Moving Beyond the Mug Shot

Erin Perry
Kirkland Community College
Cedar Rapids, IA

Title: Movingbeyond the mug shot

Objective: To teach students to recognize dull photography and shoot for more interesting photos and perspectives.

Length: 2 1-hourclass sessions


  • a disposable camera for each student
  • money for developing costs


Part I

  • Tell students that you will be giving each of them a disposable camera with which to shoot ONE subject. That subject might be an object or person, but that specific object or person must be in each photo. Their goal is to think of interesting and creative ways to shoot their subject.
  • Pair them up, give them cameras, and send them on their way. Allow them to use the class period to shoot if you and the school administration are comfortable with it, or assign the photo session to be done outside of class and make it due the next day. As teams they should help push each other toward more creative perspectives and angles.

Part II

  • After the photos are developed, give them to student pairs that did not take the photos, that way they can be viewed with new and less biased eyes. Have each pair evaluate the photos. They should choose one example of a dull photo, up to five of the most interesting photos, and the one of the group that they would publish in the paper. Once they are decided, have them tape them to the board. Each pair should then present their group of photos to the class and explain their choices.
  • Discuss as a class:
    • What generalizations can we make about the dull photos? What perspectives or angles is present in the dull ones? Identify any instances of “mug shot,” “grip and grin,” “execution at dawn,” “person at desk,” or “bored meeting.”
    • What generalizations can we make about the interesting photos?
    • What specific perspectives, angles, distances, or tricks did the photographer use to make the photo interesting?
    • Do certain photos have a different mood or feeling to them? How does a change in perspective change the effect of the photo on the viewer?
    • What makes the “published” photos the winners? What elements do they have?
    • Lessons of the photographers: Did perspectives get more creative as more photos were taken? Professionals will shoot multiple rolls of film for one “good” shot. What thoughts do they have about shooting with creativity?