I am not sure if I invented it or saw it somewhere, but I have been teaching camera composition the same way for at least the last twelve years. I know a few others teachers that have a similar lesson to teach camera composition. The students take still photos for a scavenger hunt, then label the photos, and then create a powerpoint. The technology has evolved to a point where this project is getting easier and the pictures are better quality.
To start this assignment, I show the students a short powerpoint on different shots and provide them with different examples. I explain to the students that everyone has a slightly different definition on shot composition. It important for them to understand this because you can find some resources that explain composition slightly different. This might confuse a student who doesn’t pay careful attention. I rely on my professional experience and my textbooks to define what I require on this assignment.
In the past, I had the students take pictures with the still camera or sometimes with a video camera capable of stills. This project would take a while because I only had a few cameras and I would send the students out two at time to take pictures. Thanks to cell phones most of students do not need to use the school cameras to complete this project. So, a few years ago, I changed this from a partner project to an individual project.
Another benefit of using cell phones is that the students are no longer limited by their location. Most of the pictures were taken in locations just outside my classroom, but now students no longer need to be at school to take the pictures. The results of having a larger location base was that I had students turn in some really good looking pictures. Gone are the days of student taking pictures with a cinder block backdrop and florescent lighting (boring).
The next advantage is, I have been able to decrease the time needed to complete this project. Not only can the student upload the photos quickly to the computers, but they can also do their entire project on their phone. I no longer require the students to use powerpoint, and now I ask them to use Google Slides. They can work on their project on their phone, on a computer at home, or at school by logging into a Google Account. This semester I will give the students the option to turn in their project in as a Google Photo Album.
In the past, when they they did this assignment, they only took a few photos and many of them were incorrect. They felt rushed to take the pictures because someone was waiting to get the camera, and they had a limited amount of storage space. To overcome this, they had to delete the photos that were left on the card. My assignment only requires fifteen photos to make sure the students have a good grasp on camera composition, but I recommend taking much more than that.
Today, I had one student take only twenty photos, another take ninety-six and one take over two hundred. Now, they can afford to take more pictures until they get the picture they want. I am challenging students to show me something I haven’t seen before by using angles and lighting to their advantage. I have also made this a contest by telling them I would use the best ones in an article I was posting online. The downfall is not every student has a phone.
I know it is hard to believe. I still have a few who have broken their phone, or they refuse to clear up space on it. Others supposedly get grounded from their phone, or run the battery down before class. I started my lesson this year by explaining how to use Google Photos and letting them know it had unlimited storage. Still, I had to pull out some old still cameras to let them use for the projects. A benefit of this is, students working on their own device are finishing their project faster. The last two semesters I have had some talented students finish the assignment in one day!
Next year, I plan on adding lighting to this assignment. I want the students to experiment with lighting. The students will take photos that are backlit, overexposed, and underexposed. If the student can master this assignment we can make great looking projects all year long! One time, the students caught me experimenting, with lighting, while they were working on their projects, and they began taking their own lighting pictures.
Another thing I am experimenting with, is having the students do this project in a completely different format. When I first started, we were using video cameras with tape. Back then to have the students do this assignment as a video, would take way too long. It would a lot quicker these days. I have one student who is doing drawings on a computer. I would like to see someone, who is interested in animation, doing this as one.
Here is a list of the pictures I have been using for the assignment:
XCU of an object
XCU of a person
MS of someone wearing a green or gold shirt
MS of someone near the vending machines/ someone in the stands
LS of someone walking (lead room)
MCU of someone in front the media center/ someone near the gym entrance/ football gates
MCU of someone in the cafeteria/ MCU of someone cheering
A few years ago, I was part of a small video production company. We were trying to find our niche. We all enjoyed making films, but we knew we were not going to be the next Warner Brothers Pictures. We all agreed that running our production company would allow us to make films even if that was not the focus of our business. We produced some commercials, recorded some live events and made some instructional videos.
Fast forward a few years later
We were all working other demanding jobs. We had a couple of projects we needed to do but not the time to work on them. We all agreed it was time to dissolve the business part, although we would try and collaborate on some projects together for fun. In the end, I asked to keep the website up and in hopes that business would grow and we had an entertainment blog that was getting major traffic until this last summer.
This last year, I have began to revive some of our projects for fun and hopefully for profit. The first of these projects was our instructional video series Tap That. This was video series to help people use their iOS devices. So far I have made a few videos and am working on updating the format.
Another project that we worked on was an interactive ebook for film and video production. The goal was to align it to match the state standards for Georgia. Since we were dealing with digital distribution it would be easy to create multiple versions to match each state. I had a 90 page draft, I was working on when the standards were updated. I worked on recreating an outline to match the new standards. I was primarily in charge of creating the content since I had years of experience teaching. Before I could get a new draft finished, I had a trip to attend the Student Television Network Convention. We scrambled and I was able to put together on a chapter on camera composition in a PDF format.
When I attended the convention, I shared a link with the teachers I knew. I also posted links to social media. The link was for a form. If you shared your name and email address, you received a link to download the pdf. It was our plan to send the teachers an email with a discount code when the full book was released. Our plan was to keep the book cheap since it was digital media and teacher might be paying for this out of their own pocket. The last time I looked we had 200+ downloads.
Sometime in the middle of the spring, the website was up for renewal. I missed this because this because I was not in charge of the website. It went down and with some help migrated the material to a free site. I am not sure if the link for the PDF or the form still exist. I still have all the material and several drafts of the PDF. I am going to create a new form and put the PDF back online.
So what is next?
I am working on new outlines and would like to break this down into series of several short ebooks. The ebooks will be aimed more at teaching video production. This time it will be in the Kindle format so that it can be read on more devices. I am going to be looking for a couple people to proofread my material. I usually write late at night and I type slower then I think. Since this is going to be a solo effort, any feedback would be great. A new website would be great.
If you could subscribe to this blog, share it with others and comment I would appreciate it. This way you can copy of the PDF when it becomes available.