Search Menu


This site is available only to JEA members. Please log in below.

Choosing photos for publication


In this one-day lesson, students will participate in a fictional scenario in which they make decisions about the front page content for their student newspaper, The Monthly Gazette. Then, they will discuss how the content they have chosen (stories, photos, etc.) impacts the content and message of the newspaper. They will learn about questions real newspaper editors consider when it comes to choosing which photos to publish and will reflect on what they learned in a homework assignment.


  • Students will work in groups to evaluate how a newspaper’s message changes based on the paper’s visual content.
  • Students will learn techniques for evaluating and choosing which photos to include in a publication.
  • Students will participate in small group and whole class discussions about the content they have learned.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience and task.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.D Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.


45 minutes


Slideshow: Choosing Photos for Publication

Handout: Template for student activity (1 copy per student)

Handout: Choosing Photos for Publication homework assignment

Folder: Original photos and sample designs for student activity

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Instruct students that today, they are going to participate in an activity to make hypothetical decisions about their fictional student newspaper, The Monthly Gazette. They will get to make decisions about which stories to include on the front page and which to include elsewhere in the paper. They will also get to decide what photos they want to include for each story.

2. Student activity/scenario — 15 minutes

Using the first few slides of the Preparing Photos for Publication slideshow, show students the three headlines/story ideas and accompanying photos. Students should pretend they are making content decisions for their school’s newspaper, The Monthly Gazette. They should discuss their decisions as a group and then work individually to complete the template, sketching out which stories/headlines should appear where on the paper, as well as which stories should be accompanied by photos.

Stress to students that all of the content decisions are theirs — they can choose to include or exclude any story. They must choose which photo(s) to include for each story. They can also choose to crop photos in order to fit the space or better align with the story’s headline. While their group members are there to help discuss ideas, the ultimate decision about what goes on the template is individual by student; their template does not need to match the other members of their group.

NOTE: It may be helpful to provide students with a printout of these slides from the slideshow, so they can refer to the headlines/photos easily as they work.

3. Group sharing — 20 minutes

Ask several students to share their templates with the class. You may also choose to ask students to reflect on the process through discussing any of the following questions:

  1. What photos/stories did you choose?
  2. What did you leave out?
  3. How did you decide which photos to include and which to leave out?
  4. If you chose to crop an image, how does that crop affect the impact or the message of the photo?
  5. How does the decision to include or reject a photo change the paper’s content?  How is the overall content of your newspaper different from other people in the class?

At this point, hopefully students are beginning to understand the photos that get printed in a newspaper have a significant impact on the paper’s message/content. Stress to students that because photos have power, it is important that photojournalists use that power to help foster a reader’s understanding of the news, not sway the reader’s opinion or create bias.

Show the slide from the slideshow with the two different newspaper front pages. Discuss: how do these two sample papers differ substantially in their message and/or content? In what ways can the decisions made by photojournalists and designers create bias or sway a reader’s opinion?

Finish this time in class by showing students the final slide of the slideshow. These questions (written by Joe Elbert of The Washington Post and Karl Kuntz of The Columbus Dispatch) are intended to help photo editors make wise decisions when it comes to making decisions about visual content in a newspaper.

4. Reflection & assessment — 5 minutes

Pass out a copy of the Choosing Photos for Publication homework assignment to each student.In order to complete this assignment, students will also need access to the two sample designs on Slide 7 of the slideshow; they are included as the second page of the homework handout. Students also need to use the design template they filled out today during class to complete the homework assignment.