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Lesson 4

Page history last edited by Stephanie Knox 13 years, 1 month ago

Lesson 4: How can we create photographs to tell a story?


To familiarize students with basics of photography and help them to understand the power of images as a tool for

communicating ideas.


The use of the Bridges Photography Presentation is very important for this lesson, not only as a means of

informing students about basic photography and how to approach taking photographs for their digital stories, but

also to inspire and stimulate the adventurous artist within. Help students by making friendly working groups and

giving clear instructions on where they can go around the school. Give them your ideas about interesting

locations. Plan in advance and have lots of volunteers to help supervise!


Arrange to project Bridges Photography Presentation (PowerPoint Slideshow) for class to see.

Consider arranging for a Bridges! photographer to present this lesson.

Arrange for cameras, memory cards and batteries for your class: one camera per group of (3-5 students).

One adult supervisor per group is also ideal.

Have card reader and computer ready to download photographs.

Copies of the Photography 101 handout (at least one copy for each group)


The Bridges Photography Presentation can take from 15-20 minutes to step through. Engage students

as much as possible by asking questions about the elements of each photograph. The photography

assignment appears in the last frame of the PowerPoint.

Divide students into groups of 3-5, each group gets one camera. Students should choose from the first

Shot list created in lesson 3, so each group photographs at least one idea, person or thing from the list.

Students will also shoot portraits of each other during this time. There should be at least three

photographs taken of each student. They should be allowed 20 minutes to complete activity.

Critical Reminders: Make sure students wear the camera's wrist strap at all times and don't set camera

down anywhere. Alkaline and rechargeable batteries should not mix.

Students should return all cameras, and one student should be assigned to download the day!s photos

onto a computer. Follow the guidelines for organizing and renaming files.

If time permits, project photos and facilitate a critique using theses guidelines:

1. Does the photo have enough/too much light?

2. Is it in focus? Does that matter?

3. Are there distracting or unattractive objects in the frame?

4. What is the mood of the picture?

5. Does it tell you anything about the person?

If you haven't done so already, take class portrait and post it to your class Bridges web page.


Photography 101

Photography is an incredibly powerful communication tool, and it allows you to communicate across language

barriers. Whether you are a teacher, mentor or student, as you practice photography more you will begin to see

the world in new ways.

How does one learn to take compelling photographs?

Sometimes great photos happen just by accident. But we'll have a lot more success if we try to form a clear

thought or idea, and try to capture that. The strongest photographs clearly communicate the ideas the

photographer has in mind, no matter what the subject matter. This is what we are looking for in Bridges digital

stories: photography that goes beyond snapshots, to really interesting, thoughtful and engaging photographs.

Remember, you and all the Bridges students are working to find your own creative visions, so some of these

guidelines will work for you, and some won!t. The best way to improve your work is to practice a lot, and

continually evaluate your photos to decide what you like and what you don't like.

Photography for digital storytelling

In a digital story, you use many photographs in your multimedia piece to tell the story. When you photograph your

story, you want to be sure to get a good variety of shots:

• The wide shot shows where you are and sets the stage.

• The medium shot is closer-in and shows a little more detail.

• The close up shot shows the most detail.

These different types of shots give different information to the viewer, and give variety to hold their interest, too.

Remember we're working in the format of a movie, so you need to shoot horizontally (or landscape) to maximize

your images.

OVERALL: Start with a clear idea of what you want to show

THEN: Eliminate anything in the view that distracts the viewer from that idea.


Guidelines to Practice

1. Have a single strong subject or point of interest. Eliminate any distracting details, and watch the

edges of the frame especially.

2. Practice the rule of thirds, by framing your subject away from

the center of the photo. A popular composition guide in

photography and art in general, the rule of thirds refers to drawing

imaginary lines vertically and horizontally, dividing your image into

9 parts (see diagram).

Then, compose your photo so the subject is not centered, but falls

on one of the intersection points (sometimes called power points),

or along one of the lines. The idea is that this creates more

energy and interest than simply centering your subject. For

example, instead of putting the horizon across the center, frame so it!s along the top or bottom horizontal

line. A good exercise for students can be to use this rule to compose a photograph of the same subject in

several different ways.

3. Use the best light you can find or make: Be aware of the quality and the direction of the light. Turn off

your camera!s flash (turn up the ISO if necessary) – If you're using a point-and-shoot camera, the light

your in-camera flash gives is generally going to be harsh and unappealing.

Watch how the color of the sunlight changes at different times of day, in the sky, on buildings and

landscapes and even your friends! faces.

Indirect natural light from a window is great for photographing portraits, and also works for objects and art

work, etc. that you may want to photograph and share online. You can use a piece of white foam core or

cardboard covered with aluminum foil to reflect light from a window onto your subject.

As you compose, notice how the light affects your subject. Where are the shadows? Is the subject

squinting their eyes because the light is too bright? Are they silhouetted against a bright background? Is

the picture of your school going to be more colorful and interesting at noon, or early in the morning, or

later in the afternoon?

4. Work your subject: Shoot a few different pictures of the same thing from a variety of angles, from closeup

and far away. Lie down on the floor, stand on a chair, etc…how does this change what your picture

looks like?

5. Get closer to your subject: Often we try to photograph from too far away. The best and cheapest

“zoom” you have is your feet! Walk closer to your subject.

6. Watch background shapes, lines, and colors. Does your subject blend into the background? Does the

horizon line look like it cuts through your subject!s neck? Do they have something “growing” out of their

head, like a post or tree?

7. Draw the viewer into your picture and keep their interest by using leading lines (a road, path, creek,

shoreline, tree branches, etc.) and selective depth of field.

8. Keep your horizon straight …if you have your horizon on an angle; make sure that was your intention.

9. Crop carefully in the viewfinder. Try to fill the frame. It is best to do your cropping in the viewfinder,

rather than planning to “fix it later” in Photoshop – that just creates extra work!


Lesson 4 Extension: Photography, Media and Truth


To introduce the complexities of producing media that will communicate one's message with integrity, as well as

communicate across cultures. Attention to this topic is essential for students of today and this lesson only hopes

to open an ongoing discussion.


Arrange to either: project the Bridges website and view photographs taken by Bridges students, or have

available 10-20 photographs from a magazine, such as National Geographic, where different cultures are


Link to “What's in the News” media literacy lesson by Facing the Future. www.facingthefuture.org Use as

resource to design your class lesson.

Review the adapted lessons below or link to the Center for Media Literacy www.medialit.org for ideas on

expanding this lesson to suit your course requirements.

Collect white paper, pencils and several photographs from the newspaper.


Project or distribute photographs of various cultures and guide students through the Looking at

Photographs from around the World activity. This may be done as a class, in small groups or

individually. It may be written or used to promote discussion only.

To Complete the Photo: Have students paste a photograph from the newspaper, anywhere on an 8”x11”

blank sheet of paper. Instruct students to imagine that this image has been cropped, and to draw the

remainder of the photograph. This can be completed as homework. Post student drawings in class. Be

sure to allow discussion time to compare the variety of interpretations, and then ask students, “why they

think they were asked to do this exercise”. Use this activity to reinforce the principals of visual/media



Looking at Photographs from around the World

When you are presented with a photograph, ask yourself questions about it.

You might be surprised what the picture will tell you.

1. What culture is represented in the photograph?

2. What objects are in the picture, which help you know more about the culture?

3. Is there a story associated with the picture?

4. Is there a celebration associated with the picture?

5. How are the people in the picture feeling?

6. Where and by whom do you think the picture was taken?

7. Does the picture make you think the photographer was a friend or relative of the subject, or an outsider?

8. When do you think the picture was taken? (year, season, time of day)

9. What questions would you like to ask the photographer?

10. What questions would you like to ask the people in the picture?


Answer the questions above then write a short summary of what you have discovered from reviewing the


Complete the Photo

It!s hard to know why photographers make the choices that they do when taking a photograph. Photography can

be used to show any portion of the story that the photographer chooses to reveal. Try this exercise and discover

the power of the choices you can make.

1. Assume that your photograph from the newspaper has been cropped. Place it on your blank sheet of paper

and imagine the rest of the photograph.

2. Paste the photograph wherever you wish on a blank sheet of paper.

3. Draw around the photo, filling in the rest of the sheet of paper to show the “remainder” of the photograph, or

what was beyond the edges of the picture.

4. Have a look at what your classmates imagined. Are any of their ideas the same as yours?


Why do you think you were asked to do this exercise?


Basic Photography Terms

Aperture: Size of lens opening through which light enters your camera, measured in f-stops. The smaller the

number, the bigger the opening, and thus the more light that enters. Also, with a bigger aperture you get a

shallower depth of field, and vice versa.

large aperture small aperture

F1.0 F2.8 F4.0 F5.6 F8.0 F11 F16 F22

Depth of field: The distance in front of and behind the subject that appears in focus, controlled by the aperture

you use. A large aperture gives a shallow depth of field (often used for portraits with the person in sharp focus and

the background blurred). A very small aperture will make a long depth of field, where everything appears in focus.

DPI: Dots per inch; used in discussing resolution of a printed image (literally, ink droplet density).

Exposure: Controlled by a combination of aperture and shutter speed.

So, these two combinations of aperture and shutter speed have the same exposure: F11 at 1/30, F8 at 1/15.

F-stop: Aperture.

ISO: Film speed, indicating the film!s sensitivity to light. Generally ranges from 50 to 1600, with a higher number

being more sensitive and thus appropriate for situations with less available light. Digital cameras allow you to set

this number, which sets the sensitivity of the camera!s sensor.

JPEG (or JPG): Most commonly used digital image file format.

PPI: Pixels per inch, used in discussing image resolution on a computer screen (Viewing in Photoshop, on the

web, etc).

Pixel: Picture element; the smallest piece of an image.

Resolution: The number of pixels in an image. See PPI and DPI.

Shutter Speed: How long the film or sensor is exposed to light, measured in fractions of a second. (Long

exposures shutter speeds are expressed in seconds, up to minutes or hours)


1 " # 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000

Shutter-Priority: A mode on some cameras that allows you to set the shutter speed, and the camera sets the

aperture for the correct exposure.

Stop A change in exposure (see Exposure). To stop-down means to make your aperture smaller.

Zoom Optical zoom magnifies your subject, making it appear closer.


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