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Beginning Photography for Student Publications

Billie Lou Rickard
Sharon High School, Sharon, Kansas

Subject: Photography/English
Grade: 10- 12

"Since the school does not have a darkroom, my equipment was set up in a small closet, with no water and only room for two people to squeeze into. But enthusiasm did not falter."

Purpose and Description of Project

This yearbook journalism project was designed to give students the necessary skills to shoot effective color and black-and-white photos and to process prints suitable for use in student publications. This goal was to be reached through a combination of demonstrations, group discussions, lectures, slide shows, assignments, and lab work- and, more important, through photographing student life.


Students used a 35 mm camera to practice loading and unloading the film , holding the camera steady, and focusing, framing, and shooting with the proper meter reading. Next they were instructed in and practiced darkroom and developing procedures with their own pictures. Student knowledge was reinforced by labeling photos with the film speed, shutter speed, and aperture setting, and negatives with the printing time, filter number, and aperture setting. A professional photographer visited the class twice to critique the students' camera-handling and composition skills, and to discuss guidelines for photographing people. A yearbook consultant then instructed students on cropping and layout techniques and led a question-and-answer session on the procedures and problems of printing a student publication. Following their instruction and practice, the class produced a mini-yearbook to demonstrate their newly acquired skills-and they shot, developed, and printed all but the group photos for the school's 68-page yearbook. Their work was evaluated on their ability to use the camera and to produce good-quality prints. Rickard used worksheets, quizzes, and tests to determine where students needed reinforcement.

Materials, Resources, and Expenses

Students used a 35 mm camera, film of various speeds, and typical darkroom supplies. The teacher also provided reference books on photography in general and on student publications and developing, printing, and enlarging photos in particular.

Acting as consultants were a photography instructor from Northwestern Oklahoma State University who helped with photo developing and printing, a local teacher (and photography buff) who critiqued photos and introduced composition techniques, and a yearbook sales representative who assisted with yearbook layout and publication difficulties.

Outcomes and Adaptability

Rickard believes that "Because successful photography depends on the photographer's perception and style, the students sought subjects that interested them; therefore, they communicated their thoughts and feelings." Dubious at first that they could provide quality photos, the students gained self-confidence, patience, and self-discipline as they were trusted to use the camera and prepare their own prints. Enthusiasm remained high as students worked together to meet a common goal, and their judgment and sense of impartiality improved as they became more selective in taking challenging and inspiring photos.

While the original project was carried out with borrowed equipment, the Board of Education responded to student interest by building a school darkroom and purchasing photo equipment. A Yearbook Journalism course was also established to stimulate more student creativity.

Rickard states that this project can be easily adapted to any form of journalism-mass media, newspapers, or photography-by altering the photo assignments. Rickard also finds this equally appropriate for science, art and creative writing classes at the junior and senior high school levels.

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