Teaching students to tell stories through photography

For our final assignment in Teaching Multimedia, we created a lesson to pass the skills we’ve learned over the past 16 weeks on to our students. I chose to construct a lesson on photo essays.

I currently advise both yearbook and newspaper. The yearbooks students take thousands of photos and many never see the light of day. The newspaper staff is small and struggle to provide content for both our print and online site. Many of the students on staff consider photos to be an after thought or a lazy way to publish information.

My hope is that the lesson plan below will result in the following:

  • Allow more of the photos taken to be used in meaningful ways
  • Increase the number of times students are used in our publications
  • Drive more traffic to the news website
  • Help the writers see that photos are a benefit not a copout


Lindsey Ross

Gardner Edgerton High School

Gardner, KS

Title: Telling the Story through Photos

Overview and Rationale:

To effectively perform their duties as a staff member of GEHS’s student publications, student journalists need to be able to recognize, plan and capture photos that have impact and tell the story of larger events.

Goals for Understanding:

Students will be able to capture and select photos that work together to visually tell the story of an event.

Students will be able to process these photos for web use and publish them on the school’s online news site, gehsnews.com

Overviews and Timeline:

Activity 1 (One 85-minute class)

  1. 5-10 minutes) What is the purpose of a photo? What kinds of photos should we select for publication?
  2. (30 -40 minutes) Review the JEA “Capture the Moment” PowerPoint. Have students discuss the qualities of these photos.
  3. (30 -40 minutes) Pair students together. Students should look through current pages for this year’s publications as well as the two years’ publications (yearbook/newspaper/website).
  4. Students should identify 3-5 photos that truly capture the moment and 3-5 that are not as successful. Student should be prepared to explain what elements (composition, technique, etc.) help the photo capture the moment or what areas are weak in those that they chose as unsuccessful.

Activity 2 (One 85-minute class)

  1. (5-10 minutes) Review concepts from prior class period.
  2. (30-40 minutes) Students should present their photo selections from last class period. Discuss their choices as a class. Address any misconceptions and answer questions.
  3. (10-15 minutes) Review Telling the Story PowerPoint & assignment.
    1. After instruction and practice identifying photos that capture the moment and tell stories, students will be required to take and submit for assessment 5-10 photos that capture the moment and work together to tell the story of the event.
    2. Students will then write captions, process the photos and upload them as a photo essay on gehsnews.com
  4. (20-40) Students should view the photo galleries on scholastic publications websites as inspiration. Some sites that could be used include the following:
    1. http://fhntoday.com/category/multimedia/photos-2/photo-stories/
    2. http://phsview.com/2017/01/kansas-city-market-photo-essay/
    3. http://www.bvnwnews.com/category/photos/
    4. https://www.bvswnews.com/category/photo-gallery/
    5. http://smeharbinger.net/category/photos/

Assessment (One – Two weeks to shoot and event; One 85-minute class for processing)

  1. Following instruction and practice identifying photos that capture the moment and tell stories, students will be required to take and submit for assessment 5-10 photos that capture the moment and work together to tell the story of the event.
  2. After taking photos, students will make any necessary edits (crop, image size, etc.) the photos and publish them by creating a slideshow on the school’s news website, gehsnews.com.
  3. Students will access the Camtasia tutorial on this through Google drive. This will allow them to view the information and complete the steps at their own pace.


Capture the Moment PowerPoint

Telling the Story PowerPoint

Telling the Story Assignment & Rubric

Camtasia Tutorial


JEA Curriculum Initiative. Photojournalism: Unit 3 – Basics of Photojournalism. (http://curriculum.jea.org/lesson-capture-the-moment/)


Manual mode (not) made easy

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Photography. We do it all the time. It’s easy,  you just set the dial to automatic and click. WRONG.

Photojournalists must not just take photos, they must make them. This means considering composition techniques, lighting, equipment choices and more.

I talk to my students all the time about moving beyond automatic. I talk to them about exposure in terms of white balance, ISO, shutter speed and aperture. I encourage them to use the shutter speed or aperture priority modes.

I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on these concepts especially after taking Teaching Photojournalism last semester. However, when I went to take photos for this assignment I realized while I may understand the theory behind concepts, my execution – at least in manual mode- needed some work.

The first week of the assignment I went out and shot my photos only to discover most were over or under exposed and were not useable.

I had to reshoot my images this weekend – nothing like procrastination huh? This time they turned out much better in general. However, a couple shots still proved tricky.

The items I struggled with most were silhouette and panned action. I still don’t feel my silhouette is a true representation, but it’s the best I had to work with.

The items I felt most comfortable shooting were the compositional items as well as the depth of fields as I love playing with those in my photography. Check out my gallery above to see the top 10 photos from my shoot.

Stepping into the shoes of a photographer made me realize that while I love photography and think I’m generally pretty good, I have a lot to learn about seeing the light and how the aspects of exposure work together – especially when I’m the one behind the controls.