Teaching Technical Documentary Photography Skills: Focusingprint resource
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We envision this being one of the first lessons taught in a photography workshop, if not the very first. Please feel free to modify or incorporate this plan into any other lesson plan ideas you may have.
Students learn how to focus a compact digital camera.
1. What skills and concepts do students need to learn, practice, and understand in order to take a good photograph?
2. What is a "good" photograph?
3. How can my students use these skills to document their life, culture, and community in a way that students from other cultures and communities could learn from my students' images?
1. Students will be able to identify areas of an image that are soft and areas that are sharp.
2. Students will be able to demonstrate how to select a subject to focus on using a compact digital camera.
1. Class Discussion: Sharp vs. Soft Focus
Use examples of images with extreme depth of field. Ask students to identify which parts of each image are "soft" and which are "sharp." Also ask students to identify what they think the main subject of each photograph is, and ask them what they think the photographer wants them to look at first. See how that corresponds to what's in focus in each image.
2. Focusing Tutorial
Now teach the students how to create those areas of soft and hard focus in their own images. Draw a simple picture of the camera on a chalk board or piece of paper, perhaps with an enlarged shutter button for demonstration's sake. Next to that drawing, draw the camera with the shutter button pressed halfway down. Lastly, draw the cameras with the shutter button fully depressed. This will help reinforce the three different positions in which the shutter button can be.
Explain that in order to get the camera to focus, the students will first need to press the button halfway down and hold it until the focusing box on the screen turns green. Draw this box on the second camera now.
Explain that once the focusing box turns green, students will need to then press the shutter all the way down, WITHOUT letting go of the button first. (Often, students will focus the camera, then remove their finger from the shutter before pressing it all the way down to take the picture, thus losing the focus lock that they had when the shutter was held halfway down.)
3. Focusing Scavenger Hunt
Organize a scavenger hunt for objects in the classroom or outside the school for your students to take photographs of. Write the objects on the board or have a handout for each student. Have students work independently or in pairs, depending on how many students are in your workshop. Once a student successfully takes a photograph of one of the objects on the list, have them come show you their image. If the object is in focus, give them the OK to find the next object on the list. If students are working in pairs or groups, have the students who do not have the camera identify what their next subject is going to be, and perhaps draw it in their journal. Then, have students switch back and forth between drawing and photographing. The student or pair of students to get the most objects checked off their list within the given time frame win the game.
1. Try to call on every student during the class discussion to make sure that each student gets a chance to demonstrate that they understand the difference between soft and hard focus. If students are shy or having difficulty, have the class "pair and share" and talk with a buddy about their answers before sharing them with the class.
2. Have students volunteer to demonstrate in front of the class the skills that you taught in the focusing tutorial. Have them verbally describe every action they are doing as they choose their subject, hold the shutter half way down, wait for the focusing box to turn green, and then fully depress the shutter to take the picture. Perhaps wait until three students in a row are able to successfully take a photograph that is in focus before introducing the scavenger hunt.
3. Be strict when evaluating images in the scavenger hunt. Before looking at an image, ask each student what the subject is. Then check to see if that subject is in focus. If it is not, be sure to send them back to try again. By being clear now the students will learn to take their time and do it right the first time. Also, when they do it right, give them a lot of positive encouragement and specific praise that describes how much better the photograph looks when the subject is in focus.
Vocabulary of the Day
Depth of Field
-Chalkboard, whiteboard, or large piece of paper
-Compact Digital Cameras
-Scavenger Hunt handouts (optional)
-Photography book, printed photographs, or images on a laptop. Particularly images that show extremes of depth of field.
Going Beyond (Optional)
*Scavenger Hunt Ideas:
-Your favorite book
-Something you've never seen before
-Your favorite thing on the wall of the classroom
-Something that you could not live without
*Have students take portraits of one another that are in focus. Have them take photos of each other's hands to show extreme depth of field. Have them display gestures of approval and disapproval (ie. thumbs up or thumbs down), greeting and goodbyes, yes and no, etc. These gestures are often culturally-specific and could provide valuable cross-cultural lessons for students from other cultures.
*Have students practice "pre-focusing" their cameras for action shots. Have them take photographs of each other jumping by first focusing on a student standing on the ground, then keeping the shutter pressed halfway down and the camera in focus, and then finally pressing the shutter all the way down once the subject is in the air.
*Depending on the language and skill levels of your students, consider introducing this first class with a quick explanation of how a camera works.
This lesson plan was created using the PhotoPals Curriculum Mapping Guidelines. Feel free to use them to modify this lesson or create your own!
Other photography lesson ideas can be found at youthlearn.org.