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Sports photography: Middle School


Using a flipped classroom method, students will explore websites and YouTube videos for strategies and techniques for taking good sports photos.  They will evaluate those websites and discuss what they’ve learned.  Then, they will practice different techniques by visiting a physical education class.  Finally, they will work with a partner to take photos of a sporting event and then submit their best photos for critique by their classmates.


  • Students will be able to conduct mini-research projects on topics about photojournalism, evaluate sources for their accuracy and present what they’ve learned concisely to others.
  • Students will practice photography techniques while taking sports photos.
  • Students will be able to prepare a presentation that showcases their knowledge and explains it concisely to others.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.c. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.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.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.


Two days (45 minutes each)


Slideshow: Sample sports photos

Access to a physical education class for taking practice sports photos

Handout: Mini photography planning sheet

Handout: Sporting event rubric, website evaluation

Handout: P.E. class photography assignment

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Assign homework — prior to today’s lesson

Give students the homework assignment of looking up online resources and videos for how to take good sports photography.  Have students save the web links in a place that is easily accessible or print out the website. OR if you want to focus their search, give them this link with the 50 best sports photo blogs:

2. Think/pair/share — 10 minutes

Have students use the think/pair/share brainstorming strategy to report 2-3 tips they learned from their explorations of web resources.  As students share, make a large list of tips on the board and have students discuss the merits of each one.

Note: Many students may have found tips such as “shoot with a high ISO” or “use Aperture priority.”  These are skills that are taught in the Photojournalism Exposure lesson sequence.  Try to make sure that your students are also mentioning tips with angles/composition:

  • Action/reaction (don’t just shoot the action on the field, but good/bad reactions of players, fans, etc.)
  • Mix it up to get pictures of fans/coaches/parents; Don’t just be concerned with the game, but with the stories happening AT the game.
  • Spread photographers out to shoot from multiple angles.
  • Position yourself so the action is coming TOWARDS you, not moving away from you.
  • Think about angles (shooting low to the ground, from high in the stands, etc) and composition (framing, etc).
  • Check your photos often.  Don’t take 300 photos without looking at any of them; they might all be blurry, and then you’ve wasted tons of time.

3. Slideshow evaluation – 5 minutes

Using a projector and a computer, spend time looking at the sample sports photography slideshow.  For each photo, ask students to evaluate (in pairs or as a class) what is well done or what could be stronger.  Ask students to evaluate both the technical aspects of the photo (angle, focus, composition, light) as well as the storytelling aspects of the photo.

4. Application — 25 minutes (or more, depending on available time and camera equipment)

Visit a physical education class (or sports practice) that is happening concurrently.  Have students work with a partner to practice taking sports. Encourage them to play with their cameras and the settings, and use all of the strategies that have been discussed in class. They can also use their phones if you do not have enough cameras for everyone to use. This should be done in pairs and they will be presenting some of their best photos to the class.

5. Exit ticket — 5 minutes

Have students answer one of the following questions as an exit ticket: What was easier than you anticipated? Was anything more difficult?  What types of shots were your best shots? Did you notice any behind-the-scenes stories that you tried to capture on film, rather than just the action of whatever was happening in gym class?  If the teacher noticed anything especially good or bad about the students’ experience taking photos (common mistakes, easily fixable things), this is a great time to address those.

Day 2

1. Debrief— 10 minutes

Review strategies and lessons from yesterday.  What are some tips that we learned for taking good sports photos? Clear up any confusion from the exit tickets you took up.

Note: One of the most challenging aspects of photography is capturing the emotion and the story of a photo rather than just “getting it right” in terms of technical skills.  Yes, shooting photos by using the correct settings and strategies is important, but unless your photos also have an emotional, storytelling component, they won’t make an impact.

2. Presentation — 5-7 minutes per team

Each partnership should stand in front of the class, explain which sporting event they attended and the strategies they tried to employ, and show their 3-5 best photos to the class. You might ask students to give verbal critiques to their peers, depending on the maturity of your students.