Helen Cammock / Hendon School / Visual Literacy activities


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Materials Needed:








– Thinking creatively about portraiture

– Communicating meaning through visual imagery

– Understanding self directed portraits and authorship.

– Group work (negotiation, communication and feedback)

– Basic editing and selection

– Forward planning and organisation


Which of the 5 ways-in does this activity address:


  1. How you can represent meaning and ideas in an image.
  2. How you can build/construct an image – introducing idea of composition.
  3. Thinking conceptually – metaphor and symbolism.

Using a professional photographic lighting kit.

The group was to prepare for the session by bringing objects that represent them or having some meaning to them.


They were also asked to consider what it felt like to;


  1. Be the photographer, taking responsibility for making an image that the subject is happy with and represents them in away they had described.


  1. Be the sitter/subject (with responsibility for making some self-directed portraits)


  1. Be the DOP (Director of Photography) directing the subject as well as considering styling, pose and ideas – and supporting the photographer by reflecting on the images during the shoot.


Ideally if you have the time it would be great to offer even longer to the groups to explore using the studio – setting them a range of different tasks to achieve.


It is a really exciting opportunity for students to use a more advanced camera and

professional kit and complements the discussions around visually literacy.


It is what I call an ‘energiser’ or ‘stimulator’ activity


Learning outcomes


  • Using a professional lighting kit – understanding the basics of what the flash lighting kit achieves and how it is used.


  • Directing a sitter to achieve an aesthetic or conceptual outcome.


  • Co-operative working


  • Self – directed coursework planning and organisation


Differentiation Strategies (to be discussed with teacher).


  • Importance of selecting the pairs and groups of three carefully to combine focus, skill level and confidence.
  • Support staff encouraged to support those who may need additional focus.
  • Some one to one for those finding the studio particulalrly difficult to use.



What will be the role and responsibilities of the teacher(s) during the session?

  • Supporting all activities and feeding into all discussions.
  • Working with groups around ‘the portrait’ when they are not using the studio kit


Activity – Step by Step


  1. Separate the class into groups of three.


  1. Ask the students to make as many images as they want to in their allotted time slot (at least 15 mins but try to offer as much time as possible in your lesson/session)


  1. Highlight how important it is that each group of three must work as a team to ensure that;


  • Everyone has a chance to be the photographer, DOP and sitter in rotation
  • Images are creatively and well framed
  • Images represent how each sitter would like to have their portrait taken.
  • Images utilise a formal portrait and a creative and performative nature


  1. Give students the brief and encourage them to work together to complete the task.


Your group will have been previously asked to bring in objects or clothes that are important to them.

Brief for students:


  • In your group of three make portraits that represent each of you.


  • Be creative and work together to achieve portraits that you are all happy with. This means that you will need to listen to each other and work as a team.



Above all think about how it feels to:


  1. Be the photographer, directing the subject as well as having to respond to what the sitter wanted as an outcome of their portrait. Think about how to photograph any important objects that have been brought.


  1. Be the sitter/subject (with responsibility for making some self-directed portraits) When you are the sitter think about how you can sit or stand – think about whether you want to show your face or not, think about whether you’d like to capture some movement, think about what each image says about you.


  1. Be the DOP who works directng the photographer – offering ideas, reassuring and directing the sitter, thinking about what the sitter describes about themselves and their object/s and how best to represent this photographically.


This activity will be followed by a session the following week – a slide show of images and reflective discussions about the experience – what was difficult, challenging, enjoyable, new etc etc


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