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Choosing the right lens


In today’s lesson, students will shoot photos with a variety of lenses and determine what the different lenses do.  Then, students will discuss with their classmates what they have found, and the teacher will fill in additional information as necessary.


  • Students will use different camera lenses to take photos, paying particular attention to how differently the photos turn out.
  • Students will understand how the use of different camera lenses can aid a photographer and increase photo quality.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.


45 minutes


DSLR Cameras with a variety of lenses for students to play with (Nice cameras often come with a kit lens that is 18-70 mm.  Use that as well as any other lenses in your collection, such as a fixed 50 mm lens, a zoom lens, a wide angle lens, etc)

Class set: What’s in a lens? graphic organizer

Slideshow: Exploring lenses

Class set: What’s in a lens? exit slip

Lesson step-by-step

1. Hands-on practice — 15 minutes

Students should spend the first half of class taking many different photos with many different lenses.  Depending on the size of the class and the amount of resources you have available, you can do this as a whole group or send students out in small groups.  Each student should have experience taking photos with multiple lenses (ideally, at least three different lenses) to see what the differences are in a semi-controlled environment.

2. Class share & Discuss — 10 minutes

In their exploratory groups, ask students to take a few minutes to summarize the things they experienced while they were exploring.  Then, share together with the class. Some key items that you want to talk about during your discussion include:

a) What differences did you notice between the lenses?  Which were easiest to take close-up photos? What about zoom photos?

b) A common phrase in photojournalism is “zoom with your feet.” What does this phrase mean? Why do you think so many professionals suggest “zooming” by getting closer to a subject rather than relying on a zoom lens?

3. Lens Graphic Organizer & Slideshow – 15 minutes

Pass out the Lens Graphic Organizer.  Go through this information together.  Then, show students sample photographs from the Exploring Lenses slideshow so students see photographs that are taken with different lenses. Have students discuss lens choice (which lens works best in which scenario).

4. Exit slip — 5 minutes

Pass out the following exit slip and give students time to complete before they leave class today.


For students with more experience using different lenses, consider giving them an assignment where they attend an event and shoot photos with 3-4 different lenses.  They can turn in one photo for each lens and explain why they used a particular lens to get each shot.  Note: While this could be good practice for all students, most journalism programs don’t have a large enough collection of lenses for all students to participate in this type of homework activity.