Looking at photographs from the other end of the lens

Bo Moore
Bowdon High School
Bowdon, Georgia

Overall objective: Students should understand the basic composition of successful photojournalism, in comparison to general photography. In addition, students should also understand the composition of cutlines and their importance in detailing a picture.

Essential question: What makes a good photograph and cutline for journalism?


  • Students will understand photo composition and what makes a “good photo.”
  • Students will be familiar with “objectivity” in photojournalism.
  • Students will understand that photographs should touch the emotional side of humans and enhance the quality of the story by presenting a visual explanation of the article.
  • Students will understand that a photograph should present a different way of looking at a story.
  • Students will understand what elements must be covered in cutlines that accompany a photograph.
  • Students will understand the different types of photographs. (i.e. features, sports, spot news and general news.)

Materials: Copies of good photos and good cutlines. Also, photographs as visual aids. (Homework: students should bring a favorite newspaper photo to class)

Activities: (30 minutes)

  • Introduction: What makes a photo good? (Can you remember some photos that stick out in your mind that you would call good?) Why are photos important to newspapers?
  • What if you were covering Sept. 11? What kind of photos would you take? What do you think is the ultimate picture to tell the story of Sept. 11? (list the qualities)
  • Look at the photos that your brought to class. What kind of photos are there? (horizontal, vertical, mug shots, “long,” “narrow”) What is the composition of a good photo?
    • What makes your photo good or bad?
      • What qualities does your photo have?
      • Could you see emotion?
      • How did the photo make you feel?
      • How did the photo relate to the article?
    • Angle
    • Emotion
    • Action
    • Faces
    • Central focus *** (important)
  • Now, let’s look at the cutlines. What makes a good cutline?
    • People
    • Information
    • Condensed message of article and picture action.
  • Copy a cutline from one of your photos.
    • What information was in the cutline?
    • Did the message in the cutline match the article?
    • Did the cutline name people?
    • Was there any opinion in the cutline? Quotes?

Assessment (20 minutes):
Have students look through hand-out photo examples. Have them do the following activities:

  • Take the first photo and write a cutline that goes with the pic. Depending on time, have them write another to a second picture.
  • Have the students look at the third and fourth photos and make a list of the qualities of each photograph.
  • How could the photos have been better?
  • What qualities are the best/worst?
  • Now, look at the cutlines.
    • Do they contain PIC?
    • What makes them good?
    • What story does the photo tell?
  • Is there emotion in the pictures?
  • Does the cutline and photo match each other?
  • How important do you think this picture was to the story?

Have studentswrite:
One thing I learned today about photographs and cutlines. Have them share in the last few minutes. Then, have the students turn the worksheet in with sheet of what they learned today.