7 Steps to a Publishable Photo

Readers are encouraged to submit short stories and photos for School Nutrition's annual wrap-ups of National School Lunch and National School Breakfast Weeks, as well as an annual round-up of innovative promotional activities. Photos are selected based on quality. To improve your photos for publication, follow seven easy steps.

1. Get up close and personal. Look through your camera’s viewfinder. When you are taking pictures of people, can you see the floor and the ceiling? If so, you probably are standing too far away from your subjects. Generally, you can get as close as four feet to your subject and still take a sharp, clear photo. Don’t try to fit everything in; instead, zero in on the most important details. After your photo is developed, the casual observer should see those details easily--whether they’re the smiles on your subjects’ faces, icing on cookies or words on a banner.

2. Use the right lighting. For indoor photos, use your flash and/or take photos near a window. For outdoor photos, the best light is on a cloudy day. If the sun is shining brightly, it will cast a harsh, unnatural shadow on your subject's face. It also might force subjects to squint, appearing to be grumpy in spite of their celebration! If possible, move individuals under an awning, where they can receive a flattering glow from light reflected off a sidewalk or grass.

3. Remove distractions. Is there a pole behind your subject? Are people walking by in the background? If so, you may end up with a photo that looks like a boy with a pole growing out of his head, or the hand of a passerby may appear to be stuck in your subject’s ear. Move your subject to a better place or wait for background activity to die down.

4. Get a little artsy. Don’t be afraid to use the top and bottom thirds of your viewfinder. For example, if you’re taking a photo of a girl with her lunch tray, spice it up by framing her just to the right of center, with her face in the top third of your viewfinder. Though this may seem like a small change, it can have a big impact!

5. Use quality media. Your school recently installed a photo printer, and you are dying to use it. Plus, it saves you money on developing your photos at the local convenience store. But wait! But pictures printed on regular paper won't work for a magazine and its printing process. SN only uses with photos that have been developed in color prints, slides, high-resolution digital images or special photo/print paper--not on regular paper!

No access to equipment and you want to avoid development costs? Save the photo as a digital image instead. Make sure it has a resolution of 300 pixels per inch; that it is sized in traditional 3x5 or 4x6 dimensions; and that it is saved in the format of a JPG file. This is the type of file that looks best when printed in the magazine. It can be e-mailed to

6. Label it clearly. If you take a photo of school nutrition personnel, write down their names. Record the school name, as well as its city and state. Avoid writing on the back of the photo, because sometimes the pen marks come through to the other side. Also, pen ink can transfer to the front of the next picture in the pile! It's best to use a pencil, lightly, to mark the photo number, and then write the corresponding information on a separate piece of paper. This information will help the magazine staff organize photos and write captions.

7. Mail it with care. For online submissions, send them via e-mail to or an address provided at the "call for submissions" for the annual wrap-up features. For regular mail, send a disk of digital images, or place tape on the back of each photo and attach it to a piece of paper. Don’t use paper clips or staples; they cause unsightly dents and tears. Gently sandwich photos between two layers of cardboard to protect them from bending during shipping. Most importantly, include a cover letter with your contact information and an explanation of the wonderful activities you held that week. Mail it to School Nutrition, 120 Waterfront Street, Suite 300, National Harbor, MD 20745.