The New Way to Teach Camera Composition: the scavenger hunt revisited

By: C. Holcomb

Photo by C. Bundy

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).

Photo by K Cochran

 

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!

Photo by C. Gill

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.

 

Students drawing the shots on a computer.

Here is a list of the pictures I have been using for the assignment:

 

  1. XCU of an object
  2. XCU of a person
  3. MS of someone wearing a green or gold shirt
  4. MS of someone near the vending machines/ someone in the stands
  5. LS of someone walking (lead room)
  6. MCU of someone in front the media center/ someone near the gym entrance/ football gates
  7. MCU of someone in the cafeteria/ MCU of someone cheering
  8. XLS of a group of students
  9.  2 shot   
  10. a shot with a canted angle
  11. CU shot of someone in profile
  12. a shot that shows great depth of field
  13. a shot that shows shallow depth of field
  14. a eagle eye shot
  15. a low angle shot

I hope this helps and email me if you have any suggestions holcomb.ca@gmail.com.  If you would like to see how I define the shots above, you can download this short ebook to your favorite reader.

Follow me on twitter and subscribe to my blog for more upcoming ideas for your media classroom.

 

Bring Your Own Technology Update

I was hoping by now to have a BYOT video to share. I am working on writing the first 12 episodes which I plan on releasing every 2 weeks. This should get me enough videos to last until the Christmas break. I will record all the episodes over several days. Then I will edit them as needed. So far I have 3 scripts close to being finished. They would all be finished but this has been a busy summer.
Last year, we were told to not say we were busy. Apparently, it is better to give people the impression that you are ignoring them then to say you are busy. Actions speak louder than words, but that is a topic for another time. Anyway I have been busy. For someone who works as a teacher 9 months of the year, I would expect to have had more free time in the last month. Nothing could be further from the truth. This isn’t a bad thing. I am enjoying everything I am doing. With that being said something is going to get missed. In this case my BYOT videos.
Since the last day of May, I have sold, recorded, edited and mailed 50 copies of my school’s graduation. This could have been done quicker at my school, but I was trying to finish before my last day of work. For the first time since I began, I didn’t work additional days to complete the task. This was made possible by working all weekend and by chasing down the person for the last video sold to hand them their copy, instead of mailing it.
The very same day, I recorded several episodes of Tap That. This has been our regular routine dedicating one day a week to working on Curious Intentions projects. We have hit a few bumps in the road, but we have kept a good schedule. For an example, we are excited about the new iOS but should we continue to produce videos for the old iOS. So we are going to put out one video a week until iOS 7 is released.
The first day of June, I met with the producers of a children’s film to discuss working with them on a low budget film. So now I am working on it. We have had casting and the shooting begins next weekend.
The 2nd week of June brought the 48 hour film project which I participated in. This was my first time to direct, this type of project. My house served as team headquarters. So in addition to working the film, I had to clean up before and after the event, cook and host. That tacks on another 24. Here is the finished project.

Not long after finishing the film, we were meeting with an Atlanta director who pitched us a project for next summer. Most of this week was a blur because we were recovering from the 48 hour event.
The next week I went to the screening for our 48 hour entry. The other big item was brainstorming for a script for this summer.

So here it is I have been busy.  It has been a lot of fun.   I hope to have a BYOT video out soon, but it is looking kinda b….. Well I would rather not say.

Guided Access on an iPad

We posted a video yesterday about how to set up guided access on iOS devices. I figured some viewers would immediately figure it out and no other explanation would be needed. If you have worked in educational technology you probably immediately see the potential for this feature. To be honest when we were recording the episode, I didn’t stop and think about this feature. I do a little of everything for our videos, but my most prominent role for this one was recording the voiceover. After seeing the final product, I began to really understand how I was going to use this feature.

Guided access is simply being able to control what parts of the screen are available to the users. Some benefit would be using these feature when students are taking online tests or keeping special education students on task. If you are like me and have a small child, you can let them use your iPhone or iPad without the fear of them purchasing items when you look away.

child playing on iPad
Someone likes Circle Pop

I am going to be experimenting with this feature when I get my first iPad for the classroom. It will be nice to know that the students will only be able to use the correct app. Hopefully, I will have more iPads in the future. This will make managing them easier. I have walked by too many computer labs and seen the students off task. This feature would allow you to turn on the feature before handing out the iPads. At the end of the period, the students could simply turn in the iPads and they would be ready for the next class.

Best iPad Apps for Classroom Video Production part 2

In my previous blog, I posted that I was going to make a video about the different apps I recommended. At the time, I did not realize how work was going to be interrupted for the next couple weeks. I have started several blogs in the last 2 weeks, but sadly none of them are finished. So I decided to do something different. I have created a video playlist on my personal YouTube site. To be honest I was playing around with this first on my school site. I wanted to put have a place for my students to go to learn about or get help with an app. I have included some tutorials and examples made from the apps I include in my list. I like YouTube playlists since I am free to add more videos at a later date.

After finishing the previous blog, I thought about a few other related apps that I should have included on my list. I was also impressed at the people had shared my blog with others so I felt it was my duty to do something else. BTW as someone who is new to blogging that is quite a thrill. Thanks.

So here are a few other apps I recommend:

Google Drive – free – When you finish your videos you are going to need to store the finished product. Uploading to YouTube may not be an option at your school or you may not want to share the product with the world. After the video is uploaded, it can be shared with the teacher for archiving and grading and deleted from the device.

iMotion HD This app allows you to make time-lapse videos. The app allows you set how often a photo is taken. After you are finished you can set the playback speed for how many frames per second. Included on the playlist, is a project I made while on vacation at the beach. In the video I posted I recorded the sunrise. It was difficult because I could not tell what was going to be in the shot when I started. If you look carefully you can see me taking photos on the beach.
I also started a playlist for the best photo apps and tutorials. I will write a blog on this shortly. For now here is a playlist.