Mini Unit Study: Photography

Photography can be a wonderful hobby or career. Good photography is a skill. Your child can learn to take pictures for many reasons: family gatherings, holidays photos, potential career, family vacations, as a hobby, to track activities for his/her school portfolio, or just for fun. Below are some activities to use in a mini unit on photography. The difficulty levels range from easy to challenging, so can be used with many age and/or grade levels; and, begin with the camera itself that they will use.


1. Chose a camera that you will use to do these activities with. Learn everything you can about the camera. Read the instruction manual carefully and/or have someone familiar with the camera show you how to work it properly. Be familiar with what the camera can and cannot do. Find out how to change the shutter speed and f-stop (if applicable) and how to focus.

2. Learn how to maintain, clean, and store the camera you will be using.

3. Be able to explain about your camera to someone else. Remember what you learned in activity 1.

4. Make your own manual for your camera. You can draw pictures and write explanations under them so that you can understand how your camera works. Keep this little manual with you when you are operating your camera just in case you forget how something works or how to do something, such as changing film.

5. Visit a camera store or talk to an experienced photographer about the different kinds of cameras on the market. Ask about “point and shoot” cameras, 35 mm cameras, and cameras for underwater photography. Also, inquire about different kinds of lenses, like telephoto, wide angle, and zoom lenses, that are used to create special effects.

6. Go to two or three camera stores to compare prince on cameras and camera equipment and accessories. [Note: this is a good place to work in math and compare/contrast skills.]

7. All cameras require film. Find out about types of film available for cameras today. There is black and white film color film for slides or prints, Polaroid film, fast film slow film, film for various amounts of light, etc. After studying each kind of film, find pictures that would illustrate the kind of photo you might take with at least three types of film

8. There is a wide range of accessories to use with all kinds of cameras, including tripods, lamps, and filters. Make a list of the ones you will need for two of the following: close-up photography, portraits, nature shots.

9. Light is the key element in photography. Try this to see how reaction to light leaves an image. Do this with light-sensitive paper (you can obtain this paper from a craft store or photography shop).
(a) Create a sun print using natural forms and sunlight. To do this, put a flat object on light-sensitive paper. Place a sheet of glass over the object. Expose to sunlight until the paper turns dark.
(b) Create a photogram design using cut-outs orshapes of miscellaneous items that will create a good composition. A photogram is similar to a sunprint except that you make an arrangement of objects in a design on the photographic paper.

10. Photography helps us to learn to see things we might otherwise overlook. Take four pictures that illustrate one of each of these: shape, lines, rhythm, texture.

11. Like painting, good photography is based on principles of art: of balance, proportion, scale, line, planes, etc. Take three pictures that use some of these principles.

12. Colors can create a mood or feeling. Some people say that reds and oranges are exciting and shades of blue are soothing. Take color pictures that create the mood of four of the following: happiness, loneliness, sadness, pride, fun, anger, confusion, boredom, fear.

13. Take at least four pictures that tell a story, or illustrate a children’s book or poem. Set them up in an exhibit for others to see, or prepare a slide show to share with family or friends.

14. Make a Pinhole Camera. This will demonstrate how a camera works. [Note: if you cannot use the clickable link, instructions can be found at]

15. Visit a film developing lab to see how film is developed and how enlargements are made. Take some pictures while you are there, if possible, and use them to create a slide show or book about your trip.

16. Look for the work of some famous photographers. You could attend a photography exhibit. If you cannot attend an exhibit, look for books by photographers or on famous photographers at the library.

17. Select two of your best photographs and have them enlarged. Mount or frame them for others to see.

18. Pick a tree, a building, a monument or other outdoor object and take a series of photographs at different times of day or in different types of weather. Notice what happens to light and shadow in your photographs.

19. Pick a shape – a triangle, square, circle, etc. – and take a series of photographs of everything you can find outdoors that contains this shape. Mount or display your photographs, see if others can find the common theme.

20. Imagine a treasured photograph (whether new or antique) has cracked or is missing a piece. Did you realize that it can be fixed? Find out how computer technology can be used to restore damaged photographs. Some photoshops offer this service. Talk to someone about how their shop does this and the cost. Also, check the yellow pages to see if there are any stores in your area that offer this service (keywords: photography, restoration).

21. Find out about digital photography. Why do you think this is becoming so popular? What are its potential drawbacks? Check your local computer store to see if they sell digital cameras. Learn about the different cameras. What kind of “film” is used?

22. Can you take photographs of heat? Not with conventional cameras that react to light. You can however with infrared film. Infrared film is used extensively in aerial photography. Find out how ecologists, botanists, and people concerned with energy efficiency use infrared photography in their line of work. [Note: infrared film is sometimes sold at specialty shops. See if a camera shop in your area sells infrared film and how much it costs. Can you use it with a regular camera?]

23. Create a photo album for yourself or your family. You can use your own photographs or others from your home.

24. Service project idea: Offer to photograph a holiday or special event for younger children, senior citizens, a church group, or shelter.

25. Compile a list of community resources on photography. Include professional photographers, stores, labs, courses, photography galleries, etc.

26. Photograph a community event. You could share your photos with friends or family; or, you could send copies of them to your chamber of commerce to be with a community display about this event.

27. Shadow a news photographer for several assignments. Does he or she “pose” her subjects, take candid shots, or use artificial lighting? Does she interview her subjects or just observe their actions?

28. Find out how photography is used in at least four of the following fields: advertising, public relations, journalism, travel, police work, law, and medicine.

29. If possible, interview people from one or more of the fields listed in activity 28 to find out how they personally use photography in their job.

30. Practice making portraits of friends or family. If you don’t want to pose the whole body, try just making “head shots” (from the neck up).

31. Research the lives and work of some famous photographers.

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