But – capturing an actual portrait of someone can be hard! People can be camera shy, and how can you overcome a fit of giggles in front of the lens?

We were lucky enough to speak to portrait and headshot photographer, Lisa Bornø, to see what tips she could pass on to us.

Hi Lisa! So, starting with the basics – what kind of camera do you use?

I use my Canon EOS 5D mark 2 and my iPhone 8+

And how many pictures on your iPhone camera roll right now?

Only 7341 on my new iPhone, but I think I’ve taken around 30-40,000 photos over the years with my DSLRs.

Do you use any kind of photo editing apps or software?

On my iPhone I mainly use Instagram for my personal account, they have some really easy editing options to enhance your photos. Professionally, I also use Photoshop on all of my images before uploading them to Instagram.

Great! I know everyone takes pictures on their phones all the time – what tips would you pass on to anyone using their phone to point and shoot?

If you’re taking a landscape photo, make sure the horizon is straight or straighten it after! This applies if there’s any lines in the photo (like buildings, railings, lamp-posts) – just make sure the prominent line is straight!

For portraits, make sure the person is facing the light and have a look at the shadows in the face. And play around with angles and perspectives! You can take great photos with your phone these days.

Taking photos of people can get a bit awkward! How do you make the subjects of your photos relax?

I try to make them feel at ease – we’re both working to get the best result! Being vocal when I’m taking photos helps as well. It usually takes about 50 frames before someone feels more relaxed, so I spend that time taking some test photos and chatting.

When you’ve taken so many photos, how do you choose the final shot?

With portraits I go by instinct – I feel it when I see the right one! With head shots it’s more of a collaboration with the other person. I look at the light, composition and the feel of the photos and the ones I choose are the ones where I feel those things are on a higher level then the rest. Those are the ones that makes me go YES when I’m selecting.

If you were taking photos for a yearbook right now, how would you start?

Seasonal photos are a good way of creating a timeline for your book! Now it’s autumn, it’s nice to have some photos of the changing colours to frame your event photos. Seasonal photos will also trigger memories around the photos when you look back at them ten years from now!

Everyone uses Facebook and Instagram to store photos and keep track of their special moments – why do you think printing your memories is still so important?

There’s something special about physical photos – it’s like getting a letter instead of an email. And your printed photos are not in danger of disappearing if your hard drive crashes!

Things like photos prints and yearbooks are physical memories and that’s why I think Polaroids and instant cameras have made a big comeback. When I was little, looking through my grandparents’ photo albums was one of my favourite things to do!

Amazing, thank you Lisa! Do you have any final bits of advice for yearbook photographers?

The best tip I’ve ever been given is more of a quote: what separates professionals from the amateurs is knowledge of light.

All images courtesy of Lisa Bornø. Find her portfolio and contact details here, and keep up with her work on Instagram.