Photography: Where journalism meets art

Fred Aldrich
Baton Rouge Magnet High School
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Background: Before teaching this lesson plan, I recommend teaching all or parts of two lesson plans from lesson plan archives. The URLs are listed below under “Resources.”

Overview and rationale
Student photographers need to look at photo opportunities as a unified whole that combines subject, background, foreground, action and mood. A knowledge of certain photographic techniques will help them combine these elements more effectively. These are techniques that apply equally in visual arts (painting and drawing), print journalism and broadcast journalism.

Goals for understanding

  • Essential Questions
    • Can you view a photograph as a combination of elements including background, foreground, primary subject, action and emotion?
    • Out of the thousands of photographs appearing in newspapers every year, what separates the acceptable but average photographs from the exceptional ones that are published in books or which win Pulitzer Prizes?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • Can you explain the following artistic techniques as they apply to a photograph as an artistic whole?
      • dominant foreground-contributing background
      • contributing foreground-dominant background
      • patterns
      • shadows
      • reflection
      • silhouette
      • unusual angle
      • distortion
      • framing
      • selective focus posterization (still life)
      • capturing the moment (action and/or emotion).
    • Can you explain how you might have to position yourself in relation to your light source, your subject and your background to utilize these techniques?


    • Activity 1: (One class period)
      • Teacher will pass out Handout #1 (Guided Notes).
      • Teacher and class will go over the guided notes in lecture/discussion fashion.
    • Activity 2: (One class period)
      • Using PowerPoint, teacher will project attachment “Best in Show” to demonstrate examples. .
      • Students will log on to The Arizona Republic Web site and go to the photo section on the home page. They will review photos from the “Photos of the Day” tab or any of the local tabs.
      • Students should find and identify in their class notebook at least one example of each of the photographic techniques. (This is also a good time for individual browsing, sharing and discussion.)
    • Activity 3: (One week)
      • Each student will prepare a slide show of 20 photos he/she takes at school or at school-related activities (games, plays, rehearsals, etc.) which demonstrate the photographic techniques. Each technique must be demonstrated at least once.
    • Activity 4: ( at least six minutes per student)  The student will narrate the slide show orally.


    The teacher will prepare a slide show of at least 25 slides of scanned or captured photos and show them as an exam. Students must identify at least one technique in each photo and can receive extra credit by correctly noting more than one technique in a photo.