Home » Teachers » Lesson Plans » Photography Portfolio

Photography Portfolio

Grades: 4, 5, 6
Related Subjects: English - Language Arts, Visual & Performing Arts
Medium: Photography
Class time required: 3 X 50 minute sessions
Author: Museum of Photographic Arts

Student Example: Photography Portfolio

Student Example: Photography Portfolio

Download an editable Lesson Plan
File Type: RTF (Choose Save-As when dialogue box appears)


In Session One of this lesson, the students will use their knowledge of photographic vantage points to take photographs for a portfolio. In Session Two, the students will begin to design their portfolios, select photographs, write captions, and write personal narratives or expository artist statements. In Session Three, the students will assemble their portfolios and view their classmates’ work.



Georgia O' Keeffe, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Georgia O' Keeffe, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
Arnold Newman

Vanishing Race – Navaho

Vanishing Race – Navaho
Edward Sheriff Curtis

Camera Obscura Image of the Hotel del Coronado, 1998

Camera Obscura Image of the Hotel del Coronado, 1998
Abelardo Morell

Teachers Preparation

Session One:

  • Familiarize yourself with Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). Read this overview of Visual Thinking Strategies written by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine at Visual Understanding in Education.
  • Print the images listed on overhead transparencies.
  • If the students are unfamiliar with vantage points, please see the Photography and Vantage Points lesson plan. That lesson plan will provide a good background for the activities in this lesson plan.
  • Print a copy of the scavenger hunt and worksheet (see Materials above) for each student.

Session Two:

  • Before Session Two: If using disposable cameras, develop the film.

Teaching Tips

You can buy reasonably priced disposable cameras from B&H. Go to this Web site and look under cameras, then 35 mm film cameras, and then disposable (single-use) cameras. Prices start at $3.79 per camera. Local San Diegans can also look at Nelson Photo Supply (619)234-6621 or George’s Camera and Video Exchange (619)297-3544.


Session One: Photography Scavenger Hunt
1. Show the students one of the photographs. Ask the students the following questions: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find? What is the vantage point of the photographer? After each student provides a response, acknowledge his/her response by pointing to the image and paraphrasing what he/she said. Continue this questioning for 5-10 minutes.

2. Review the seven vantage points with the students.

3. Explain to the students that during this lesson, each of them will be creating his/her own photography portfolio. Today, the students will take photographs using a Scavenger Hunt as a guide. During the next lesson, the students will place their favorite photographs in a portfolio.

4. Demonstrate to the students how to use a camera. Show the students where to look through the viewfinder and where to press to take the picture. If the cameras have a flash, demonstrate how to use this as well.

5. Hand out the
Scavenger Hunt worksheet and review each of the items with the students. Explain that the self portrait must be taken as the first picture, so that you will know to whom the developed pictures belong. Then hand out the cameras.

6. Give the students 30 minutes to take all of their pictures. Collect the cameras when the students have finished.

Session Two: Designing the Portfolio
1. Provide the students with construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, hole punchers, binding materials, and markers/pens.

2. Have each student choose five pieces of construction paper. Line up the construction paper and use the hole puncher to make three holes along the left hand side. Tie the paper together using binding materials, making a small portfolio. Set aside.

3. Give the students their developed photographs. Once the students have looked through the photographs, have each student choose his/her favorite photographs (10-12 total.)

4. Using a piece of construction paper, demonstrate for the students how to make a border for a photograph. Have the students create a border for each of the photographs, leaving a ½ inch around each side. Students will then glue each picture to its border.

5. Explain to the students how to write a caption for each photo. Each caption should include a title and the vantage point. Any incomplete captions can be finished later for homework.

Homework between Session Two and Session Three:

Fourth grade: give each student a 4th grade homework sheet. Each student will write a narrative paragraph for three separate photographs.

Fifth and sixth grade: give each student a 5th/6th grade homework sheet. Each student will write a multi-paragraph expository artist statement to be placed at the front on the photography portfolio.

Session 3: Assemble the Portfolio
1. Provide the students with their bordered photographs and glue sticks. If students have not finished writing their captions, narrative paragraphs, or artist statements, now would be the best time to complete these items.

2. Ask the students to pick one favorite photograph and glue it on the cover of their portfolios.

3. Fourth grade students should match up their narrative paragraphs with the corresponding photographs. Fifth/sixth grade students should glue their artist statement on the first page of the portfolio.

4. Demonstrate for the students how to place the bordered photographs into the portfolio so that there is enough space for each of the corresponding captions and narrative paragraphs. Students will now glue everything into the portfolio.

5. Display the students’ portfolios around the room for their classmates to view


CA Content Standards

Fourth Grade Visual Arts:
3.1 Describe how art plays a role in reflecting life (e.g., in photography, quilts, architecture).

4.1 Describe how using the language of the visual arts helps to clarify personal responses to works of art.

Fifth Grade Visual Arts:
1.1 Identify and describe the principles of design in visual compositions, emphasizing unity and harmony.

2.7 Communicate values, opinions, or personal insights through an original work of art.

4.1 Identify how selected principles of design are used in a work of art and how they affect personal responses to and evaluation of the work of art.

4.4 Assess their own works of art, using specific criteria, and describe what changes they would make for improvement.

Sixth Grade Visual Arts:
2.6 Use technology to create original works of art.

Fourth Grade English-Language Arts:
1.2 Create multiple-paragraph compositions.

2.1 Write narratives.

1.5 Present effective introductions and conclusions that guide and inform the listener's understanding of important ideas and evidence.

1.8 Use details, examples, anecdotes, or experiences to explain or clarify information.

2.1 Make narrative presentations.

Fifth Grade English-Language Arts:
1.1 Create multiple-paragraph narrative compositions.

1.2 Create multiple-paragraph expository compositions.

1.5 Clarify and support spoken ideas with evidence and examples.

2.1 Deliver narrative presentations.

Sixth Grade English-Language Arts:
1.2 Create multiple-paragraph expository compositions.

1.5 Emphasize salient points to assist the listener in following the main ideas and concepts.

1.6 Support opinions with detailed evidence and with visual or media displays that use appropriate technology.

2.4 Deliver persuasive presentations.



Jones, Frederic H. Digital Photography Just the Steps for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2005.

Shull, Jim. The Beginner's Guide to Pinhole Photography. Buffalo, NY: Amhurst Media, Inc, 1999.

The Visual Classroom: Integrating Photography into the School Curriculum. Education Department: Museum of Photographic Arts, 2000. To order, call 619-238-7559x236 or E-mail edudept@mopa.org to order. It is $25. Additional shipping charges may apply.

Teaching Digital Photography: Showing Kids How to See With the Camera's Eye
A site that introduces digital camera and photography techniques, and helps kids understand media images and observe the world around them.

Photography for Kids: Photography Projects, Ideas and Resources
A list of good Web sites for helping kids learn photography techniques, projects, cameras and optics, and history of photography. Includes book and software reviews.

Sandler, Martin A. Photography, An Illustrated History, (Oxford Illustrated History). New York: Oxford University Press, Inc, 2002

Photography: Western History from the Genealogy Dept, Denver Public Library
Collections of photographs from western history including railroads, children, covered wagons, Buffalo Bill, and famous western photographers.

A History of Photography: From its beginnings till the 1920s.
Essays on how photography began and information on some of the most significant processes used during the early days of photography. Includes an alphabetical list of significant people and their contribution to photography.

History of Photography Timeline
Timeline of photography from ancient times to 1997. Scroll down to see link on antique and classic cameras.

Library of Congress: American Memory
Sixty-two collections of photographs and prints from the Library of Congress American Memory project. Includes Ansel Adams and photos from the Civil War.

The Museum of Photographic Arts
Permanent collections and current exhibits at the Museum of Photographic Arts, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA.

Visual Thinking Strategies:
Vue: A Solution to Education’s Challenges

Visual Understanding in Education (VUE) conducts educational research focused on aesthetic and cognitive development that results from interaction with art. Based on its findings, VUE develops programs for schools and museums, principally Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS).


Buckingham, Alan. Photography, DK Eyewitness Books. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2004.

Friedman, Debra. Picture This, Fun Photography and Craft (Kids Can Do It). Toronto; Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press. 2003.

Bidner, Jenni. The Kids’ Guide to Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Save, Play With & Print Your Digital Photos. New York: Lark Books, 2004.

BetterPhoto for Kids and Teens
A site dedicated to kids and young adults interested in the art of taking pictures. Includes sections on pets, friends and family, vacations and more.

Photography As A Fine “Arf”
An exhibition of photographs in which dogs behave like people and people are transformed into dogs! This exhibition presents a selection of historical photographs that also explore the complex relationships of people and dogs. Most were made a century or more before Wallace Wegman, and some hark back to the earliest years of photography, when technical challenges made any image of an animal a rarity.

Blankston, John. Louis Daguerre and the Story of the Daguerreotype. Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane, 2004.

Ford, Carin T. George Eastman, The Kodak Camera Man (Famous Inventors). Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2004

Partridge, Elizabeth. Restless Spirit, The Life of Dorothea Lange. New York: Puffin Books, 1998.

Parker, Steve. Eyewitness Pond and River. London; New York: Dorling, Kindersley, 2000.

Sam’s, Carl R. Lost in the Woods: a Photographic Fantasy. Milford, MI: Carl R. Sam’s Photography, Inc., 2004.

Jennings, Patrick. The Beastly Arms. New York: Scholastic Press. 2001.
A sure fire hit about a boy named Nickel who photographs clouds and moves into a mysterious building called The Beastly Arms.

Wirkner, Linda. Mystery of the Blue-Gowned Ghost. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1994.
Kelly is a young girl who loves to take photographs and finds a mystery in Colonial Williamsburg.


Museum of Photographic Arts
Mingei Museum Timken Museum of Art

The CARE program relies on contributions from generous donors like you!

Please Donate