teaching high school photography

Discussion in 'Education' started by chelmsing, Aug 19, 2009.

  1. Hi all,
    I am a new high photography teacher. I teach intro, advanced, and one middle school class. I have a lot of ideas for projects that we are going to do this year, but I am having trouble coming up with things to do day to day. There is going to be down time in the classroom, for example when I have assigned a roll of film and they have a week to do it, or when half are in the darkroom the other half will have nothing to do in the classroom. Any ideas for daily in class projects of any kind? We've made collages out of magazine photos to work on composition and watched a movie about the beginning of photography and I am starting to run out of ideas. I am trying to get the school to get me a digital projector to hook up to my computer so that we could view photos and talk about them and look at things on the internet, I think this would be a great resource but I'm still working on that. Thanks for any ideas!!
  2. usually, teaching about lighting & the nature of light on different materials w/ different setups lends itself perfectly to the controlled environ. of a classroom vs. the outside world of composition and assignment.
  3. You could have them critique each other's (recent) photos. This will give them the opportunity to see other's work, think about composition, and learn from feedback.

    Different ways of doing this:

    Blind critique.
    Each student is assigned a random number (to identify them and their photo) jumble the photos up, pass them out randomly, have them critique. You might make a little critique form to help guide them with bullets such as; "What do you find interesting about the subject of this photo? What do you like about the composition of this photo? What do you like about the photographers use of Depth-of-field for this photo? etc".

    Verbal critique.

    Have the students pair up and swap photos. Then critique them verbally. Again you probably want to give them a few bullets to guide their conversations.


    Also, you might consider some DIY craft projects. They can make reflectors out of tinfoil, cardboard and tape. Not only would this suck up some down time, but it also gives them a new tool to use.

    Other DIY projects; pinhole cameras, macro light boxes, picture frames, puzzles.
  4. These are all good answers, I guess im wondering why (and im sure to catch it for this) are we still teaching film photography in school, not that it does'nt have a place in art. Why not teach them to use layer masks in photoshop.
  5. Jeremey,
    First, you answered yourself. It has a place in art. Second, if you would like to fund all the schools so that they can satisfactorily outfit their digital labs, train the teachers in digital photography and then create a fund so that all the schools can upgrade, then maybe your suggestion to use Photoshop could be practical for all schools-especially the ones that are barely funding any type of art program.
  6. Im sure it will take another 20 years for the education system in this country to change its curriculum, I guess we should just be happy they are willing to fund photography classes at all. That being said Photoshop and other important components of digital photography should be included. Also weaving has a place in art, but they don't teach it in hs.
  7. Catherine,
    An activity that I used with pretty good success was an in-school field trip. If the students know enough about taking photos (technically), give them a theme, hand a camera to one student, tell them they have X minutes to take ONE photograph based on the theme, then bring the camera back and hand it to the next student. This goes on until class is over. (It worked better if the shooting session is around 10 minutes less than the class time because some kids go over time.) When the students aren't shooting, they were discussing photographs they saw in magazines. This way they can bring their interests into the class (they usually look at photos depicting things they enjoy-computers, gaming, girls, boys, sports, etc.-anything but photography-let them connect photography to their interests. Get them to go beyond the superficial comments and see how the images may be similar to more classic photographs.
  8. I also forgot, the camera could be a disposable b/w film camera. The exercise is more about content and discovery than f/stops and shutter speeds. Just make sure that the camera doesn't use the b/w film that uses color developer.
  9. Catherine,
    I'm trying to recall my couple of years in HS Photo Class. Actually, I think there was only one Photo Class for just one semester for either Juniors or Seniors, but since I already had my own darkroom since I was 12 and had a few free periods to fill up, I was allowed free reign of the facilites.
    The instructor was a fun charismatic guy who was a photog in Nam. He turned me on to Kenny Rogers And The First Edition of all things, not to mention feeding my head with good tips of the trade.
    He started the kids off with photograms ( or Rayographs, ala Man Ray). Then had them build pinhole cameras ( shoeboxes, oatmeal tins, etc). Composition collages as mentioned earlier in the thread, designing magazine covers using multiple images and acetate letter overlays, hand-colored prints, solarized prints, lenticular prints, making alternative lenses, and so on.
    I think the key is to tie in the Photo Class with other departments in your school. Students in Photo should work in conjunction with the Journalism class, and obviously, the Yearbook Dept. Photo students should also be assigned coverage of Theater Group, Sports reportage as an assignment with the School Newspaper....
    Meet with staff and discuss full integration of the different arts courses... Back in the good ol' days of quality Public Education , where schools made daily newspapers ( yes daily !), had debate teams,home economics course, wood shop, metals shop , printing and graphics arts depts ( ah, fond memories of the Ludlow machine ) and so forth, educators were compassionate professionals who made sure their students became useful mebers of society.
    Photo class and art class should not be a temporary distraction in a studen'ts daily shcedule. Topics of photogrpahy's relation with science, literature, 19th and 20th century history, and the mathematics of photography are plenty and should provide enough material to keep you and the kids busy for more than the alotted time.
  10. I wonder about the requirements in your district for formal classroom planning and documentation. Even if things are lenient, I think I would research photograph lesson plans to find out what kinds of documented activities are already described in a format and depth your administrators would like to see. Verizon is a sponsor of www.thinkfinity.org, one place you will find lesson plans for photography instruction. There are many others.
    You know your kids best. If they like real world projects, you might guide them to ebay for the purpose of introducing them to photographs as a selling aid. You will find forums in the community section there designed to help sellers who are struggling to get good pictures because they need them to sell stuff. Your students might like taking pictures of each other. Perhaps it would not be too dangerous to set up a small portrait studio in your classroom using ordinary reflectors and light bulbs you can get at Home Depot.
  11. Hi Catherine,
    A lot of the ideas suggested are very good, just remember that teachers of all subjects face the same or similar issue of how to engage teenage minds. Some other ideas: history (Civil War lithos, Jacob Riis, FSA's Lange), science (optics, light, macro-photography, astronomy, wildlife), current events (photojournalism, street photography). On these and other subjects students can create photo stories and/or write about them.
    Good luck,
    Phil (HS biology teacher)
  12. Now retired from teaching photography for 28 years at Santa Cruz High where I had a limited darkroom facility I faced this problem for years. I found that getting National Geographics magazines from parent donations and flea markets and asking kids to find examples of composition techniques like rule of thirds, leading lines, texture, framing, etc helped. After awhile I asked them to take the pictures and give me an idea of what exposure combination probably made the shot and what lens type was likely to have been used. The kids loved it.
    You can find more of this and the rest of the curriculum I used at scphoto.com which is my web site used with my class for over 15 years now. If you go to a secret location at scphoto.com/html/ and use the account "guest" with password "guest" you can find my film based program and assignments.
    I now teach an online version of my class that is used by about 15 schools and roughly 100 independent study students that you can find at class.scphoto.com where you will find a course called Teachers Break Room that offers teachers a place to share ideas as well as pick up a few of mine. Have fun.
  13. I'm a high school photography teacher. Some things I do with my students is take them around the school on a photo shoot. The assignment is "The Best and Worst Things about High School" and they are required to take 12 photographs with at least one macro, one portrait, and one still life. When the class is studying patterns, I take them on another photo shoot around the school where they have to find not only patterns but pattern breaks as well.
  14. I began a high school photography program 6 years ago. I had an art, BA, background and just a desire to reinvent myself as a high school photography teacher. Six years later, with 60 hour weeks, the program is now mostly in place. You need a passion for photography, a willingness to sacrifice, a desire to work with young adults. These attributes will empower you to achieve your goal. I recently put the skeleton of my program online for others to see how one teacher structured a HS photography curriculum. There are many roads up Mt Fuji.


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