Photography Unit Study


Photography Unit by Cindy Downes

This unit is ©Copyright 2007, 2010 by Cindy Downes. All rights reserved.Permission is given to homeschooling parents and classroom teachers to use this unit free of charge in their own home or classroom only. These units may not be distributed and/or reprinted in any other form, for any other purpose (commercial or otherwise) without permission from Cindy Downes. Email:

The purpose of this unit is to give interested students a brief history of photography as well as experience in using photography as an art form, all in the context of God’s word. As is my book, The Checklist, I have organized the unit according to Luke 2:52, "And Jesus increased in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man."

Please remember that all art forms, including photography, contain images that may be objectionable. Preview all resources before assigning to your children.

I recommend that this unit for students ages 10 and up, depending upon their interest. It can be completed in nine weeks; 2-3 lessons per week, 30-45 minutes per lesson. If your child has a gift for photography and wants to pursue the optional activities, you could use it as a 1/2 year or 1 year elective for high school.

During the unit, read as many of the recommended books as possible (independent or family reading).

 Wisdom, Part I: Acquire knowledge about God and His story.

    1. (Lesson 1) Photography as an art form. What does the Bible say about art? 
      1. Leviticus 26:1, "Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God
      2. We are not to create art (images) to worship; however, Ezekiel 4:1 says, "Now, son of man, take a clay tablet, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it." Therefore, we know that art may be used for other purposes.
      3. God expects us to use His gifts for His Glory. In 1 Kings 7:13-45, we see Huram as an example. He was gifted in bronze work and used his gift to create pomegranates, lilies, gourds, bulls, and lions for the Temple.
    2. A brief history of photography: 
      1. (Lesson 2) The art of photography began in 1839 with the Daguerreotype and continues today in many forms. Create a timeline of important events in the field of photography. Timeline Resource.
      2. (Lesson 3) Research one or more famous photographers. In addition to their contribution to photography, try to learn about their relationship with God and how it affected their work. Resources:
        1. Louis Daguerre - Daguerreotype.
        2. William Henry Fox Talbot - Calotype.
        3. Frederick Scott Archer - Collodion process.
        4. William Henry Jackson  & Carleton Eugene Watkins –their photos convinced Congress to set aside National Parks.
        5. Adam Clark Vroman - photography of Indian cultures.
        6. Paul Martin - first candid photographer.
        7. Alfred Stieglitz - established photography as art form.
        8. Lewis Hine - first social photographer - Ellis Island immigrants, war-relief work, child-labor.
        9. Man RayRayographs.
        10. Laszlo Nagy – radical artist.
        11. Dorothea Lange – social issues.
        12. W. Eugene Smith - sense of mission.
        13. Henry Cartier-Bresson - most influential photographer of his generation.
        14. Ansel Adams - foremost photographer of western America.
        15. Yousuf Karsh - portraits of famous men.
        16. Philippe Halsman - Albert Einstein stamp.
        17. George Eastman - invented "American Film"
        18. Eadweard Muybridge -  developed fast shutter  
      3. (Lesson 3) For further study, try this website.

Wisdom, Part II: Acquire knowledge about God's Creation

    1. Reading/Literature (Ongoing throughout study)
      1. Photography: An Illustrated History (Oxford Illustrated Histories) by Martin W. Sandler (Gr. 7-12)
      2. Inventing the Camera (Breakthrough Inventions) by Joanne Richter (Gr. 4-8)
      3. Camera (Great Inventions) by Sandy Pobst (All ages)
      4. Ansel Adams: America's Photographer by Beverly Gherman. (Gr. 6-12)
      5. George Eastman (History Maker Bios) by Susan Bivin Aller (Gr. 1-4)
      6. The Kids' Guide to Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Save, Play With & Print Your Digital Photos by Jenni Bidner (Gr 4-8)
      7. The Dust Bowl Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster by Martin Sander.
      8. The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby (Gr. 9-12)
    2. Communication
      1. (Lesson 4) Select one famous photographer and write a biography or give an oral report.
      2. (Lesson 5) Make a list of photographic terms and define.
      3. (Lesson 6) Visit a photo lab to see how film is developed, how enlargements are made, and how photos are restored. Write a paper or give an oral report on what you learned.
      4. (Lesson 7) Learn the difference between a film camera and a digital camera. Write a report or present orally.
      5. (Lesson 8) Write a list of camera equipment needed to start a photography hobby or business.
      6. (Lesson 8) Create a list (or database) of community resources in your area for photographers: stores, labs, courses, galleries.
    3. Math
      1. (Lesson 9) Research and explain the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and film speed.  Another resource.
    4. Science
      1. (Lesson 10) Use Solar Print paper to “develop” pictures.
      2. (Lesson 11) Make a pinhole camera and explain how it works.
      3. (Lesson 12) Learn how a film (and/or digital) camera works. Another resource.
      4. (Lesson 13) Light. Pick one subject and photograph it at sunrise, during the daytime, and at sundown. Take the same photo on a snowy, foggy or rainy day. Prepare an exhibit and explain what happens to light and shadows in each scenario.
    5. Art
      1. (Lesson 14) Visit a photography studio that specializes in fine art.
      2. (Lesson 15) Attend a photography exhibit.
      3. (Lesson 16) Learn to use a film or digital camera.
      4. (Lesson 17) Learn to frame and display photos.

        This is Part I of Five Lessons

        Part I (

        Part II (

        Part III (

        Part IV (

        Part V (

      5. (Lesson 18) Take pictures to illustrate: shape, lines, rhythm, texture.
      6. (Lesson 19) Pick one shape (triangle, square, circle, oval, star, hexagon) and take photos of everything you can find that contains that shape. Create a display of these photos and ask your family or friends if they can identify the theme.
      7. (Lesson 20) Take a series of pictures based on a theme or idea such as unusual architecture, flowers, reflections, insects, etc. and create a display.
      8. (Optional) If you can find this book, read Take A Look Around:Photography by Jim Varriale (Gr 4-8). Photograph one subject from several points of view.
    6. Music
      1. (Lesson 21) Take pictures that represent these moods or feelings: happiness, anger, sadness, loneliness, pride, fun, contentment, confusion, boredom, fear.
      2. (Lesson 22) Create a slideshow of your photos. Add music to accompany the photos. Have a “showing.”


    1. (Lesson 23) Research and talk about ways that photography can enhance our health. Examples: walking (nature photography, sports photography) and medical research (biomedical photography).
    2. (Lesson 24) Research and talk about ways photography can help us care for our bodies. Examples: skincare, hairstyling, appropriate dress (advertising and fashion photography).

 In Favor with God

    1. (Lesson 25) Stewardship – Learn to maintain, clean, and store a camera and equipment.
    2. (Optional) Use your God-given gifts - If you have a gift of art, experiment with photography as a potential career.
      1. Enroll in a photo course locally or on the Internet. Better Photos or
      2. Practice portrait photography: Take "head shots" of friends, family members, and/or pets.
      3. Ask to go along with a professional photographer as an "assistant" or even to just watch.
      4. Create a photography portfolio.
      5. Create a photography business card.
      6. Select one photography career that interests you the most and research it: Fine Art, Portraits, Wedding, Commercial (Fashion & Advertising), Architectural, Sports, Newspaper, Forensic, Biomedical, Law, Travel, Public Relations. Find out what type of work is done and what training is needed.
      7. If possible, obtain a part-time job in a photo store or lab.

 In Favor with Man

    1. (Lesson 26) Research the use of photography in missions and for social issues.
    2. (Lesson 27) Take pictures that tell a story about a mission program or social issue. Prepare an exhibit or multimedia presentation of your photos. EXAMPLE:

      Video on YouTube:

    3. (Lesson 28) Create a photo greeting card for a shut in or someone in a nursing home or hospital.
    4. (Optional) Photograph a community event. Send it to your local chamber of commerce and offer to let them use it in a brochure.
    5. (Optional) If your homeschool organization has a yearbook, volunteer to take pictures.
    6. (Optional) Offer to photograph a special event for a nonprofit organization.

This unit was created by Cindy Downes and first published in the Old Schoolhouse Magazine, 2007.



Copyright © 2004 - by Cindy Downes