Updated: May 4
Two week's ago, we were able to come together with our partners in the yearbook sector and build a new set of guidelines and standards that will forever shape our future. Our sole goal was to establish a working relationship with the largest U.S. yearbook companies and the leaders of the school photography industry to start to engage in opportunities that will not only keep our traditions within schools but grow participation in both industries. We plan to do this by focusing on creating opportunities for all schools across America to have the time to include all students, faculty, and staff in these traditions - regardless of their socioeconomic status - and by working on a collaborative national marketing campaign.
The new guidelines and standards have very specific new language that you should be aware of:
For all U.S. schools starting school on or before Aug. 13, the first available yearbook deadline for underclass or senior portraits can be Dec. 3, 2021
For all U.S. schools starting school between Aug. 14 through Aug. 27, the first available yearbook deadline for underclass or senior portraits can be Dec. 21, 2021
For all U.S. schools starting school after Aug. 27, the first available yearbook deadline for underclass or senior portraits can be Jan. 21, 2022
If a yearbook provider requires an earlier deadline, then that yearbook provider should contact the school's contracted photography provider to pay for any expediting fees or available options.
Last, school photographer images should only be used for the panel sections of the yearbook and not for use for a digital yearbook or the cover of yearbooks. If a yearbook provider wishes to utilize one of these options, they should contact the school’s contracted photography provider to pay for whatever options they allow or wish to provide.
This new language will allow school photographers much more time to schedule schools and allow all students the opportunity to be photographed and included in their yearbook. We are currently working on marketing material (PDFs) that will be printed as well as digitally shared to schools and districts throughout the country. This will help mitigate yearbook advisors from arbitrarily making deadlines in October for seniors or underclass that previously restricted many students and staff from being included in their own yearbook.
With the unknowns of what the 2021-2022 academic school year will look like, there is much discussion that Picture Days, as we know them, may forever be changed. Virtual student picture days may never go away, and that potential of a third day does not make these dates any easier. Even though many schools and districts across the country have either removed their traditionally requested rebate or lowered the amount desired making this more viable, there are still only so many days on a calendar with the number of photographers you have on staff. In many markets, however, this will allow many more students the opportunity to be photographed thus allowing the potential of more participation both in yearbook sales and in school picture sales.
This is just the start. By working with the yearbook companies to help sell more yearbooks and more picture packages, we can help make our rich traditions more powerful than ever. COVID has taught all of us schools and parents value these products more now than ever before.
While that is a huge win, we have much more cooking. SPOA is currently working with the leaders in the software industry to have one export, universally for all schools and districts across the country, regardless of what software they use for their school administration, library, cafeteria, or any other related school software. We have already had one meeting and have taken that feedback and started working with our legal team to build what will be the new standard for all U.S. school software exports for the 2021-2022 academic year. Our sole hope is we make your jobs easier and streamline this process so you can allocate those precious resources on delivering higher-quality portraits and customer service for your customers.
Sometimes when leaders work together for the greater good some amazing things happen. One of these happened during that first meeting. David Lake, our committee chairman asked: “What, if any, pain points do software companies have caused by school photographers?” Unanimously the companies stated bad image data with the exports. Many of these companies did not realize how we were obtaining the data and how cumbersome and tedious this process is. They explained, when school photographers submit bad data from the school, it makes their jobs ten times more challenging. A few of the companies requested SPOA compile a universal export standard for them to build a button on each of their software systems dashboards that would export exactly what all of us need. Then any school system employee would simply have to touch the button and send that file to the respected photographer and be 99% more accurate on what they have in the past received. I believe this could radically change many operations in companies across the country.
While all of the software pieces are falling into place, we are working diligently on many more industry-changing opportunities that will shape our future. We are currently working on new photographer training and certifications, and also the same for sales and operations staff. We are in the process of building a Women’s Advisory Council as well as an Industry Partner Council. Both of these groups will help steer our organization and future in many ways. We are so excited about the leaders that have already submitted interest in helping lead in some capacity and building these groups for a bright future.
Last, we are in the final stages of launching “The National School Photography Photographic Awards for 2020-2021.” This will be a competition allowing our industry to show the 131,000 schools and 13,500 plus districts across this country how amazing and talented many of you are. Growing up as a photographer, this is probably the thing I am most excited about this year. Make sure you and your teams are saving your best images of this year.
As all of these items above are moving quite well you may take notice of a few more things. Much of our website will start to change in the near future as we continue to add resources and content for our member companies and their teams. From training videos in all aspects of our industry to valued resources from industry partners and suppliers.
Once again, none of this would be possible without the leaders on both our Governing Board and Executive Board as well as the companies and industry partners that stepped up and believed in our vision both by their works and by their financial support. It does not, however, stop with them. We have already seen what can happen when we work together for a greater tomorrow. I would ask each of you that are not currently members or are an industry supplier have not reached out to join our efforts that you change that today. Get off the sidelines and jump in the game. There are plenty of places to serve and to participate. Don’t wait – join us today!
Of course, there is much more to come. We will need your voice and participation as we grow and work to advance change; further diversity, equity, and inclusion; and work to build a true trade association that is for all companies, large or small, and for all industry partners and suppliers.
We are all in this together. Help make this industry what it once was and step off the sidelines and into the game and join SPOA today!
School Photographers of America