Assignments for Teaching Photography
by Michael Peres

Pictured above are photography students from the Allendale Columbia School who visited RITphoto in June. We love hosting these students and enjoy their enthusiasm for the subject. During these visits we have often heard that teaching photography in high school can be challenging. Some schools do not have enough resources or there is NOT enough time dedicated to the subject to really explore an idea, or subject. In spite of the challenges, high school teachers accomplish great things with their students.

The RITphoto faculty thought it might be useful share some of their favorite assignments on this Blog for use by other photography teachers.  Going forward we will share assignments as they become available. We hope you will find them useful. Before I forget, another valuable resource you might benefit from would be the Photographers’ Playbook written by Greg Halpern and published by Aperture. It is loaded with interesting assignments written by photo educators all across the U.S.

An Exercise in Painting with Light
Painting with light can be a fun way to expose students to concepts of exposure and how light affects exposure. It can be a useful tool for exploring tools and creativity. Using an open shutter and accomplished at night, lighters or participants equipped with hand held lights shine their lights on specific areas of the scene and much like a lighting director at a play, emphasizes some things by lighting them and de-emphasizes other things by keeping them in a shadow. During the timed exposure, the photographic exposure is created. This idea can easily be modified and undertaken both outside at night or in a dark room. I often work in areas of the building that have no windows or I have taped cardboard over windows. Subjects can be simple or complex. Shared below is one example of what we often produce during our presentations

Equipment Needed
DSLR camera capable of operating on a bulb shutter
A remote trigger (can be helpful)
A tripod
A flashlight or smartphone with a light
A lens with a variable aperture
NOTE: Working tethered to a computer with video projection can also be helpful as a teaching tool. Software – called AstroDSLR –is useful and not too expensive. This software will allow users to share camera operations using the live view.


  • Discuss open shutter
  • Discuss concepts of photographic exposure  E = I x T
  • Set aperture to ƒ/11 or ƒ/16 and set shutter speed to Bulb or T
  • Set the ISO to 100
  • Locate students with lights in areas to be illuminated or develop a strategy for spelling a message for example
  • Make the first exposure for approximately 30 seconds and assess what has been accomplished
  • Have the class critique the image and make suggestions
  • Make a second attempt and third and as many as necessary

Shared below are the results from the students pictured above during their visit to RITphoto. The class’s objective was to spell out their school’s name. They did NOT want to flip the image in software and so, they had to make the letters backwards and locate them properly for the image when reading  left to right.  The exercise took 3o minutes start to finish.

First Attempt

Second Attempt

Last Attempt