JO305 Basic Photo Summer ’19

Peter Smith,  Master Lecturer 
Journalism Program,  Boston University

(617) 548-0109 cell
Office: B33, by appointment
Laptop based course

Course Description
JO305 is a basic digital photo course that covers camera operation, image processing, image tagging, and publishing.  Most assignments will be processed in black and white. Color is introduced later in the course. We will also cover the basics of file management and photo blogging.

Teamwork is essential in this course to create a strong learning environment. You will work with a partner and other classmates on field trips to complete assignments. Teamwork will also help to create a safe environment when we use Boston as our classroom. Throughout this course we will focus on areas of esthetics, light, and defining moment. We will complete a number of exercises to strengthen photo technique and prepare for documentary challenges as we learn to capture a sense of place and to define the world around us with compelling photographs.

The 10 shooting assignments in JO305 cover portraiture, motion, depth-of-field, hot-shoe flash, night photography, color, photographing a famous person, shooting a selfie, producing a ten-picture photo essay and creating a blog.

JO305 covers the basics of Lightroom and WordPress.  We will also cover digital hygiene, nondestructive editing, color correction, image toning, sharpening, tagging, caption writing and understanding resolution.

Photoshop tools may not be used in this class to alter the meaning of an image. Cropping is not allowed, but you are required to straighten your horizon.   Students will upload assignments to the class Smugmug account.

Photo equipment is available for your use, but it is okay if you use your own DSLR camera. with storage card (minimum 32 gig).  A 50mm lens or a zoom lens that can be set to 50mm is required for all assignments except for the final project where telephoto and wide angle lenses may also be used. 

Students are required to have a suitable laptop computer, a USB3 hard drive and a 32 gig media card.  A camera will not be needed until the second class.  There are handouts available for all assignments.


The New York Times  ~ daily
The New York Times Lens Blog  ~ please keep current!


Week One

First Lecture:  May 21
INTRODUCTION:  Review syllabus and basic photo settings of: aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, ISO, lens speed. View gallery of past student work.

Home work:
Review Cheat-sheet to understand ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Understand the exposure triangle.
Review Canon camera settings Keynote presentation.

Second Lecture:  May 22,  – FIELD TRIP WEDNESDAY – bring gear.
We will cover camera operation, menu settings and exposure, filing system, color management and digital hygiene. Create a blog.

View Portraits gallery:

Portraits handout

Photograph face of an individual (a) in bright sunlight, (b) on a cloudy day. Bring CF/SD card and camera to class to review camera settings and making exposure decisions using camera’s light meter.

Portraits: 10pts (exercise, lighting, esthetics)

Third Lecture:  May 23
Bring CF/SD card to class with assignments 1&2 to download files to Lightroom Library. We will discuss tagging, converting files to black and white and exporting hi-res jpegs.  We’ll review Lightroom browser and functions.

Week Two

Fourth Lecture:  May 28
Images from assignment 1, Portraits are DUE and must be uploaded by the end of class. Post best shot to blog.

Focus gallery

Focus  handout:

Choose a general scene with infinite distance apparent in background with a person 8 feet from the camera.  Shoot at (a) 1/1000 with wide aperture, also shoot at (b) f/16 with slower shutter speed.  Use your camera’s meter for correct exposure.

Focus: 10pts (exercise, aesthetics)

Fifth Lecture:  May 29 – FIELD TRIP WEDNESDAY – bring gear

Park Square, meet by the fountain near Park Station.

We will work on depth-of-field concepts and on documenting a place.  (Boston as a classroom)

Sixth Lecture:  May 30

Images from assignment  2, Focus are DUE. Upload to Smugmug and post best shot.

Creative Shutter gallery

Assignment 3 Creative Shutter handout

Photograph Stop Action and Panning.
Use fast and slow shutter to photograph
(a) car on Storrow Drive (b) someone walking down steps (c) a bicycle in motion.

Creative shutter: 10pts (exercise, documentary, esthetics)

Week Three

Seventh Lecture:  June 4

Images from assignment 3, Creative Shutter are DUE. Upload to Smugmug and post best shot. Add header image and tag.

flash gallery!

 Creative Flash handout

Turn in 3 of 5 examples of flash technique: (a) two heads using direct flash, (b) fill-flash with direct flash, (c) bounce flash portrait, (d) open flash, direct and not synchronized, and (e) a group of ten people.

Eighth Lecture:  June 5 –  FIELD TRIP WEDNESDAY, bring gear – including flash

Seaport District/Fort Point – meet at the park next to 249 A Street at 10 a.m. for a visit to studio #31, at 249 A Street. We will discuss strobes and studio lighting! (exercise, Boston as a classroom, esthetics)

Ninth Lecture:  June 6
Images from assignment 4, Flash! are DUE. Upload to Smugmug and post best shot.

Night Photography gallery
Night Assignment handout

Shoot night scenes of (a) incident light and (b) reflected light night scenes (tripod needed).

Night: 5pts (documentary, lighting, esthetics)

Week Four

Tenth Lecture:  June 11
Images from assignment 5, Night are DUE. Upload to Smugmug and post best shot. Create ‘about me’ page for blog.

Silhouette gallery:

Silhouette handout

Photograph silhouette, a backlit subject – expose meter for the bright background.

Silhouette: 5pts (exercise, lighting, esthetics)

Eleventh Lecture:  June 12 – FIELD TRIP WEDNESDAY, bring gear

Field trip to North End.  Meet at the Paul Revere Statue. Get ready to shoot portraits of North Enders and to photograph a sense of place.

(Boston as a classroom, documentary)

Twelfth Lecture:  June 13
Images from assignment 6, silhouette are DUE. Upload to Smugmug and post best shot.

Color gallery

Color handout

Shoot a color photograph with strong color contrast and process that image three ways.  Second, using a daylight setting for your white balance, shoot photos with heavy overcast for blue light and shoot with very warm light from sunset.  Use color to enhance mood of image.

Color: 5pts (documentary, lighting, esthetics)

Week Five

Thirteenth Lecture:  June 18
Images from assignment 7, Color are DUE. Upload to Smugmug and post best shot. Add ‘best of’ gallery.

Self Portrait gallery

Self Portrait handout

Photograph a self-portrait (taken inside without a flash). Environmental or tight shots okay. Quality of light is important.

Self: 5pts (exercise, lighting, branding)

Fourteenth Lecture:  June 19 –  FIELD TRIP WEDNESDAY – bring gear

Field trip to Chinatown.  Meet at the Chinatown Gate.

Fifteenth Lecture:  June 20

Images from assignment 8, self-portrait are DUE. Upload to Smugmug and post best shot.

Famous Person gallery

Famous portrait handout

Photograph a famous person who does not work for BU.

Famous person: 10pts (documentary)

Week Six

Sixteenth Lecture:  June 25,  review blog final requirements, add ‘photo essay’ page.

Shooting assignment 10

The Photo Essay handout

Shoot a 10-picture photo essay.  Grad students are required to shoot a photo essay that is ready for publication. Photograph a Boston Neighborhood. You must use photos from three shoots of the neighborhood.
The images should be uploaded to Smugmug and also presented as a gallery on your blog.

Final photo story: 20pts (documentary)

Seventeenth Lecture:  June 26 – FIELD TRIP WEDNESDAY, bring gear

Field trip. Museum of Fine Arts.

(esthetics, documentary, Boston as a classroom)

Eighteenth Lecture: June 27 – Final Class
Assignment 10, Photo Essay and assignment 11, Blog due.

Blog: 10pts (publishing)

Students are required to be on time, no unexcused absences.  Students may not be online checking email, social media or text messaging during lectures or they will lose a full grade for the course. Students may not use Photoshop or any other program to alter the meaning of a photograph.  All captions must be truthful and accurate.

Students must be familiar with college handbook and have a full understanding of expected code and conduct. The academic code of conduct is fully explained at:

Please note that classroom proceedings for this course might be recorded for purposes including, but not limited to, student illness, religious holidays, disability accommodations, or student course review. Note also that recording devices are prohibited in the classroom except with the instructor’s permission.

There are a total of 11 projects due during the semester and a general knowledge quiz on stories. They are rated as follows:

  1. Portraits: 10pts (exercise, lighting, esthetics)
  2. Focus: 10pts (exercise, esthetics)
  3. Creative shutter: 10pts (documentary, esthetics)
  4. Night: 10pts (documentary, sense of place, scene setter)
  5. Flash: 5pts (exercise, lighting, esthetics)
  6. Silhouette: 5pts (exercise, lighting, esthetics)
  7. Color: 5pts (documentary, lighting, esthetics)
  8. Self: 5pts (exercise, lighting, branding)
  9. Famous person: 10pts (documentary)
  10. Final photo story: 20pts (documentary)
  11. Blog: 10pts (publishing)

Grades are based on quality, content and punctuality of work submitted.  Late assignments lose one grade point (A to B) for each week they are late. Assignments that are not turned in receive an F.  The final grade is an average of all grades received during the semester.  Assignments are DUE at the end of class.

Percentage-based Grade Scale

A  : 93-100                 B+ : 87-89.99       C+ : 77-79.99    D : 60-69.99    F : 0-59.99
A- : 90-92.99            B   : 83-86.99        C   : 73-76.99
B-  : 80-82.99       C-  : 70-72.99

GPA conversion

A  : 4.0                    B+ : 3.3        C+ : 2.3    D  : 1.0        F  : 0.0
A- : 3.7                    B   : 3.0        C   : 2.0
B-  : 2.7                   C-  :1.7

Each assignment is graded on the following:
•         Technical (40%):    Camera (exposure) settings and focus.  Toning adjustments and sharpening.
•        Demonstration of assignment concept (40%)
•        Captioning and metadata (20%)

For the final photo story – technical, concept, and text/metadata will be weighted equally.

Blog will be graded on two galleries (best work and photo story); about me page; posts of all assignments, use of tags and categories.


After shooting 10 assignments students will be able to:
Shoot portraits, freeze action, create motion through panning technique, photograph incident and reflective light at night with a tripod and use a flash.
Produce well-toned, tagged images and publish them in their own blog.
Produce well-framed, strongly composed images that are properly exposed with good use of lighting – all to industry standards.
Communicate with strong black and white photographs and be capable of producing a color image that is color corrected and has thoughtful use of color.
Understand the broader concepts of photojournalism.
Gain photographic visual literacy, with the ability to deconstruct how an image was created and to better understand a photograph’s manipulations, biases and narrative.
Develop a strong visual awareness and strong observational skills.