Digital Photography Assignments For High School Students

Assignments due Wednesday, March 14

1. On Location Portraits with Double Lighting with Bounced Flash

Do a photoshoot in school, Using two flashes to create “double lighting” . Set the flash on camera (or off camera with the cord) to MASTER and have an assistant hold another flash set at SLAVE. Edit your photos in Lightroom and do any cosmetic retouching in Photoshop.  Post 2-10 portraits to your blog. Think about COMPOSITION and POSING when doing your photo shoot.


2. Fashion Photography

Do a fashion shoot in the studio with the white or black background and strobes, or outside on location with a very long lens. Before you shoot, research photographers who specialize in fashion photography and post 2-3 of their images to your blog. In the caption section write how you think they achieved the results. Post your best fashion shot to your blog.


3. Touch Series

Take photos of people touching in some way, and put them together as a series.



Assignments due Wednesday, March 7:


Create a series of photographs which work together to conceptualize a theme or story idea. You should have at least 5 beautifully edited photos in your photo story.  Make each photo a separate image  on your blog (no gallery or photomontage)  Write a caption for each photograph in the series. Also, write an introduction paragraph or two to begin the Photo Story. (Include a description of what you are trying to communicate about the subject and why this subject matter interested you enough to dedicate your time and energy to visually share it on your social media sites. (ie: blog, website, facebook, instagram, snapchat, etc) Check  out these links  to get some good ideas for your project.


Look online for photographs from this years winter Olympics. Find a few photos (3-5), which you think are absolutely amazing. Post them to your blog and explain under each photo how you think the photographer shot the image technically. Also talk about the composition and why the image is so successful.


Use the pixelstick to create a light painting series. Experiment with different exposures and lighting effect. Make a series out of your images in Photoshop and then post the series image to your blog.


Research photographers online who specialize in your area of interest. Write a 500 word essay about your chosen photographer. Include a description of their style, how you think they technically achieve their results, and describe their visual aesthetic and composition style, and why you enjoy their photography. Include 2-3 of their images with your writing.



 Take a photograph of yourself looking in the mirror. Using Photoshop, put an image in the mirror how you see yourself in the future. Samples from photographer Tom Hussey below:



Bookface involves strategically lining up a face or another body part alongside a book cover that features a matching body part so that there appears a melding of life and art. Librarians and other book lovers post these photos weekly on visual apps like Instagram, using the caption #BookfaceFriday. Take a few bookface photos, edit in LR or PH and make a series of 3-12 photos.(either in one document or as a gallery on your blog. Post some to IG with the hashtag.


Photograph a subject’s face and then a take a photo of them with their hands over their face. Merge the two images to create an end result similar to the samples below.



Take several self portraits and edit your favorite. Find an image online that describes something about you and the kind of imagery you’re eye is attracted too. Blend the two images together to create a unique and creative selfie.



Look online at resume formats to get ideas. Then produce your resume. Be sure to include your objectives, education, experience and also your skills. Post your finished resume to your blog.





Take some portraits in the studio with the strobes and gels. Take at least 100 photos, trying to capture the true essense of the person you are photographing. Try placing the gels on the fill or main light as well as just on the background. Edit your photos in Lightroom and post 20-25 of them on your blog. Make the feature photo of the blogpost your favorite portrait.



Take at least 3 video clips of your favorite place and explain why it is your favorite place.  Use your cell phone and /or a DSLR Camera for your cinematography, but edit with Desktop Premiere, or Adobe Mobile app “Adobe Clip”.  Add some background music at some point in the video.


Watch this tedtalk and on your blog write a three paragraph reflection summarizing it and also discuss your opinion and what you got out of viewing it.


Look at the amazing paintings by Georgia O’Keefe. Create your own illustration in Photoshop based on the close up work by this artist. Use brushes and color swatches to create your own digital art in the  style of Georgia O’keefe




Tip 1: Plan Ahead.

Before you create your video, make a list of five words that you’d use to describe yourself and your personality. Then create a second list of key words that describe your future endeavors. These are the foundation of your storytelling. When you’re building your video, incorporate the words into a story by text slides throughout the video that work with your visuals.

Tip 2: Grab Attention.

To instantly lock in your viewer’s attention, include a video clip in the first ten seconds. It could anything but think about conveying energy, excitement or tension.

Tip 3: Mood Music.

Music can convey a very different feeling: slow music can make a viewer feel like the video is actually longer than it is; fast music tends to create excitement. Choose wisely.

Tip 4: Think Short.

Make sure your video is no longer than 90 seconds; the closer to a minute in length, the better! Over 50% of viewers click away from a video after the first minute. In fact, if you upload your video to YouTube, their analytics can tell you exactly when people stop watching so you can re-edit your video if you see a problem.:

Tip 5: Don’t Forget

  • Include your name
  • Talk about yourself
  • Talk about your areas of interest
  • Include a picture of yourself

Once you are done, be sure to share your video. After you post it on your edublogs, send links to You Tube, and Facebook — drive traffic to your video!



1. LEVITATION SERIES   Look at this levitation series:  and get inspired to produce a levitation series of your own. Use Photoshop to make your subject look as if they are levitating. Have at least three different photos in your photo series.


2. KINOPTIC PHOTOGRAPHIC ART:  Look at the work of Julio Amaro online. He is a kinoptic artist. Research kinoptic art online. Photograph two subjects that are polar opposites. You will make your kinoptic piece in Photoshop by combining sections of each photo equally. Make each section 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. Then you will print your image 17×11 and fold it in a fan style to make the kinoptic piece. Photograph your work from every angle and post to your blog. Look at the samples below to start formulating ideas



Use a DSLR camera  on video mode to produce a 90 second video about yourself- your interests, friends, family, goals, etc. Edit your video in Premiere and add music.

Read these links to get inspiration and ideas for your video. Write a two to three paragraph summarizing what you have learned about video production. Before you begin to shoot video write a brief summary describing your ideas and what you want to share about yourself on the video and how you plan to make it entertaining, and also how you intend to get views.


1. NEW WORKS POWERPOINT (Due Monday Dec 11)

Make a powerpoint highlighting your new images which you created this semester. (i image per slide) Caption each photo with a name and include an intro slide with a self portrait and the name of your photography company, and an end slide which includes five things you learned this semester in photography 2 class and five things you hope to learn next semester. You will present this to the class next week during final time.



Using Photoshop create a work of art based on the style of artist Wassily Kandinsky. Research his work online and write a paragraph describing his work and your opinion of it. Use brushes, colors, shapes and varying opacities to imitate his style of art.



Research the work of artist Sandy Skoglund. Write a paragraph on your blog describing her original style and your opinion of it. Include your favorite image of hers in your blog post. Using an original photograph, find a subject online to reproduce multiple times within your image. Think of an original and descriptive name for your new piece.



Use the photo screenprint image you made, and create a new mixed media work of art.  Embellish your work with  collage, painting, photography, colored pencils, or any other visual medium. Scan or take a photo of your work to post on your blog.






Make a photo screenprint on a tee shirt or article of clothing with your original image on it. Follow the steps in the screenprinting process to achieve the optimal results.



Choose an issue you care deeply about, and would want to try and do something about. This issue should be something that is a general issue or concern in society somewhere in the world. Some ideas of things you might be interested in depicting/standing up for or against: pollution/environmental concerns, abortion rights, pro-life, racism, big government, homelessness, AIDS, religious wars,  poverty, verbal abuse, bullying, depression, teen suicide, discrimination, gay rights… Create a 11×14 300 resolution collage poster about the social issue you have selected.

Written Assignment:  Write about your poster. Answer a number of these questions in your writing.  Why do you feel the way you do? What are your arguments for or against?  What – or who – has influenced your decisions.  What is the “flip side” of your issue? What might the other side have to say? Can you see their point of view?  What is your reasoning for choosing your stand?  Is your artwork intended to offend? Who would be offended? Does the artist have a right to offend? Critique your project. Does it get your point across? How? Is there a focal point (center of interest)?



Photograph the body and make a triptych image of your three favorite ones, which go together visually.



1. Review of articles on Canon Lens Experience

Check out the site first and then go to the Experiences tab. Read at least two of the online articles and review them on your blogsite. Talk about how you got inspired by what you read, and how you can use these stories and personal experiences to shape your view and opinion about a career in the photography field. .(500 words).

2. Your Photography Exhibit (sign and artist statement)

Print 5-8 of your best photographs and mount on construction paper. Find a location in the school to put up your photography work. Make sure to make a sign with your name and website link to display with your exhibit.  Also write an artist statement, 3-5 paragraphs in length describing your work and why you chose this particular work to exhibit.

3. Portrait Silhouette with Text Inside

Photograph a silhouette portrait, head and shoulders or full length. Bring your silhouette photograph into Photoshop and make sure you use levels or curves to get a strong black silhouette. Select the silhouette portrait and use Control+J to put it on its own layer. Use the text tool (any color you can see against black)and fill the silhouette with text (describing words, nouns, inspirational quote, song lyrics) Use Control+Alt+G to fill the silhouette with the text and align appropriately. Don’t forget to add a stroke to the text. Add a pattern gradient to the background layer. Save as a jpeg and post to blog.

4. Double Color Exposures

You will be creating a Double Color Exposure using Photoshop and Portraits to create a color fringing look. You will be taking portraits of your partner in two (or three) different angles. You will need to fill the frame and make sure you shoot from the waist up. It is your decision on the orientation of the images. Although, you will need to make sure that the two images you choose to use are orientated the same way. For example, both should be either horizontal or vertical.
You need 6 different poses: 3- side view and 3-front view. This will allow you to try various color combinations. You must shoot your images on a blank, clean background. The studio works best, but if you can find a nice solid background outside that will work just fine.

Bring both images into Photoshop, open a new document and and place both images in, onto two separate layers.Then on the top layer click the fx tool [layer styles]button at the bottom of the Layers Palette.

Uncheck the R G B boxes in the ADVANCED BLENDING SECTION. As you click the boxes one-by-one you will see your image change colors!

Once you get the color combination you like hit OK.

Then if there is left over space after adjusting where you want the images to be, SELECT a slice of the image with the correct color [make sure it is just the background and does not contain any of the subject inside] using the MARQUEE TOOL.

Then CLICK CTRL/CMD T and it will turn your selection into the bounding boxes to transform it. Pull from the side to stretch it out.

Then ADD and ADJUSTMENT LAYER [SELECTIVE COLOR] to refine the color combinations you chose.






Construct a photo montage similar to the work of David Hockney. Make sure to use your own photography for this assignment. Use Photoshop or find an app which helps to construct the montage. Post to blog and website.



At The Getty Museum Field Trip, photograph architecture. Edit your photos in PS or LR and put them together into some sort of photo series. Post to blog and website.


Pretend you have 10,000 to spend on photography equipment. Make a list of the equipment you would buy and a 1-3 sentence justification under each item as to why you would need it. List all prices and add them all up. A good site to use is B&H Photo and Video.


Photograph portraits on location, outside or inside. Try to get shallow depth of field in your portraits. Edit and post 3-10 portraits on your blog and website.


Research what jpeg and raw file formats are, and the differences between them. Write a three paragraph reflection comparing and contrasting them both on your blog.






Complete the 6 assignments by the due date.


Take and edit a Self Portrait and put it in a time magazine cover design. Add appropriate text  on the  cover to include why you would be on the cover.



Take a portrait of a friend or family member and digitally open up their  head to reveal what they are thinking about.



*Read these links about Light Painting and the Pixelstick. On your blog list 10 new things you learned about light painting and also 10 features of the pixel stick and why we should purchase it. Then post 2 photos you like from online which show amazing use of the pixelstick.

Experiment with  light painting  and post 1 to 3 images on your blog and website.



Cut out images from magazines and make an 8×11 collage showing your understanding of good composition. When you are done with your collage, scan it and add a few more elements, details, colors etc, with Photoshop. Then post to your blog.

Have you ever tried teaching a teenager science, math or technology? If you have, you know it can be a lesson in frustration. Let’s face it. Science, math and even technology are pretty dry subjects, and it’s hard to find ways for students to learn about them, without having to read thick textbooks, memorize equations and perform the same experiments over and over again. Right now we spend so much time teaching the science of exposure, focus and, yes, even composition, we forget the reason we picked up photography in the first place was to create art.

Being a huge proponent of the “Learn by Doing” school of thought, I’ve come up with three captivating lessons you can use to teach a teenager, or even a whole classroom of teenagers, the ART of photography. And if a bit of science comes along for the ride, it won’t be any worse than the vegetables you sneak into their lasagna.

Selfies – if you can’t beat ‘em, teach ‘em!

Some studies have estimated that a third of the photographs young adults, ages 18 to 24 take is of themselves. It seems like a huge number, but I believe it. I’ve watched hundreds of teenagers get off their school buses at the incredible Tunnel View in Yosemite Valley, only to take a quick shot of themselves and hop right back on their bus. I’ve seen the same effect take place across the Country, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Golden Gate Bridge.

It would be easy to write off all teenagers as a generation of selfish narcissists, but I know that isn’t the case. I believe teenagers take and share pictures of themselves because they’ve been empowered to do so. That’s why smart phones have two lenses, one on the front and one on the back. And it’s one of the big reasons why social networking sites like Facebook even exist. So, until the next big thing comes along, or enough “old people” pick up the fad, selfies are here to stay.

But, love them or hate them, because selfies are so popular they can be a wonderful teaching opportunity. Because at the heart of each poorly lit, poorly composed and haphazardly focused selfie, lays the heart of a wonderful portrait.

Before we begin, it’s important to remember that many of us have issues about the way we look. This is especially true for a lot of teenagers. It’s possible the reason so many teenagers post “ugly” selfies, with scrunched up faces, stuck out tongues and other odd contortions is so they won’t be judged by how they “really” look. I can relate. It wasn’t until I learned about lighting, posing, cropping and retouching that I was comfortable enough to post my own Facebook photos. So be aware and try to be sensitive to the feelings of your students. I don’t think it’s necessary for every student to produce an actual selfie. Shooting a portrait of another student, a family member, friend or even the teacher should also be allowed.

Image via Pixoto

Lesson #1: Taking a Great Selfie

The first part of any lesson is what I like to call “The Backstory”. Pick one of your favorite portrait photographers to share with the class. Mine would be Gregory Heisler, but you might prefer Diane Arbus, Eve Arnold, Edouard Boubat, Dorothea Lange or maybe Annie Leibovitz. It really doesn’t matter who you chose, as long as their photographs offer interesting lighting, great emotion and hopefully some creative compositions. Compare the works of your favorite artist to some random selfies. But make sure the selfies aren’t from the class and that they’re anonymous. The point is to contrast and compare the work of portrait artists to the quick and dirty selfies, showing how light, contrast, backgrounds and emotion can make one image memorable, while the other is simply forgettable.

The object of your “Backstory” is to instill the desire among your students to create their own innovative and memorable self-portraits. So make sure to ask your students what it is in each of the professional photos that makes them unique and powerful. On the opposite side of the coin, be sure to ask them what it is about the selfies they find lacking.

It would be extremely difficult to teach every concept of photography in every lesson. And I doubt if most teenagers, or adults for that matter, can retain all of that information all at one time. So, for this lesson, let’s concentrate on backgrounds, the direction of the lighting and posing.

Using some of the sample photographs from your favorite portrait artist, have your students take a look and describe the backgrounds they see in each shot. Ask them these questions as they inspect the images. Are the backgrounds sharp and in focus, or soft and blurry? Are the backgrounds darker than the subject, lighter or a combination that is both darker and lighter in certain areas? Do the backgrounds take away from the subject? In other words, are their eyes drawn to the background instead of the subject? Is there a lot of the background showing, or does the subject take up the majority of the photograph? The object is to get them thinking about every part of the photograph, from corner to corner, and not just the portrait itself.

As you already know, because it’s such a huge subject, you can talk light until the cows come home – which is when the light is gone, by the way – so we’re going to narrow our discussion to just the “direction” of light and the difference between harsh light and a softer light. And you can easily demonstrate both with a simple hand-held spotlight and an inexpensive diffuser. Pick a volunteer and have them sit on a stool in the middle of the class. Have the class join you as you walk around the volunteer, keeping the light aimed at the student, but raising and lowering the light as you go. Take another rotation with your diffuser in front of the light. You can break the class into smaller groups if you need to as the demo goes very quickly.

Have the students point out both the location and the strength of the shadows as you circle the student and compare how the light “feels” from one location to another and with and without the diffuser. It’s important to convey that there is no “Right” answer with lighting a portrait. Light is simply a tool the photographer uses to convey a feeling or emotion. You might ask your students which kind of light looked the most “dramatic”, and which kind of light seemed the most “flattering”.

Our faces tell our stories, but that doesn’t mean all of our chapters are flawless. Our skin can be blemished, our noses crooked and our chins doubled, and the selfie/portrait photographer has the choice of highlighting each of these features, or downplaying them. And while lighting can play a part in this, posing is easier to control and much more effective. A great resource for portrait posing is 8 Posing Guides to Inspire Your Portraiture

And now to the assignment, and it’s a simple one. Simply ask your students to come back to class with two portraits, either of themselves or someone else on a flash drive. The two portraits must have different backgrounds, different lighting and unique poses, and the students must be ready to explain the choices they made and why they made them.

Mood Swings.

I can’t stress this enough. Photographs that convey a mood are going to be more memorable than those that don’t. It seems like a simple concept, but even though I think about it almost every day, and I try my hardest to make it happen, not every photograph I produce conveys a mood. I guess it’s just not that easy. But that’s all the more reason to help teens start to look for the expressions, the objects and the kinds of light that help convey a mood.

Photo by Kevin Reilly

Lesson #2: Adding “Mood” to Make a Memorable Photograph

Once again, you’ll need some sample images to fill in your “Backstory”, but this time I wouldn’t use the works from a single photographer. Instead, look to your own collection of photos, or browse through Flickr or 500px to find photographs that convey a “mood.” Don’t just look for the dark, sad photos. Moody photos can be happy as well. What exactly are you looking for? Photos that convey a mood often leave a lot to the imagination. The “missing” information in a shallow depth of field photograph is a good example. So are the soft streaks of color in a long exposure. An over-exposed photograph can convey a feeling that’s completely the opposite of a dark and gloomy one.

There are certain objects that instantly convey a mood; a solitary bench, a puppy, barred windows, a fast car, a dirt road, a single tree…the list goes on and on. Some of the most common “mood” photographs are of sunsets, sunrises and well, just about anything that is shot in the magic hours that around those sunsets and sunrises. Of course, a photograph of a golden retriever riding in a wagon in the middle of a hot, summer afternoon is going to have a mood all of its own too.

Have your students number a sheet of paper, with the numbers corresponding to the photos you’re going to display. After you display your first photograph, tell your class to write down the first emotion, feeling or mood they feel when they see it on the line numbered 1. Continue down the list, but go faster and faster as you progress through the slideshow.

At the end of the show, ask your students as a class what they wrote down for each photograph. The answers should be the same or similar for every photo. If not, take a moment to discuss the various answers and see if the photograph either failed to convey a mood, or perhaps conveyed a number of moods.

Photo by Kevin Reilly

This is also a great opportunity to introduce some of that nasty-tasting photography science into your discussion. Your students might “feel” the mood in a shallow depth of field photograph, but they are probably unfamiliar with the concept behind its creation. You can be the “Magician behind the Curtain” as you explain how the photograph was made. This goes for those great long-exposure shots as well.

Your students will have a great time with the assignment that goes along with this lesson. Have them create two photographs that display a mood. The first photograph will be of an object that conveys a mood by itself. The second will convey mood through the type of light used to shoot the photograph. And finally, for extra credit, students can create a photographic mood through a technique, such as shallow depth of field or slow exposure.

Art or Science? Can you tell the Difference?

We started this article off with the idea that, for many of us, art is far easier to teach than science. But there is no getting around the fact that a lot of photography is made up of math and geometry and even physics. And if you’re a fan of night photography, you can toss in a little astronomy as well. So, is photography a science after all? Some people think so. They say if a device, such as a camera, comes between you and the finished product, it isn’t really “you” who is producing the art. It’s the camera that’s doing the heavy lifting. I couldn’t disagree more.

For me, I follow the other path which simply says “Art is created by Intent”. If I can preconceive an image in my mind, and then produce that image, or at least a very close resemblance of it, then I feel my work is just as much art as a painting or a sculpture or anything else that only identified as art.

So, if you go along with my concept that “Art is created by Intent”, you’re probably already guessing what my next assignment will include.

Lesson #3: Part 1 – Art or Science

This lesson will go pretty fast. List all of the terms you can think of that involve photography on your chalkboard. Just jot down words like “Composition” and “f/stop” and ‘Focus”. You can go to this list, A Glossary of Digital Photography Terms, if you find yourself running short. Go through the list with your students and see if they can identify which word applies to the science of photography and which applies to the art of photography.

We’re all hit over the head with the technology behind photography. Words like Megapixels and Focus Points roll off our tongues so often any newcomer to photography would be forgiven if he thought the whole endeavor was strictly an exercise in gathering the best technology. But it isn’t. Photography is an art and I’d like to see more students using words that conveyed that fact. And the more we talk about composition and emotion and mood, the more people will realize that fact.

Photo by Kevin Reilly

Lesson #3: Part 2 — Building a Photograph with Intent

Anybody who has ever had an English class, and I assume that’s just about everybody, knows how to diagram a sentence to identify its parts. Or, if you’re like me, you at least remember the concept even if the details are fuzzy. It’s been a long time since the 7th grade. The object of this lesson is to identify the various “parts” of a photograph and then use those parts to “build” a new one. The trick is this; the parts your students identify will be from an image that is already produced, sitting right in front of them. The image they are going to “build” will come straight from their imagination.

To prepare, print a total of four images on the front and back of a piece of paper. Black and white images are fine for this lesson. Now have the students identify all of the parts of each photograph. The parts will include: the subject, the background, the type of light, the mood, and the technique. This isn’t a test, so it’s fine to help students identify all of the parts. They may need some help with the technique if you haven’t covered that in your previous lessons.

Now the fun part. Instruct your students to create four images using the same parts as they identified in the printed photographs. In other words, if the first image contained 1) an object, 2) in low light 3) conveying a happy mood and 4) shot with shallow depth of field, that’s the shot your students would be tasked with producing. When they’re finished, your teen photographers will know how to “produce” a photograph in their head before they go outside with a camera. And with that “intent” they’ll become artists before they know it.

I hope you find these ideas useful in your classroom, for your homeschooled teens or just as fun exercises for you and your family.

Photo by Kevin Reilly

8 Posing Guides to Inspire Your Portraiture
Web site
Digital Photography School

A Glossary of Digital Photography Terms
Web Site
B&H Photo

72 Beautiful Photographs to Express the Moods of Human Life
Web Site
Creative Design Magazine

Poll: Selfies Now Make Up 30% of All Photos Taken by Young People
Web Site
Relevant magazine

About the Author

Kevin Reilly

Kevin Reilly specializes in black and white photography. His goal is to create images that offer every bit of the detail, clarity and depth your eyes would see if you were placed directly into the scene. Currently, Kevin is the author of a blog devoted to travel photography and the RV lifestyle.


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