Beginner photography teacher needs help!!!!!!

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Adrian Lucas, Oct 26, 2004.

  1. Adrian Lucas

    Adrian Lucas Guest

    Hi, I am a new high school photography teacher. I have not been
    formally trained in either photography or the art of teaching
    photography. I am currently in the process in trying to rewrite the
    photography course. At the school I am in photography is not
    prioritised very highly and so students are only given one semester at
    year nine (they are 15 years old, for non australian people).

    I am not exactly sure what I am doing and so I would be greatly
    appreciative of anyone who can direct me to any good teaching
    reasources or any details of successful lessons, units.

    The photography course I inherited is rather disorganised. It starts
    off with pin hole cameras and a small section about photo history,
    then camera and darkroom basics, after that the current philosophy is
    to let the students go after that to build up a folio and deal with
    students individually. This is not very successful because I end up
    spending heaps of time with struggling students and successful
    photographers get left up to their own devices.
    Adrian Lucas, Oct 26, 2004
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  2. Adrian Lucas

    Rob Novak Guest

    I have no words.

    I hope, for your students' sake, that you have some _experience_ in
    photography from which you can draw in order to instruct them.

    That being said, and I apologize for what may appear to be
    condescention, I think that a brief introduction to the photographic
    process and history of photography, followed by a thorough exploration
    of the basics would be in order - types of cameras (pinhole, field,
    SLR, rangefinder, point-n-shoot, digital), types of film, types of
    lenses (primes, zooms, wide-angle, normal, telephoto, etc. with
    explanation of FOV), exposure (the basic math of, shutter speed vs.
    aperture, f-stops, etc.), depth of field, and composition (rule of
    thirds, paying attention to the corners and edges, use of DOF,
    subject/background separation) should get you through a semester if
    you take your time and allow for plenty of experimentation.

    Darkroom techniques - is this a necessary part of the course. In
    other words, is it practical in that they're going to be processing
    their own stock? If not, leave it out. It's better that they know
    how to get the images on film first. If they want/need to develop and
    print their own film, that would be (in my mind) a separate workshop
    or course.

    Give them a thorough grounding in the basics and then send them off to

    When introducing the equipment, try to have as many examples for them
    to see as possible. Show them what an SLR looks like, how the
    different lenses work, and find a unit with DOF preview if at all
    possible, so that they can see what closing down the aperture actually

    Have prints, negs, and transparencies to pass around for demonstrating
    the various film types.

    When teaching exposure, have the students shoot subjects using
    aperture and shutter bracketing to see the effects the changes have on
    the final image.

    When teaching composition, small groups of 3-4 students actively
    critiquing each others' work is pretty effective. Start getting them
    to be able to understand and articulate WHY they like or don't like a
    particular image, and they'll be able to start applying that to their
    own work.

    How often does this class meet per week, and for how long?
    Rob Novak, Oct 26, 2004
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  3. Adrian Lucas

    bbillbs Guest

    Hi Adrian,

    I also have no words to express the difficulty you will encounter. When
    I started teaching in the middle grades -- US 6-8 12 to 13-year-olds --
    I was given two art classes and an arts and crafts class. I couldn't
    have done it without the assistance of my colleagues who helped work
    through everything I had to learn.

    My first suggestion is to get the students to read some theory or
    opinion like Susan Sontag's "On Photography." Photocopy it if you have to.

    Next try setting up the class in groups with one experienced
    photographer in each group. The number of groups will be determined by
    the number of experienced photographers you have. But try to make the
    groups no larger than 5 students.(see Rob Novak's suggestions.)

    Then show the students as many images as possible and show the
    connection of art to photography, ie, landscape, portraiture, instill
    life, art(painting) attempts at journalism, ( you know those battle
    scenes at Waterloo and others.)This is a rich area and I can feel my
    self getting excited about the possibilities.

    If you can devote classroom time to these kinds of issues, then the
    students can go out and capture images.

    Add this to what Rob Novak suggests and I think you can provide a rich
    course of study.

    Good luck, I mean it because it may be very tough.

    bbillbs, Oct 26, 2004
  4. Adrian Lucas

    BillB Guest

    Instead of individual folios, how about creating groups of 4 or 5
    students after teaching the class as a whole for 2 or 3 weeks. By
    then you should have an idea which are the more capable
    photographers, and can evenly divide them among the groups. This
    would allow them to assist their teammates to some degree. Even if
    it's only a little bit it might help you to more evenly divide you
    time among all of the students.

    Also, about 2 weeks ago I posted a message about a radio interview
    with a photographer/teacher that wrote a book about pinhole cameras
    (Camera Obscura). It included a little bit of what he experienced
    while teaching photography to his young students and may be worth
    listening to, and if you get his book it may make for a useful
    teaching aid. The link to the message will immediately follow, but
    as you may not be able to use it, I'll copy part of the contents
    below it:
    BillB, Oct 26, 2004
  5. Adrian Lucas

    Michael Guest

    Adrian, Let me get this strait, you are a teacher and don't know how to
    teach the subject your being paid to teach. And you are rewriting a course
    which you know nothing about. And came to an internet newsgroup for
    direction on how to do your task.
    I hate to break the news to you, but what you have described here is a
    standard basic photography course. Perfect for 15 year olds.
    This is called teaching.

    Adrian you could always go to a local library and do some research
    comparing other books on the subject, or enrolling in a night school class
    in photography and repeating what you were taught the next day to your
    students. Giving the impression that you are teaching them. But this will
    cost you some money and your free time. And your students might actually
    learn something.

    Your next concern should be that none of your students, or their parents,
    or school administrators have read your newsgroup posting.

    Michael, Oct 26, 2004
  6. Adrian Lucas

    Carl Guest

    This is not very successful because I end up
    Surely. Isn't this what teaching is about? Developing those who have
    difficulty and letting those with ability room to develop?
    Carl, Oct 26, 2004
  7. Adrian Lucas

    Petros Guest

    Adrian Lucas posted:

    It sounds like you really want to help the kids out, which I commend
    you for. I think your approach in asking help here is a good one. Those
    who are criticising you for it don't seem to know much about
    methodology or the realities of schooling, so they don't understand how
    someone without experience could teach an unknown subject or why he/she
    has to. Others here will be willing to help you, though (as you've seen
    already), so don't give up. I'm sure this will be a good place for you
    to visit over the next few months and I look forward to hearing some
    more of your and the kids' questions as they come up. Maybe I'll learn
    something, too.
    Petros, Oct 26, 2004
  8. Adrian Lucas

    gotpics Guest

    Teach students modern photography with how history has brought it to todays
    standards. Don't waste precious teaching time with pin hole cameras. You
    will lose attention and the students will not learn. The history of
    eveloution is important, but only relate to when needed to enhance it's
    relationship to modern photography.

    gotpics, Oct 26, 2004
  9. Adrian Lucas

    me Guest

    My first thought is UGH! I hope you have a desire to learn photography

    It is impossible for me to thoroughly evaluate the current course work
    without examining it first hand but judging from what you said I think you
    can safely discard the following:
    Pinhole Photography: This is a fascinating subject but of no practical use
    to beginning students of photography, unless of course they will be
    making/using pinhole cameras.
    Darkroom Basics: Again unless they will be in the darkroom this is of no
    practical use to beginning students of photography. If they want to they
    can learn this at another time and place.

    Teach them camera basics (hopefully SLR camera basics that is) and most
    definitely teach them composition.

    Is money available to buy books? If so then what you (and your students)
    need is a something you can use as a course book like a camera bible or
    encyclopedia. That way they can read a chapter for homework and then discuss
    it in class or try doing (examining) practical examples of what they've
    read. This will also give you a chance to read ahead of them and teach
    yourself. See the following links for ideas:

    The Basic Book of Photography:,+Tom&sf=T&pagenum=1

    The Complete Photography Course:,+Michael&sf=T&pagenum=1

    Using Your Camera: A Basic Guide to 35mm Photography:,+George&sf=T&pagenum=2

    Photography: A Crash Course (I would only recommend this in addition to a
    camera encyclopedia as it looks like a history book but might be worth a

    Could the students get access to the Internet? If so then take a look at
    the following. Some of these courses are free:

    A list of online photography courses:

    Another free course:

    Show them how to use NG's or forums like ( is a vast
    resource) (caution them to use the appropriate NG and to always state that
    they're a beginner) to get answers to their questions when they're away from

    Photography is such a rich subject that anyone could easily spend a lifetime
    learning about it and you only have one semester so don't waste it on
    anything that isn't completely practical and immediately useful to your

    Good Luck!
    me, Oct 26, 2004
  10. I agree, with an exception. If you can, focus on digital photography over
    film photography. Most young people these days are using digicams, or will
    be soon. If your school has a computer lab, get some not-too-complex image
    editing software, so the students can get a start on doing "darkroom"
    processing on a computer.
    Marvin Margoshes, Oct 26, 2004
  11. Adrian Lucas

    Mike Kohary Guest

    I hate to sound so negative, but this is a losing proposition from the very
    start. You are taking over a poorly organized curriculum, with no
    experience or knowledge of your own in the subject. You may think that if
    you can simply find a good book, you can teach from that and won't require
    any real knowledge of your own, but surely you know that's no way to teach a
    class. For one thing, starting with pin hole cameras and photo history
    would be a little like beginning auto shop by studying the Ford Model T -
    interesting historical subject to be sure, but entirely irrelevant in
    today's automotive climate.

    My best advice to you is to turn down this assignment and teach what you
    know. If you try to proceed with this anyway, you will fail to teach anyone
    anything about photography - these students think they are going to be
    instructed in photography, and deserve better. Please find someone who can
    teach this course who actually knows something about photography. You owe
    at least that to these students.
    Mike Kohary, Oct 26, 2004
  12. Adrian Lucas

    Mike Kohary Guest

    I have taught professionally myself, and know exactly what I am talking
    about. I am in fact quite dismayed to see that he's received the level of
    encouragement he has received, because his task is doomed to fail. He knows
    nothing about the subject and has no experience. It is not a problem that
    he posted this in an internet newsgroup, and kudos to him for trying, but in
    my opinion he owes it to these students to not attempt to teach this
    difficult course. If he absolutely must do it, then he should hire an
    assistant who is a professional photographer and can teach these students
    what they need to know.

    Imagine for a moment that you were a high school student with a fair level
    of passion for photography, not a lot of know-how, and a great desire to
    learn more. How would you feel if you took a beginner's photography course
    only to find that the teacher knows no more than you do? He would be doing
    a great disservice to these kids in trying to teach this course, and instead
    of providing encouragement to try, we should be encouraging him to find
    someone else who can actually do the job, or to have the school drop the
    course altogether.

    I'm sure that Adrian is a fine teacher in whatever subject he specializes
    in, but that does not mean he will be able to accomplish anything in this
    instance, and I hope that he can see that and not take this personally.
    It's not meant as an affront against him, but merely put in the best
    interest of these kids.
    Mike Kohary, Oct 26, 2004
  13. Adrian Lucas

    BillB Guest

    Have you considered the possibility that he is not in a position
    to turn down the assignment (and keep his job), and that if he does
    so, a different teacher might be assigned that knows no more and
    cares less?

    If an assistant could be hired (if it is even allowed), payments
    might have to be made by Adrian, and not by the school, given the
    low priority of the photography course.
    BillB, Oct 26, 2004
  14. Adrian Lucas

    C J Campbell Guest

    Yes, we can see that the school does not prioritize photography very highly.

    I presume this is an elective course, so at least you are getting students
    who want to be there.

    I would keep the history and principles of photography in the course, but
    keep it short.

    From there I would break the syllabus into several thematic elements, using
    the work of famous photographers and painters to illustrate, with specific
    assignments each week to capture these elements. I might build it around the
    book "Masterclass in Photography" by Michael and Julien Busselle, a copy of
    which should be in your personal library and which should be available in
    the school library as well. Other books I recommend are the Time/Life
    Library of Photography, National Geographic Field Guides, and "The Photoshop
    Book for Digital Photographers," by Kelby.

    A favorite web site is They
    hold weekly competitions around different thematic elements which you might
    find inspiring. Also regularly visit; photographers
    such as Rein Nomm will show you what fine art really is.

    For example:

    Recording the image, part 1 -- camera types, formats, history.
    The Visual Skills -- shape, pattern, lines, form, texture, color, black and
    Composition -- selection, viewpoint, focus of interest, the frame, the
    format, choosing the moment, perspective, color and design, style and
    Light -- daylight, bright sunlight, time of day, the sky, artificial light,
    studio lighting.
    Specialized subjects -- Portraiture, still life and close-ups, wildlife,
    plants and gardens, architecture, landscape, documentary and travel.
    Recording the image, part 2 -- using lenses creatively, filters,
    accessories, apertures and depth of field, shutter speeds and movement.
    The monochrome darkroom -- film, developer, getting good negatives, exposure
    test strip, exposure selection, selecting contrast, selective exposure
    control, selective contrast control, toning, lith printing, finishing.
    Digital imaging -- density and contrast, color values, converting to
    monochrome, enhancing the image, creating effects, combining images.

    Note that the Busselles put the mechanics of photography after the study of
    learning to see, composition, and the like. This is for good reason --
    photography is about creative expression with the tools you have, not about
    taking a picture exhibiting depth of field for the sake of depth of field.
    Get the students to think creatively, then show them how to use their
    resources to express their creative ideas.

    I would also establish a public viewing gallery where the best work is
    exhibited, with technical data, circumstances, awards, etc. The local
    newspaper might also publish students' work.

    I would prefer the discovery method of teaching this subject -- pose a
    problem, let the students propose solutions, demonstrate how other artists
    have solved this problem, let the students practice, then evaluate the
    results. Keep criticism positive; encourage the students to say what they
    like about the work of others, with possible approaches of how they would
    view the subject differently. Keep them constantly aware that no two
    photographers will see a subject exactly the same way. The whole idea is to
    get the students working together to improve each others' work.

    All students will suffer from creative blocks from time to time and will
    come in empty handed. The temptation is to then walk the student through the
    project, but avoid that like the plague. If you do that, the resulting
    photograph is yours, not the student's, and the student will have no pride
    in it. Instead, direct the student to art books in the school library for
    ideas, perhaps giving a more specific assignment, such as "10 pictures of a
    particular car, each shot in a different location or viewpoint" or "10
    pictures of a banana," "photograph a garden the way you think Matisse would
    have painted it," etc.

    It is easy to get this age group excited about a subject, especially one
    where they can exercise such personal control and expression as this. Get
    them motivated enough, make them your missionaries, and maybe the school
    might move photography (and art in general) a little higher in their

    As for your own teaching skills, stick to the basics -- the fundamentals of
    learning and problem solving. And above all, practice your own photography.
    Contrary to the old saw, students will not respect a teacher who cannot also
    C J Campbell, Oct 26, 2004
  15. Adrian Lucas

    Carl Guest

    Ignore the pinhole camera? Did no-one in this newsgroup study physics?
    The pinhole camera has got bugger all to do with history and everything
    to do with a basic understanding of how light works. Ah well!
    Carl, Oct 26, 2004
  16. Adrian Lucas

    Special Ed Guest

    Truly amazing! Australia takes people's guns away from them and then tells
    teachers to teach a subject they know nothing about.

    Talk about a country headed down the crapper...

    Special Ed, Oct 26, 2004
  17. Adrian Lucas

    C J Campbell Guest

    I don't see where the OP said he knew nothing about photography. A lack of
    formal training does not equate to knowing nothing. For all we know, the
    teacher is an advanced amateur, self taught, perhaps, but with considerable

    In any event, caught in this situation, the teacher is quite right to ask
    for help, and the help should be freely given.
    C J Campbell, Oct 26, 2004
  18. Adrian Lucas

    David Guest

    Hello Adrian,

    I would suggest checking out the online courses and tips readily available
    on the net and see what's in them. They should offer you some idea of what
    to cover. For example take a look at the basic photography syllabus on my
    won photo education site, I can't give you access the course material as
    they are paid courses, but at least you can plan your lessons around some of
    the headings on the syllabus. I am assuming of course that you already know
    photography yourself, and how to manipulate digital images using image
    editing software if you are going the digital route.

    Basic Photography syllabus:
    Digital Photography syllabus:
    Black and White Photography syllabus:

    There's also quite a lot of free tips for beginners elsewhere on the site
    and a free sample lesson if you have time to look around.

    So that lot should get you started in the right direction anyway,

    good luck

    David, Oct 26, 2004
  19. Adrian Lucas

    C J Campbell Guest

    A great teacher should be able to teach any subject and to very quickly
    acquire whatever skills he needs to do it.
    C J Campbell, Oct 26, 2004
  20. Adrian Lucas

    me Guest

    You did ride the short bus to school didn't you. If you have nothing helpful
    to add then GO AWAY TROLL! Everyone please add this moron to your killfile.
    me, Oct 26, 2004
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