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Planning for Technical Failure: Paper Photography Assignments

There is nothing quite like the panic that you feel when you find that all your hard laid plans have been wasted by... (pick one of the following…) plans running short, or having a class full of students who finished a project early and don’t know what to do, or having a computer lab which suddenly only has half of the computers in operation, or the country suddenly shutting down due to a deadly virus and now you must completely change your plans and figure out how to teach 30 students from your computer at home…

Whatever the case may be, there is a definite panic factor involved no matter what the situation! That’s why I’ve compiled this list of ideas to get you back on your feet in your Digital Photography classroom!

Just like my quick graphic design project ideas list from the last post, these activities can be separated into 4 categories: Research, Skills work (off computer), Videos, and Computer based. And again, I’ve got a list of these activities in a pdf so that you can easily find the links later if you like!


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I’ve got one fantastic list of Latino Photographers! Here is a link to the main article with free worksheets that go along with each photographer.

If you want something a bit more intensive, you can take a look at the full unit which includes a presentation, test questions, a reflection page, and more!

Again, this could be a stand alone activity (each worksheet should take about 15 minutes to complete) or you could turn it into a larger research project where they find a photographer of their own and create a presentation for the class.


skills work
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Skills work:

You could have students analyze a master’s photo. Just print out a photo from Ansel Adams or Anne Lebovich or your favorite photographer and a piece of notebook paper. Tell them to analyze the composition (Rule of thirds, Simplicity, Avoiding Mergers, Framing, Balance). Or you could simply tell them to write out why they enjoy it (although, if you give them that much freedom, they may not write as much as you like ;).

If you have magazines available, you could just have them tear out a page with a photo that they like and do the same activity. Sometimes students are more engaged if they get some choice in the matter!

Give each student a magazine and have them find a magazine example of the compositional rules of photography (Rule of thirds, Simplicity, Avoiding Mergers, Framing, Balance). Have them attach each photo to a sketchbook page or a piece of notebook paper explaining how they know it shows each rule.

Give them a photo (from your favorite source) and tell them to write out a story that goes along with it. You could have them pass the photos around and see how different each story is at the end of the class.


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There are SOOO many instructional videos out there for photography. You could go to YouTube and search any number of topics and find some great sources for your class. 

TedTalks can be a good source for your classroom, too. I love the one by Erik Johansson where he talks about photography being more like telling a story than just capturing a moment:

You could have them go to his website after viewing the TedTalk and write a caption for one of his fantastic picture creations.


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Computer Based:

Here is a great Depth of field simulator that allows you to change the image based on what the settings on the camera are. After they have a chance to play with it, you could show them the picture with settings that you have picked out and have them recreate it and see how close they get to the settings that you used.


I know that this is not an extensive list and I’m sure that you can think of more ideas! Remember, just because something isn’t working right (i.e the internet, broken computers, broken cameras, no students in your classroom…), doesn’t mean all is lost! Use this list as a starting point to build your own “off day digital photography” activities, but if all else fails, take a deep breath and be willing to let it go! Tomorrow is another day!

Download the FREE pdf with a list of off day photography assignments that goes along with this article. Click the button below and enter your email!