September 29, 2023


Arts Eternal

School Photography Clubs – Suggested Activities

Here are some suggested activities for School Photography Clubs to consider.

1. Focus on History. Review the development of the photographic process, camera obscura, and the evolution from film to digita. 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 an image is focused. Try to take some images in focus and out. Review depth of focus and the lens opening’s role in controlling depth of focus. Take a series of increasing DOF images to illustrate.

3. Focus on Speed. Talk about shutter speed and its impact on exposure. Discuss when slow shutter is best and when fast shutter is best. Conduct some photo experiments with students being photograhed while moving, at a variety of shutter speeds. Try high speed photography with water drops or flying insects or other fast moving items. Try photographing waterfalls at a range of speeds.

4. Focus on Sensitivity. Talk about film sensitivity and digital camera “ISO” settings. Discuss when low and high sensitivity are best applied and the tradeoffs for each. Take a series of images with low and high sensitivity and examine the impact on the images. Try shooting the same image with 100 and 800 speed film if you have film cameras. Discuss grain on film vs. noise in digital imaging. Discuss the artistic merits of film grain and review ways to reproduce digitally.

5. Focus on Exposure. Discuss the parameters that affect exposure – shutter, aperature, sensitivity, lighting. Talk about exposure compensation. Take a series of the same subject varying the parameters and resulting exposure. Discuss manual vs. automatic exposure, and the various exposure modes.

6. Focus on Color. Review the color wheel, saturation. How choice of exposure affects saturation. Edit photos and tweak saturation from overboard to black and white. Talk about which cameras and films have different color characteristics. Review white balance. Experiment with the right and wrong custom white balance settings. Learn about custom white balance setting techniques and tools. Review how to change color settings in post-production.

7. Focus on Black and White. Review historic black and white photography. Review ways to convert – greyscale, channel mixer. Impact of filters on Black and White (grayscale) tones. Review color vs BW images side by side and discuss visual impact. Have each student convert the same image using different methods or blends and review and discuss.

8. Focus on Filters. Review polarizing filter and impact on glare, exposure, color saturation, etc. Samples of with and without. Discuss applicability of neutral density filters. Discuss split neutral density filters. Review and experiment with warming and cooling and temperature adjustment filters. Review and experiment with close-up filters.

9. Focus on Editing. Review darkroom film development technique. Review various photo editing tools. Focus on basic functions in photo editing. Set up a multi-step learning experience around gaining proficiency in image editing. For more in this area, see my article on Top 12 Photo Editing Tips.

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

11. Focus on Appreciation. Discuss what makes a picture “great”. Some elements of composition will come through, as will the choice of subject matter, lighting and technical and finishing elements. Have the students bring in magazine or other print examples of photos they think are great, and discuss. Schedule a field trip to a photographic exhibit. REview professional photographers’ and students’ portfolios and offer positive and negative criticism.

12. Focus on Composition. Review rule of thirds, posing, lighting, camera angle, camera position (macro vs tele), lens choice 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 some professional lighting equipment for some additional experiments.

13. Focus on Careers. Discuss the many kinds of careers that depend on photography (journalism, child/family, wedding, architectural, sport/event/school, etc.), as well as those that benefit from it: (insurance, real estate, forensics, etc.) Consider bringing guests in these areas to talk with the club, or have each club member conduct an interview and gather samples for a group discussion.

14. Focus on Giving. Have the club brainstorm ideas to share their talents with the community. Volunteering to help at nonprofits or in the school, and creating unique gifts are good ideas here.

15. Focus on Fund-Raising. To keep the club financially healthy, brainstorm ideas to raise money for the club. Some starting suggestions: Photo calendars and fine art sale (from the club’s talents), photo buttons or keychains, and regular fund raising (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 that a student would look for in comparing and contrasting cameras. Give them some scenarios and have them do some online shopping to choose the best camera and price. Discuss negotiation, grey market and warranty. Discuss obsolescence and ability to upgrade. Review storefront, mail-order and used or closeout sources (eBay, Craigslist, etc.)

17. Focus on Competing. Review the judging rules and sheets and develop your club’s own judging and award processes and criteria. Research and enter outside competitions. Have a club-only contest each month on a specific subject (nature, sports, relatives, pets, architecture, etc.) Top 3-5 of each category go to club finals where outside evaluators choose the winner. Work with labs, stores and local photographers to offer good prizes and professional printing of the final items. Use winning items in your fine art fund raisers. Offer to run outside submitted competitions such as college student only, professional-only and school-wide.

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