Tapestry of Faith: Families : A Jr. High School Youth Program that Explores the Diversity, Commonality, and Meaning of Families
Main Content

Activity 2: Photography As Art

Part of Families

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Driver's license photo
  • Portrait photograph
  • An assortment of photographs of people
  • UUA Photography Supplements to Families; Balance, Framing, Light, Point of View (optional)
  • Computer, with or without Internet access (optional)

Preparation for Activity

  • Gather an assortment of photographs of people. Make sure to include photographs of groups and people who are diverse in ethnicity, ability, and other ways.
  • Review the UUA Photography Supplement to Families. If you have Internet access, show the photos in class, testing your equipment beforehand. If you have access to a computer, but not the Internet, consider burning the supplement to a disc and bringing the disc to the session. If you do not have access to either, print out the photographs you need to illustrate your talk beforehand.
  • Write the following questions on newsprint (optional):
    • What attracts you to certain photographs?
    • Does the content attract you most?
    • Does the composition attract you most?
    • What elements make a photograph artistic? Invite participants to consider shape, line, texture, pattern, size, and use of space as elements of composition.
  • List the following photography terms on newsprint: Framing, Balance, Point of View, Light.

Description of Activity

This activity focuses on differences between snapshot and artistic photography. In addition, it reviews methods of composition that make a photograph more artistic. This activity has a wealth of useful information, but it could be viewed as a lecture. Having a guest speaker present this material (see Alternate Activity 1) is one way to make the presentation more interesting. Using as many visuals as possible and allowing questions and comments from participants is another way.

Explain to participants that today you will consider the art of photography. You might ask, "Is photography art?" Encourage participants to consider why and why not.

Show the group a photo on a driver's license and an artistic portrait photograph of that person and/or others. Ask them to look at the driver's license and the portrait and answer these questions:

Are these two photographs different? In what ways?

  • What was the photographer trying to do in each case?
  • How do they each make you feel?
  • Which is more artistic-expressive, creative? In what way(s)?

Gather participants in pairs or small groups, and distribute photographs that you have collected. Ask participants to separate the photographs that they find merely useful from those, which appeal to them emotionally. Ask them to consider the following, which you might have pre-listed on newsprint.

  • What attracts you to certain photographs?
  • Does the content attract you most?
  • Does the form attract you most?
  • What elements make a photograph artistic? Invite them consider shape, line, texture, pattern, size, and use of space as elements of composition.

Gather again as a large group and share reflections. To facilitate this you might ask, "What makes a photograph appealing?" Tell participants that you're going to review some elements of photography. Invite participants to share their experiences and welcome them into a conversation.

List the following elements on newsprint and include as many notes as you think will be helpful. Review the definitions that you have listed. Relate each definition to the photographs provided in the UUA Photography Supplement to Families. Circulate the photographs as you talk. (Alternatively, show photographs as a PowerPoint presentation.)

Framing

Framing involves the use of natural or contrived structures to form a "frame" along all or part of the border of the image area. The archway of a building or a low hanging tree branch may provide a natural frame. One might create a contrived frame by setting up an arch of wicker or bent wood like those that photographers use in wedding and prom pictures. Show the photographs illustrating framing that are provided in the UUA Photography Supplement to Families.

Balance

Many photographers try to create balance in photographs by planning shots using thirds of the available space. A profile subject, positioned in the left two-thirds of the frame, facing slightly toward the right side of the photograph, can be balanced by the open space of the right one-third of the frame. The viewer then sees the open space as the subject's field of vision. In the photograph, the space becomes tangible. Placing a single or group subject in the top two-thirds of the photo area, and using a meaningful prop in the foreground can also achieve balance. The concept of thirds in planning the photograph can be helpful to the novice photographer. Show the photographs illustrating balance that are provided in the UUA Photography Supplement to Families.

Point of View

Moving around the subject while looking through the viewfinder of the camera, the photographer determines the most appealing and effective perspective. Special effects can be obtained from shooting either below (creating an illusion of expanded size/strength of the subject) or above (causing the subject to diminish or appear childlike or remote). The photographer may need to move closer to capture detail or move back to avoid cutting off the subject's feet.

Shooting a photo from the wrong angle or point of view can create the impression that the subject has an object sticking out of his/her head! It is tempting to position the subject in front of a beautiful tree or flowering bush, but if the angle is such that it does not create depth perception, the subject may appear to be a human flowerpot. By moving slightly to the right or left, the photographer may be able to give the photo the depth that separates the subject from the background. The point of view chosen by the photographer influences both the aesthetics and mood of the photograph. Show the photographs illustrating point of view that are provided by the UUA Photography Supplement to Families.

Light

Lighting also influences the quality and feel of photographs. Some cameras have a built-in flash and allow for little photographer control of light. Flash may be necessary for indoor shots and is useful for filling in shadow areas on a sunny day outdoors, but be aware that flash can produce a flat image and may not be as appealing as the use of available direct or diffused-ambient-light.

When using direct lighting, either natural or from flash, the photographer must determine the most appealing angle at which to have the direct light strike the subject. Sidelight will highlight one side of the photo over the other; backlight may be used to make the subject glow, as it can put a halo around the darker subject. It is easy to lose the detail of your subject to darkness. Front light will illuminate the subject more evenly, but may cause shadow areas in which detail is lost. Show the photographs illustrating light that are provided by the UUA Photography Supplement to Families.