When you’re a yearbook adviser, you’re part of an exclusive club. No one quite knows the joys and struggles of the job like other advisers. Whether you’re new to the role or you’re a seasoned veteran, there’s always something you can learn from your fellow advisers.
Rhonda Levens of Syracuse High School in Syracuse, Kansas, is a yearbook rock star. Of the 26 years she’s been teaching, she’s been a yearbook adviser for 21 of them. Her passion for the yearbook is only trumped by her passion for teaching her students. She has a collection of impressive yearbook honors, including:
- Syracusan inducted in NSPA Hall of Fame, 2016
- NSPA All-American 12 years in a row, 2017-2005
- CSPA Gold Medalist 14 years in a row, 2017-2003
- NSPA Best of 2017, 2014, 2010, 2009
- Lifetouch Design Contest 1st place 2017-2015
- Lifetouch Creative Inspiration 2017-2015
She leads her teams to create noteworthy designs that elevate her award-winning yearbooks. Today she answers some of the most common questions she gets from other advisers in hopes of helping everyone create a yearbook they can be proud of. *Please note Rhonda is using InDesign and Photoshop 6.0.
Why is it important for all schools to have at least one copy of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements for yearbook staff to use?
I couldn’t imagine students not having Photoshop to correct images or create cobs for their layouts. There are always situations where the lighting may not be optimal (auditorium, gym, classroom) and the staffer will need to make adjustments. Or to create an illustration for their DPS. Photoshop allows the student to have more control over correcting the images as well as be creative in their designing.
Why is photo resolution so important, and how do I make sure my photo is the correct size and correct resolution in Photoshop?
Before closing a photo in Photoshop, I always have my students go to Image and then Image size, and uncheck the Resample image box so that the height, width and resolution are all linked together. Then they can change the image to 300 resolution (300 dots of ink per inch by inch). After saving the image, students can place it on their page, holding down command and shift to resize.
What process do you use when editing photos for yearbook?
We use Actions to speed up the process of editing the photos; instead of having to click in menus, we just click the play button for each action. We lighten the image, color balance, adjust levels and run an action called CoffeeShop Vivid 3, which intensifies the colors. We throw away the vignette layer and adjust the percentage of the effect (25-35 percent) before flattening the image.
What are some of the special effects your students have created for yearbook when using Photoshop?
We have created photo illustrations from a student snorkeling to a student re-enacting a bad dream of running away from zombies. The challenge is to match the lighting of the cob to the background image as well as softening the edges of the cob so it looks natural.
You had some beautiful profiles in your portrait section last year. How did you create those? (Half of it was a person’s face; the type on the opposite side was set in the shape of the other side of the face.)
In InDesign, after placing the head, students placed a white box over half the face, turning the transparency down to 30 percent so they could still see the face. The body copy was placed over the transparent side of the face. Students would shift return to move type to next line. When completed, they would turn the transparent layer to 100 percent.
What are some of the best teaching exercises/methods you use to teach students Photoshop?
I have a folder of images that I use to teach with. After I go through the basics, I have a challenge image that students have to fix (dark, red and yellow, blemishes, red eye) in addition to cobbing out a person. I have a “cheat sheet” for students to reference as they are learning or if they need to go back to review how to do something. It has images and step-by-step instructions for how to:
- Lighten a photo: Students learn how to lighten a photo by duplicating the background layer and changing the blending mode to lighten. They can also go to Image, Adjustments, Levels and slide the input levels (gray and white) to the left to lighten.
- Fix blemishes: In the toolbox, students learn how to use the patch tool to fix blemishes or remove dust from scanned photos. Make a selection with patch tool and drag to a clean area that you sample. Use the clone tool on edges or areas that have distinct details like hair, eyebrows or patterns in clothing.
- Remove red eye: To fix red eye, zoom in on eyes. Use the sponge tool (O) and make sure the mode is set to desaturate, flow 100% and vibrance is unchecked. The brush needs to be smaller than the area you are fixing. After desaturating, you can also use the burn tool (O) to burn back in areas of the pupil that might be washed out by the flash.
- Make color corrections: To color correct, Image, adjustments, color balance (command B). Make sure preview box is selected so changes can be seen. If a photo has too much yellow, move the slide toward blue. Too much red, move the slide toward cyan. Always move sliders in small increments, no more than + or – 10.
What is the best way to create a cut-out background photo in Photoshop?
- Click on edit in quick mask mode at bottom of toolbox (Q).
- Set foreground color to black and background color to white in swatches located at bottom of toolbox (D).
- Use the polygonal lasso tool to select an area, making sure to close the selection (you will see marching ants).
- Shift F5 or Edit, Fill to fill the area with foreground color (black). It will not be the color black — it will be whatever the default color is for quick mask options — such as green.
- Use the brush tool with a hardness of 100 percent to do details like hair, shoelaces, etc.
- Click on the Channels tab on the right side of the screen to see the thumbnail of what you are doing on the cob. You can double click on the thumbnail to open up the quick mask options box to change the color of the mask (such as to change it from green to pink).
- After you’ve filled in everything that you want to keep (it will look like a silhouette), you need to load the selection. Hold down the command key and click on the quick mask thumbnail in the channels tab. You will see marching ants going around in the selection. If the marching ants are going around the outside border of the page, you will need to inverse the selection using keyboard: Command, Shift, I (or choose select from menu at top and click inverse).
- Go to the Paths tab and there is a drop-down menu on the right (you will go here three times).
- Select Make Work Path, tolerance 0.5, click OK. You will see a thumbnail named work path. The white stays and the gray goes away. If you see the background as white you will need to go back and reload the selection and make sure that the marching ants are just around the part of the image that you want to keep.
- Select Save Path, Path 1, OK.
- Select clipping Path, 0.2 device pixels, OK.
- You will now see that the words Path 1 are white and outlined in black. This means that your cob has been created correctly.
- Go to Image, Image Size, and then uncheck the resample Image box so that the width, height and resolution are all linked in the document size box. Change resolution to 300.
- Save image in format that you or your school works in (.psd, .png, .tiff).