Cost-effective Yearbook Digitization

Question: We are thinking of putting our yearbooks on-line. How can it be done economically?

The following tip came from Shad Burner, Director of Alumni Services for Southeast Missouri State University:

After exploring several options, we decided that the most practical method was to simply use a digital camera. The question then became how do we take a consistent photograph. There are “picture stands” for such a thing, but we didn’t want to spend money on that, so for about $20 at a local hardware store and a little ingenuity, we made our own. We used a piece of plywood, some threaded metal pipe, pvc, a screw for the camera and a black sheet. There is a picture attached to show how it looks completed. Our digital camera screwed onto the end of the pvc pipe. We then purchased a couple lamps with bendable necks to create the correct lighting to show the image. We had to play with the lights quite a bit to prevent a glare, but we mostly took care of that.

We had one of our students take pictures of each yearbook spread. She would simply line up the book, press the button on the camera without moving anything, and then turn the page and repeat. Once she was finished with a complete book, she moved it into a file on the computer and cleared off the photos to free up the needed camera space. We then used Adobe Acrobat to change each image into a PDF.  [Alumni Channel note:  You can also use recent versions of Acrobat to create a PDF by merging your many images — not Adobe Reader, but Acrobat.  There are probably several other programs, perhaps some free, that will convert JPG images to a PDF too.]  After that you can pretty much do whatever you want with the PDFs.  We found a great free tool online to load ours into that allows the user to magnify the photo and flip through the pages as though they were looking at the real yearbook.

It is not a perfect solution, but it was definitely an economical solution, considering our campus archives wanted to partner with us at a cost of several thousand dollars. It probably took 2 or 3 weeks for the student to take photos of all the books.  It then took us another week or two to turn them all into online PDFs.

If you have any questions about something I didn’t explain well, please feel free to ask.


Shad Burner
Director of Alumni Services
Southeast Missouri State University
Phone: 573.651.2930
E-mail: sburner-nospam at (remove -nospam before sending)