Most teachers take photos in their classroom at some point. As photography is a major hobby of mine (I also blog about it), I tend to find myself photographing in my classroom quite often. It's a seemingly simple enough idea, but there's actually a lot of things to consider if you want to do it well. Here is a guide I made up of things to keep in mind when taking photographs in your classroom. This is somewhat of a followup post to my post about blogging in the classroom, where I touched upon some of these topics.
Choosing the Right Camera
In reality, any camera will do for classroom photography, but being a photographer, I like to use a camera that produces high quality images. At school, I currently use a Samsung NX100 (without the kit lens) with 30mm lens. This is a camera I carry around with me when I don't want to lug around my professional gear, so I didn't buy it especially to use at school, but it comes in very handy. The camera's an older (and thus cheaper) model, and I got a good deal for the two on eBay. This combo allows me to isolate subjects from their background with a pleasing background blur (also known as bokeh) but the downside is, it's a fixed focal length lens, so it doesn't zoom in or out, and the camera doesn't have a flash. I haven't found either of those things to be much of a problem. There's no need to carry a bulky digital SLR around. These days, there are plenty of smaller cameras that produce high quality images.
Getting Permissions from Parents
If you're planning to photograph students and then publish or share those photos, you really need to get permission from parents. In this day and age, most parents are fine with having their child's photo posted on the blog, but there are some who are not, and they have the right to decline permission. Some students are also camera shy. If they don't want their photo on the blog, they don't have to get the permission slip signed. I send home a slip at the beginning of the year which explains to blog to the parents. This gets the parents informed about the blog, so they can go check it out. The permission slip also states that the child can be photographed by any local media that come into the classroom. That way, if your local newspaper or even TV station comes to cover an event in your class, you're all set.
Photographing the Students There are a few ways you can make your photos of students better:
- When photographing various activities, it's nice to get a variety of whole-class and single-student shots. Sometimes we get so caught up in taking pictures of small groups of students, we forget to get the whole class in motion.
- Don't forget to get some shots where students' faces are obscured (perhaps with heads down working). This may sound odd, but you can post these on the blog if you don't have enough photos of students with permissions.
- Get a shot of the entire class at some point. Although you may not be able to post it on the blog, it makes a great memento and it's great to show to just the students at the end of the year.
- Don't forget videos too! This is something I forget a lot myself. Almost all digital cameras today are able to record video, and video can capture activities in a way photos can't.
Photographing the Classroom - While I don't post these pictures on the blog, they are great mementos. I also use them when I'm planning to "redecorate" the classroom. I take an image into Photoshop and sketch where things will go.
Quick & Easy Touch Ups
When I'm taking photos in the classroom, I'm usually not editing them afterwards, but sometimes I have to. Most photo editing programs (even Microsoft Paint) will allow you to crop your photo (for instance, if you need to crop out a student without a permission slip). Anything beyond that, you'll need something a little more advanced. Photoshop.com is a free, web-based version (albeit just the basics) of Adobe Photoshop. If a photo comes out too dark or too bright, you can fix that here.
Put Them on Your Blog - This is a pretty obvious place to share photos. Blogging platforms like Blogger make it easy for you to upload photos to your blog, even if you're not HTML savvy.
Put Them in a Portfolio - Photos are a great piece of evidence to show to an administrator or supervisor before an observation. Since he or she can't possibly see everything that's going on in your classroom, photos help fill in the blanks. If you have a teaching portfolio, photos make a great addition.
Share Them with Students - At the end of the school year I make a slideshow using Animoto with photos and video clips of my students from the year to show them how far they've come. The program costs a little extra to make a clip longer than 30 seconds, and even more to get an HD version, but I find it well worth the money. Even for someone like me, who is proficient in iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, it is just so easy to use and professional looking. The money you spend on it is well worth the time you'll save making it yourself, and it will undoubtedly look better here. You do give up a certain amount of creative control, but I haven't found that to be a problem with what I use it for.
Local Media - Don't forget to promote your program! Send your photos of interesting events in your classroom to your district public relations person or to local newspapers, so people can see why learning a foreign language is important.