Recognizing four major photojournalism techniques to improve quality and interest in pictures

Marianne Moriarty
Bourgade Catholic High School
Cave Creek, Arizona

Key theme, topic of unit “If anyone can step up and take the same picture as you, forget it. It probably isn’t that interesting anyway.” Dennis Darling

Overview and rationale for unit
Student newspapers are more than words joined together. A picture can tell a story at a glance. Therefore, students will learn four basic techniques that will enable them to not only tell the story, but also to make the viewer wonder what might have been left out of the photo.

Goals for understanding

  • Essential Questions
    • Are the outside boundaries of the images treated as spaces for leftovers from the main event in the center of the picture?
    • Are the subjects in most of your photos in the “comfort zone,” i.e. taken from about 12 ft. from the photographer?
    • Are the subjects in most of your photos at a level of between five and six feet from the ground?
    • Is there any evidence in your pictures that answer the question: “Where was this taken?”
  • Critical Engagement Questions:
    • What is Disturbance? Disturbing the frame. Don’t need to leave space on all sides, take picture right to the end. Open the center. Have sides unequal size. Depth of field may change. Rule of thirds. Group shots: No 2 sets of eyes on the same level.
    • What is Proximity? Distance between camera and subject. Stare. Get up close and personal. Don’t let subject get swallowed up in surrounding landscape. Move subject away from center of the frame and to the edges. Don’t lose the detail by being too far away. Get intimacy into the picture.
    • What is Vantage Point? Bend your knees or raise yourself up to get picture. Abandon your normal vantage point and experiment with shooting from different angles É below, above, inside, outside. Shoot from other than your eye level.
    • What is Place? Be sure to tell WHERE you took the picture. What clues from the picture do you see in the foreground/background? Trim away excess background so that only the essence of the place remains.


    • Students will log on to an “Afghanistan – a Photographer’s 2002 Journal, Photographs by Jonathan Wiggs” URL:
    • There are 4 sections of photographs:
      • Caves in Bamiyan (9 photos)
      • Portraits (9 photos)
      • Afghanistan in Transition (8 photos)
      • Hope for the Future (9 photos)
    • Students will review all 35 photographs and tell which of the following technique(s) the photographer utilized
      • Disturbance
      • Proximity
      • Vantage Point
      • Place
    • Is each photograph effective? Why? How else could the photographer have set up the picture?


  • Students will cut out 12 pictures from newspapers or magazines that depict the 4 techniques studied.
    • 3 utilizing Disturbance
    • 3 utilizing Proximity
    • 3 utilizing Vantage Point
    • 3 utilizing Place
  • Students will take 20 photographs
    • 5 utilizing Disturbance
    • 5 utilizing Proximity
    • 5 utilizing Vantage Point
    • 5 utilizing Place
  • These will be arranged on a poster board for presentation to the class.

Recommended Readings and Sources
Boston Globe’s “A Photographer’s Essay” URL: http:///