School photography clubs – Suggested activities

School photography clubs – Suggested activities

Here are some suggested activities for school photography clubs to consider.

1. Focus on the story. Review the development of the photographic process, the camera obscura, and the evolution from film to digital. Construct a pinhole camera. Dust off some old 35mm manual bodies and shoot a few rolls of film.

2. Focus on focus. Talk about how the image is focused. Try to take several images in and out of focus. Review depth of focus and the role of lens aperture in controlling depth of focus. Take a series of increasing DOF images to illustrate.

3. Focus on speed. Talk about shutter speed and its effect on exposure. Discuss when slow shutter is best and when fast shutter is best. Conduct several photo experiments with students photographing themselves while moving at different shutter speeds. Try high-speed photography with water drops or flying insects or other fast-moving objects. Try shooting waterfalls at different speeds.

4. Focus on sensitivity. Talk about film sensitivity and “ISO” settings on a digital camera. Discuss when it is best to apply low and high sensitivity and the trade-offs for each. Take a series of low and high sensitivity images and study the effects on the images. Try shooting the same image with 100 and 800 speed film if you have film cameras. Discuss film grain versus noise in digital images. Discuss the artistic merits of film grain and review ways of digital reproduction.

5. Focus on exposure. Discuss the parameters that affect exposure – shutter, aperture, sensitivity, lighting. Talk about exposure compensation. Make a series of the same subject by changing the parameters and resulting exposure. Discuss manual versus automatic exposure and different exposure modes.

6. Focus on color. Review the color wheel, saturation. How Exposure Selection Affects Saturation. Edit photos and adjust saturation from off-board to black and white. Talk about which cameras and films have different color characteristics. Review the white balance. Experiment with the right and wrong custom white balance settings. Learn about custom white balance adjustment techniques and tools. Review how to change color settings in post-production.

7. Focus on black and white. A review of historical black and white photography. Overview of conversion methods – grayscale, channel mixer. Effects of filters on black and white (grayscale) tones. View color versus black and white images side by side and discuss the visual impact. Have each student transform the same image using different methods or mixtures and review and discuss.

8. Focus on filters. An overview of the polarizing filter and its effect on flare, exposure, color saturation, etc. Samples with and without. Discuss the applicability of neutral density filters. Discuss split neutral density filters. Browse and experiment with heating and cooling filters and temperature controls. Browse and experiment with close-up filters.

9. Focus on editing. An overview of the technique of developing film in a darkroom. Browse various photo editing tools. Focus on core photo editing features. Set up a multi-stage learning experience around gaining expertise in image editing. For more information in this area, see my Top 12 Photo Editing Tips article.

10. Focus on printing. Discuss paper/inkjet printing versus photographic process and press. Consider asking a professional photographer or lab to print samples of the same image on gloss, gloss, metallic photo paper, press and canvas output. Discuss print profiling and color management.

11. Focus on gratitude. Discuss what makes a picture “great”. Some compositional elements will appear, as will the choice of subject, lighting, and technical and finishing elements. Have students bring in magazines or other printed examples of photos they think are great and discuss. Plan a field trip to a photography exhibit. Review the portfolios of professional and student photographers and offer positive and negative critique.

12. Focus on composition. Review the rule of thirds, posing, lighting, camera angle, camera position (macro vs. tele), lens selection, and other elements of composition. Spend time experimenting with some classic subjects – still life, egg, human subject and have students work on different aspects of composition and lighting. Consider borrowing professional lighting equipment for some additional experimentation.

13. Focus on career. Discuss the many types of careers that depend on photography (journalism, children/family, wedding, architecture, sports/events/school, etc.) and those that benefit from it: (insurance, real estate, forensics and etc.) ) Consider bringing guests to these areas to talk to the club, or have each member of the club conduct an interview and collect samples for a group discussion.

14. Focus on giving. Get the club brainstorming ideas to share their talents with the community. Volunteering to help out at a non-profit or school and creating unique gifts are good ideas here.

15. Focus on fundraising. To keep the club financially sound, consider fundraising ideas for the club. Some starter suggestions: Photo calendars and selling fine art (from club talent), photo buttons or key chains, and regular fundraisers (food, coupon books, etc.)

16. Focus on technology. Discuss technical things that change in camera and editing technology (sensor size, image size, stabilization, speed, live view, in-camera editing, camera features.) Discuss things the student would look for when comparing and contrasting of cameras. Give them several scenarios and have them shop online to choose the best camera and price. Discuss negotiation, gray market and warranty. Discuss obsolescence and upgradeability. Browse through storefronts, mail order, and used or closed sources (eBay, Craigslist, etc.)

17. Focus on the race. Review the judging rules and sheets and develop your own club judging and awarding processes and criteria. Explore and participate in external competitions. Organize a club-only competition each month on a specific theme (nature, sports, relatives, pets, architecture, etc.) The top 3-5 from each category go to club finals, where external evaluators choose the winner. Work with labs, shops and local photographers to offer good prizes and professional printing on final items. Use the winning items in your fine art funds. Offer to enter non-presented contests, such as student-only, professional-only, and school-wide.

Enjoy your school photography club and use it to grow, develop and have fun!

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