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Teaching middle schoolers sports photography
Jake Lacey, Student/Intern, Photographer
Tucson | AZ | USA | Posted: 2:02 PM on 09.18.08
->> Hello all!

My mom, who works for a school district near me, has asked me to come in and teach a class about photography to a middle school yearbook staff. The teacher of the yearbook staff just mentioned to my mother in passing that the kids take ok pictures, but don't seem to take very good sports photos.

Now, I know I'm not going to teach them how to take professional quality photos, not to mention in one class period, but what I am concerned about is creating a lesson plan that they will be able to follow and use, that aren't too complicated for them to understand or even dumbed down too much.

So far, I plan on covering rule of thirds and basic things like shutter speed and settings on their DSLR they use. Does anybody have experience teaching kids of this age, or any ideas?

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Chad Clark, Photographer, Assistant
Taylorsville | UT | USA | Posted: 2:24 PM on 09.18.08
->> I teach at a local High School, and it's important to keep it simple.

Do the five rules of Sports Photography or something. Then pick five things that you feel are important, maybe Shutter Speed, Clean Backgrounds, put the Sun behind you.... etc. Whatever you come up with. Then show images to support your "rules." Get outside near a field if you can to talk about angles or light.

This works well for me. The kids respond to images and examples. I quickly learned that younger students need information in small chunks. I teach multimedia as well, and too much information and they shut down.

I usually spend 15-25 minutes lecturing and presenting new materials, then we move to a location for a demo (10 min), then I open up for questions (5 min), then we shoot with a guided practice (20 min).

KISS - Keep It Simple.
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John Germ, Photographer
Wadsworth | Oh | USA | Posted: 2:57 PM on 09.18.08
->> Jake,

I would also suggest getting a bit more information about the level of understanding of the students in question. As well as the gear they use. If they're shooting averything in full auto mode with a 50mm or some 18-55mm kit lens you would have to structure a class completely differently than if they were used to using Av or full manual and actually use a telephoto lens. If your class purpose is to teach sports photography but they don't have a background in basic photography you'll need to structure the course to maximize their ability to use the gear they have in full auto mode. I wouldn't worry about clean backgrounds and such. Or even things like the rule of thirds - if sports work is the goal. Simple things like positioning and filling the frame and patience are probably the things easiest to learn and most likely to make an impact. Exposure, depth of field, composition for sports work are probably a bit advanced.
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Mark Smith, Photographer
Elk City | OK | USA | Posted: 4:00 PM on 09.18.08
->> They need to see good sports photos, and then you need to explain to them what elements make them good. If you show them some killer shots, and they say "wow", ask them why they like it. Get them to think about what makes a good sports photo, and then give them some simple tips on making theirs better.

You can go all day and you will still never make any progress if you don't know where you want to go.
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Kirby Yau, Photographer, Assistant
San Diego | CA | USA | Posted: 4:55 PM on 09.18.08
->> I taught Middle school for a few years. I agree with Chad, keep it simple. Mark has a good point with explaining and showing examples.

Lastly, middle schoolers have a very very very short attention span, so what they do has to be fun.

Really quick and lay down the law on the first day or else they'll crush you.

If all else fails, a bag of candy or treats makes for great motivation.
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Ron Manfredi, Photographer
Merrick (Long Island) | NY | | Posted: 5:38 PM on 09.18.08
->> Find out what type of equipment they are using. The general assumtion here seems to be they have DSLRs; they may actually be using a more simple P/S type camera. If that is the case, I would suggest that you have one of that type of camera available, have them bring their cameras with them to your class session, and SHOW them how it is done with the equpment that they have available. If they are using DSLRs, so much the better, but don't assume that to be true.
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Vasiliy Baziuk, Photographer
Rochester | NY | USA | Posted: 7:59 PM on 09.18.08
->> Jake

just keep it really simple and teach them the basics. they will eat it right up.

talk about things like....

- the use of monopod/tripod or any other camera support.
- the roll of the fast shutter speed to stop action.
- make sure to have a ball in the picture.
- be as close on the action as they can... or crop close.
- and to have patience, practice and fun doing it to capture peak action.

if all that fails tell them to tell their parents to get them a D3 and a 300 f/2.8 :-)

if that fails tell the principal you'll shoot for the year book for a fee plus copyrights and usage fee.

good luck!
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Kevin Johnston, Photographer
Oden | MI | USA | Posted: 8:45 PM on 09.18.08
->> I gave a quick lesson to one of our local high school year book classes. Since there was more than just sports photography involved I tried to impress upon them a few basics. Rule of thirds, get closer, fill the frame, bounce the flash and when shooting sports make sure you have enough shutter speed.

If I had to do it again I would see if it was ok to give a 15 or 20 minute presentation to the whole class and then sit down with the 3 or 4 that where actually paying attention and interested in taking photos for the balance of the time while the others worked on something else. Most of the kids just want to take pictures of their friends and really don't need or want to know how to use camera other than in program mode.

Kirby is right, make sure you have their attention and the support of the teacher right off the bat or you might as well be talking to yourself.
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Steven Ickes, Photographer
Mechanicsburg | PA | USA | Posted: 10:03 AM on 09.19.08
->> Okay, never been a school teacher but I was a children's ski racing coach for twenty years and I'd have to echo what Chad wrote. Pick 3-5 specific topics and cover those with some talking points, some examples, and lots of hands-on practice. Kids will respond so much better when they are involved as opposed to simply being talked at.

Keep in mind that if these kids have cameras in-hand, they will go crazy with those cameras sitting on their desks, listening to you talk. Photography is interesting and fun no matter who you are, couple that with sports and you have an opportunity to really engage their interest. It's all about "guided discovery" rather than "listen to what I have to say".
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Tim Morley, Photographer
Topinabee | MI | United States | Posted: 12:53 PM on 09.21.08
->> I also teach high school and middle school. A lot of what everyone has said holds true - middle school has short attention spans, food bribes work but not too often, and a focus on the basics in the first session would be best. Knowing the basics of photo composition and how to care for camera equipment is vital at this age.

Kevin - what school did you present to? Your point is a good one: presenting a short session on general photo composition to everyone, then branching out and giving more in depth instruction to those couple of kids who care wouldn't waste everyone's time. You should see our 2008 yearbook. It's an amazing work of art. I'll be sure to carry one when we play Alanson.
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Wendy Larsen, Photographer
Houston | TX | US | Posted: 8:38 PM on 09.21.08
->> I teach a middle school photography elective once a year at my kids' school. I have the kids 3x week for 9 weeks, though. Only having one day is tough.

I agree with the keep it simple approach. I'd start with a lecture on rule of thirds, using a monopod, getting the ball in the photo, not cutting off limbs, tight cropping, clean backgrounds, and shutter speeds.

From there, bring in some of your photos that have been published and ask the kids to critique them. I've found that at that age, photos that have been published really spark their interest. Have them tell you what's good about the photo... look for stuff like clean backgrounds, direction the light is coming from, ball in shot, no limbs cut off, freezing the action, etc.

I've also gone out and purposely taken some crap photos and have them compare and contrast the good ones and the crap ones. If you can do something to spark discussion and interaction, it will make more of an impact on them.

If you can turn it into a 3 day or so lesson, you could spend one day with the lecture and critiquing of your photos, one day outside having them shoot each other jumping, throwing a football, or running around the school track, and then the 3rd day looking at what they shot and discussing it.
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Jake Lacey, Student/Intern, Photographer
Tucson | AZ | USA | Posted: 1:08 AM on 09.30.08
->> Thanks everyone for your input. It went really well, so I appreciate your help.

If you're interested, I taught the rule of thirds then passed out a bunch of SI magazines and had them apply the rule to cool photos.

I then talked about filling the frame and getting close to the action (especially since they have limited zoom capabilities).

Last, we had a discussion about what makes a photo good or interesting. For this last part, I incorporated the SI magazines and some of my portfolio shots for discussion points.

For the limited time I had, I thought it went well, and I kept their attention/interest the entire time. Again, thanks for your help.

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Thread Title: Teaching middle schoolers sports photography
Thread Started By: Jake Lacey
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