Space, the Final Frontier (Ok...Not Really)

How to make your image subject really pop by emphasizing negative space.

Negative Space ExamplesEmphasizing negative space is an excellent tactic for a photographer. The negative space is the “not stuff” part of your image. It is what allows the viewer to really focus on the subject.

Using negative space in your image is really rather simple. The idea is that your subject has space to “breathe”. As a general rule, it is usually nice to have your positive space (or your subject) fill up anywhere from one third to two-thirds of your page (depending on your subject, of course). But if you are trying to emphasize the negative space, you might make your subject only take up one fourth or less of your image.

As you may have discovered when you applied the rule of thirds to your images, the subject was off center and you usually want the subject facing inward. This is also true for our space element because there is often so much negative space that you really want to see where the subject is going or looking.

In some images, having a lot of negative space gives the viewer some information about where the subject is. For example, if your subject is a hiker, the negative space might be a mountain scene. If your subject is a dog, it might be a grassy hill at a park. (In examples 2 and 3, you see some context about the location in which the objects are taken.

Another bonus of this negative space element is that you usually end up with rather simple photos, which also makes for rather dramatic photos. Since there is a lot of space around your subject, this makes it easy to focus in on the subject and what they are doing.

So here is a basic recap: back away from your subject so that it is smaller than you might normally have it so that there is a lot of space around them. Be sure that your negative space (or background) is on the simple side so that it does not steel too much attention away from the subject. 

This Week’s Assignment:

Take 2 good pictures that utilize this element of negative space. Remember, your subject will be relatively small (positive space) and your background will be relatively simple (negative space). If you feel proud of your pictures, choose your best shot and post it to Instagram with #DigitalArtTeacher. Take at least 10 photos for each subject. Go explore some space!

Using Lines to Make Photos More Dynamic

Use lines in your photography to help lead the eye and grab attention!

Lines examplesOne of the most eye-catching things that you can do with your photography is use leading lines. These lines could look solid (like train tracks) or they could be “psychic”, like a person pointing across the picture at something. Whatever you choose to do, your lines should lead the eye into the picture.

There are 3 basic lines that you can look for: vertical, horizontal, and diagonal. Let’s look at each:



Vertical lines can make your photography seem peaceful or powerful, depending on your subject, of course. The line(s) leads your eye upward. For peaceful, think about a still forest of tall trees. For powerful, think about a tall building taken from the worm’s eye view.


Using horizontal lines gives a feeling of stillness, leading the eye from left to right or from right to right to left. There is usually not a lot of movement evident in the image. Use horizontal lines if you want to give stability to the image. 


Diagonal lines have the most capacity to lead the eye. They make an image look “dynamic” and tend to catch the eye of the viewer. If you can find diagonal lines with the objects you take pictures of, it will really take your image to the next level. 


Whenever possible, make your lines lead into the image, possibly toward a subject of some kind. For example, if you take a picture of a person running along a path, have that person running toward the middle of the image instead of placing them facing the edge of the picture as if they were about to run off the image.


This Week's Assignment:

Take 3 good pictures using different kinds of line. See if you can cover each of the different kinds of lines listed above: Horizontal, Vertical, and Diagonal. If you feel proud of your pictures, choose your best shot and post it to Instagram with #DigitalArtTeacher. Take at least 10 photos for each subject. Let’s line it up!

Macro-mode, or close-up shots

How to use Macro-Mode to take Close-up shots.

Three great examples using macro-modeAlso known as close-up mode, macro mode is what allows you to get in super close on your images without getting blurry shots.

Most digital cameras (even the cheapest compact cameras) will have a macro mode function. What it does is make your aperture wider (small f/stop number) and your shutter speed slower so that the depth of field is very shallow. You will have to be sure to hold the camera very steady or use a tripod while using this mode because it will likely be blurry with the slightest movement.

This scene mode is usually represented by a little flower icon. This is likely because when you are taking pictures of a flower, you often want to get in close to get all the details.

But flowers aren’t the only things that a photographer might want to get close up and personal with. You can creatively use macro-mode for any number of subjects.

Close-up pictures have a way of grabbing attention and making your subject look more important than it really is.


This week's assignment:

Take 3 good pictures using macro mode. The challenge in this photo assignment is to take pictures in such a way that the viewer DOES NOT know what your subject is. See if you can fool your friends! BUT REMEMBER to keep the rules of composition in mind while you take pictures. If you feel proud of your pictures, choose your best shot and post it to Instagram with #MacroMode. Take at least 10 photos for each subject. Time for your close-up!


If you like, you can just change your aperture to a low f/stop number while taking these shots. You can switch to the “Av” mode or the “M” mode to make this happen. By doing this, you can control how much depth you get in your pictures. The lower the f/stop number, the shallower the depth of field. You may have to change to a manual focus setting to be sure that the camera focuses on what you want it to.

How to Choose the right White Balance

how to choose the right white balance

It’s time to talk about color…wait a minute…I thought we were talking about white balance, well we are! (Deceiving isn’t it?)

White balance has to do with what color your camera perceives to be white. For example, have you ever taken pictures in a gym (or similar lighting) and found that everything seems to be a little yellow? Or have you ever taken pictures outside, perhaps when the sun starts to set, and found that things or people seem to look blue? This is an example of wrong white balance.

Finding the right white balance isn’t really difficult, but it will take some trial and error before you find the right one. Of course, you could just set your camera to AWB (Auto White Balance) and be done with it, but sometimes…the camera just doesn’t know what color white is!

So let’s break it down a little. Essentially, finding the right white balance is all about finding the right color for white.There are a few settings on most DSLR cameras (and some compact cameras) for white balance. These are the settings on the Canon Rebels that I use in my classroom: AWB, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, White Fluorescent, and Flash.

Examples for white balanceIf you find the WB button on your camera, you should see each of these settings (again, for most DSLR cameras). When you scroll through each setting you may see it refer to a number followed by the letter K. For example, On the Daylight setting, mine says: (approx. 5200K). You see, each of these settings corresponds with a "Color Temperature” value (K). However, you don’t really need to know what that value is, you just need to know what each setting will do.

So, let’s talk about what they do and look at the examples. The names of each white balance setting give you a hint on when to use them, but let’s take a look at how much they change a picture. When you use the outdoor settings (Daylight, Shade, and Cloudy) your camera will add yellow to the image. (Did you know that sunlight is actually slightly blue? That’s why it’s SO BRIGHT!)

When you use indoor settings (Tungsten or White fluorescent) your camera will add blue to the image. (This is because most artificial lights have a yellow tint to it.)

Refer to the images on the right for examples of these settings used in action! Below, I have given more specific examples on when to use each setting. The images, however, were all taken in the same lighting, Daylight.

AWB - the camera chooses the white balance (and you hope that it’s right)

Daylight - to be used in FULL SUN

Shade - to be taken in shady areas, including enclosed areas outside (like a dugout) 

Cloudy - to be used when the sun is hidden, but you are in a place that the sun would shine if it were out

Tungsten - to be used in extreme yellow lighting, perhaps your gym lights

White fluorescent - to be used in most indoor lighting situations 

Once you practice and experience using your camera, you can get a better idea for when to use which white balance setting, but until then, I say: try them all! It won’t hurt you to take a few extra pictures (that is the beautiful thing about taking pictures digitally, you almost never run out of room on those multi-gig cards!).


This Week's Photo Assignment

Take 2 good pictures for white balance. Take one shot in outdoor lighting, and the other shot indoors. Test all of the white balance settings for each location and see for yourself how much "white" can change. If you feel proud of your pictures, choose your best shot and post it to Instagram with #whitebalance. Take at least 10 photos for each subject. Jump in!

Vantage Point, The First Step to Taking Dynamic Pictures!

Learn how to take photos at a whole new level. Discover VANTAGE POINT

What does your vantage point as a photographer have to do with taking pictures? A great deal! Where you stand in relation to your subject can make a big difference in how you subject is perceived. 

There are 3 different vantage points that I’ll talk about in this article: worm’s eye view, eye level, and birds eye view. Each view will change the way that you see the subject, so you want to choose the one that makes the most sense for your subject and situation.

Worm’s eye view:Vantage point, Birds eye, eye level, worms eye

This vantage point is taken from below the subject. When you take pictures from the worm’s eye view, it gives you subject a lot of power. Think of the term “looking down” on someone. It almost makes you subject look majestic, or at least very important.


Eye Level:

Most pictures that people take are taken at eye level. It is the most natural vantage point. It takes the least amount of effort and thinking. Eye level makes the subject most relatable. The viewer is on “the same level” as the subject.


Bird’s eye view:

If worm’s eye is below, and eye level is…well eye level, that makes the photographer above the subject in bird’s eye view. With this view, we are “looking down” at the subject. It can make the subject look small, and depending on the situation, less significant.


So, choose your vantage point wisely! There is a perfect vantage point for every subject. While these vantage points make a BIG difference when taking pictures of people, a fresh vantage point for an object can be the breaking point between a good picture and a GREAT picture.


This week’s assignment: 

Take 3 good pictures in different vantage points. Choose 3 subjects and dramatically display all three vantage points (birds, worm, and eye level). If you feel proud of you pictures, choose your best shot and post it to instagram with #vantagepoint. This is going to take a lot of pictures! Take at least 10 photos for each subject. Have fun!

18 weeks of Digital Photography

A semester's worth of digital photography curriculum for high school students in a nutshell

I am so excited to announce that I will be adding digital photography lessons TODAY! I will periodically  release a new unit or lesson. By the end of the semester, there will be 18 weeks worth of photography lessons available.

Also, next week I will begin adding weekly blog posts covering a photo-taking assignment or topic that you will be able to use in your classroom.


This week, I thought I would share an outline for what is to come:Examples for Digital Photography Lessons

  • Week 1: This week is meant for introduction to photography. I introduce the history of photography; specifically the camera obscura or pinhole camera. Then we build our own camera obscura in a room (it’s mind blowing!). I also introduce the semester "Famous Photographer Presentation" project (something that they can do...when there's nothing else to do :).
  • Week 2: Now that they have a foundation for photography, it’s time to introduce how a camera works and how to take pictures. I teach students how to use a DSLR camera and how the camera works (Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO).
  • Week 3: Knowing how to use a camera is one thing, but knowing how to take pictures is another thing entirely. This unit is all about learning the Rules of Composition: Balance, Simplicity, Rule of Thirds, Framing, and Avoiding Mergers. I should mention that the rules of composition may be used with ANY camera, not just a DSLR.
  • Week 4: PHOTOSHOP! This week is all about learning the ins and outs of photoshop.
  • Week 5: Color in Photoshop. Students will use photoshop to manipulate color in photos.
  • Week 6: In the last lesson they learn how to manipulate photos using my photos, now they will learn how to restore their own damaged photo and colorize it.
  • Week 7: COB. No, I’m not talking about corn. COB stands for “Cut Out Background." This week students will learn how to cut themselves out of one image and place themselves into another.
  • Week 8: After last week, this lesson will be easy peasy. Students will now do a “time lapse.” Using an image of themselves, they will place themselves in various positions in the image. For example, one may choose to make hurtle over a stack of bricks. Their image would show the start, middle and end of their time-lapse.
  • Week 9 and 10: Still Life Photography. Students will learn to take and edit still life images.
  • Week 11: Portrait Photography. Using their fellow classmates, students will learn how to effectively take pictures of people.
  • Week 12: Magazine Cover. Students will create a magazine cover. They may choose any magazine that they want to recreate; using their still life and/or portrait skills.
  • Week 13-14: They have the magazine cover, now they need to create a photo advertisement for their magazine. Again, it could be an product they want to represent.
  • Week 15: Photography should be more than snapping a pretty picture. Great photography tells a story, this is what students will be learning in week 15.
  • Week 16: Famous Photographer Presentations. Having studied them all semester, students would now be ready to tell the class about their famous photographer. After they’re finished, students will use images from these photographers to “place themselves in history.”
  • Week 17-18: An ultimate adventure. For the last project of the year, students will create a multiple image story about a trip they took (Europe, outer space, ancient Egypt). Wherever they want to go!

And there you have it! 18 weeks of digital photography in a nutshell. That is what is coming! Week by week, I’ll add more and more lessons AND blog posts to help you teach students to take quality pictures!

Some lessons are available! Take a look!

Also, the 30% August startup sale is still going!!! Click below to get started! 


Introducing DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY lessons!

Teaching Digital Photography to high school kids! Lesson Plans, PowerPoints, Photo Assignments and more!

Something new and exciting here at the Digital Art Teacher: I’ll now be offering Photography lessons! As part of these lessons, I’ll be adding new blog posts discussing what quality photography looks like and giving simple tips to help improve student photography.

Photography, I think is an interesting art. I say this because anybody can do it, but not everybody has the patience it takes to actually learn how to see with a photographer’s eye. One of the first things I say to the kids who take my digital photography class is, “In this semester, I will be teaching you how to see."

It’s actually harder than you might think. People (especially high school kids) take thousands of pictures a year. But a picture is not a piece of art until you actually visualize what the image will look like before you snap a shot. There is a difference between a snapshot and a quality photo.

With these photo lessons, I hope to teach kids how to use their cameras (even the ones on their phones) for more than just selfies. I hope that they will be able to recognize a quality photo and be able take quality photos. Photos that are interesting to look at and tell a viewer a story without uttering a word. Besides, many artists aren’t very good with words anyway. 

The file below is a sneak peak to what is to come in these lessons. It's a famous photographer research project. Download it FREE! 

I will be adding new lessons every week for the next two months AND I will be writing a new blog post weekly discussing photo-taking tips for students (and teachers :) to use when taking pictures.

Click here to “preorder” my digital photography curriculum for 30% off now!

Welcome to the new site!


I admit that it has been a very long time since I have blogged on this site...I have been working through a lot of technical difficulties of late. I have also been revamping the site to be a little more user friendly. And one more thing...

The truth is that I was terrified of copyright, and I almost gave up the whole Digital Art Teacher idea all together. Ironic, isn't it? Since my latest blog post was all about copyright. Anyway, I found out that I had unintentionally broken copyright, and I pretty much ran away with my tail between my legs. 

Now I am trying to be much more careful, being aware of just how vast the realm of copyright extends. 

I am no expert, but below are some things that I learned through this process, I would hate for any of you to go through my heart ache and confusion.

  1. Check and double check your content. See, when I started putting my lessons online, I had been teaching for 5 years already, some stuff that I thought I had created myself, I had copied from somewhere else. Copying content for educational purposes is okay. It's good even! Nobody needs to reinvent the wheel. But since I started this website with the intent to sell, This was a big issue. Which brings me to the next point:
  2. Identify your purpose. If you are using content for your classroom, you have the right to copy what you need for your lessons. As long as that content is made readily available (on the internet or any other form..if anybody uses other forms of information distribution anymore). If you are aiming to sell that content, things get a whole lot stickier.
  3. Don't be afraid to ask. This is my best piece of advice. If you are wanting to use a bit of someone else's work, but don't know if it would be ok, ASK! Most of the time, people don't care. Especially if you leave a link to their site somewhere. If they say no, no problem! The internet is so vast, surely you can find another solution to your problem.

Those were the big points, hopefully that helps you at least clear the muddy waters of copyright at least a little bit. :) Here is a link to my blog post where I talk about how to find free images and another website that I find particularly helpful when looking deciphering what is under "fair use". I am back online, selling my curriculum to anyone who needs them. I thank everyone who has already purchased from me, and if you have not purchased from me, I thank you for your interest. I am writing this blog post to demonstrate my honesty and to hopefully help you understand why I have been so absent.

I believe that the lessons on my site are good and that they will simplify your life. I also want you to understand that I will do everything in my power to as original and transparent as possible.

Have any questions for me about this journey? Send me an email, I'd love to chat! Do you have any questions about copyright, or just want to rant about it a little? Leave a comment below!

Now available!! 9 weeks of Graphic Design lesson plans and videos


Disclaimer: This is an old post. If you are interested in graphic design lessons, go to the "All Lessons" tab to preview my lesson resources. Thanks! 


It’s HERE!!!

It’s finally here!! I am proud to announce that my first set of lesson plans and video tutorials are now available!

If you are interested in purchasing some graphic design lesson plans and video tutorials that will simplify the last half of the school year. Look no further, They’re HERE!!! Click this link to learn more about them.

If you are interested but not willing to commit, sign up for my email list (below or in the sidebar) and receive 6 FREE graphic design tutorials and see for yourself the quality of my content.

For those of you who pre-ordered, THANK YOU!!! Your content should be jailed to you by now and you should have access to all of this content (if not, let me know as soon as possible and I will get them to you.).

I cannot guarantee that my lessons will make your classes run smoothly, but I CAN guarantee that they will save you HOURs of time researching and learning how to do a certain technique, or wondering what method would be best for a specific project, or how to explain a project or assignment.

TRUST ME, I have been in your shoes and I remember what it was like to continually feel burned out and confused. Now is the time to take control and get the tools you need to be successful.

Have some questions about the lessons? Contact me! Leave a comment! I'd love to chat with you!

What is Copyright? - How to find FREE images!


So what exactly is protected under copyright? Who owns a copyright? How does one get a copyright?

You don’t have to have a doctorate in law studies to understand how copyright works, you just need to pay attention!

The first thing you need to know is that everything that you create is copyright protected! Original works are protected the instant you finish them.



if you take a selfie of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower, protected!

If you manipulate a photo you took in photoshop, protected!

If you make a landscape out of Ketchup, Mustard, and Barbecue Sauce, protected!


This is why whenever you look at Google images, every image has a caption that says, “images may be subject to copyright.” Unless an image has been given to a Royalty free website, it is technically copywritten. 

If you are looking for images that are free to use, you need to go to a website that posts "public domain" images like or

One thing that has been really handy for me lately is the “Search Tools" in Google Images. Once you click on that it allows you to select “Labeled for reuse.” This filters all the google images ones that have been labeled as public domain. This is AWESOME because now I don’t have to go to 20 different sites to find an image that perfectly fits my purpose, I can just go to Google!

Google Images

But more than just images are protected. There is also literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works, graphic design, sculptural works, motion pictures, sound recordings, and architectural works. 


Rules, rules, rules! “What,” you may ask, “is not copyright protected?”

  1. Ideas, procedures, or discoveries
    • The ingredients of the recipe are not copyrightable, but the instructions are.
  2. Titles, names, short phrases, or slogans
    • Skittles “Taste the Rainbow” is not copyrightable, but it can be trademark protected (which is a topic for another day :)
  3. Facts, news, and research
    • A standard calendar is not copyrightable.
  4. Works made free by the creator
    • Anything distributed by the U.S. Government.
    • Anything posted on a public domain website (like
  5. Works not fixed in a “tangible expression”
    1. Impromptu speeches that are not written or recorded


There are a lot of content out there (especially on the internet) that seems to be free to use, but the truth of the matter is that they are not! But take heart! There are ways to find what you need, you just need to do some digging! (or use some money :)