JO305 Basic Photo Summer ’20

Peter Smith,  Master Lecturer 
Journalism Program,  Boston University

(617) 548-0109 cell
Zoom Meeting 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 creating a photo portfolio.

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 productive environment. 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 for DSLR or fill light, night photography, color, photographing an environmental portrait, shooting a selfie, producing a five-picture photo essay and creating an Adobe Portfolio.

JO305 covers the basics of Lightroom and Adobe Portfolio.  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.

You can use a DSLR camera or a Smart Phone. DSLR cameras will require a storage card (minimum 32 gig).  A 50mm lens or a zoom lens that can be set to 50mm is required for all assignments shot with a DSLR camera, except for the final project when telephoto and wide angle lenses may also be used. 

Students are required to have a suitable laptop computer and an external hard drive.  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 20
INTRODUCTION:  Meet and Greet. Where are you? Do you have restrictions to stay at home? Why did you elect to take this class? Tell us about the gear you have: camera, flash, tripod, computer, external hard drive?
Review syllabus and basic photo settings of: aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, ISO, lens speed. View gallery of past student work.

Home work:
Learn about the exposure triangle.
Review Canon camera settings Keynote presentation.

Second Lecture:  May 21,  –  Review camera operation.
We will cover camera operation, menu settings, exposure, filing system, color management and digital hygiene. 
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)

Week Two

Third Lecture:  May 26
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.

Fourth Lecture:  May 27
Images from assignment 1, Portraits are DUE and must be uploaded by the end of class. Color code best shot for Adobe Portfolio. 
Learn depth-of-field

Focus gallery

Focus  handout:

Choose a general scene with infinite distance apparent in background with a person 6 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 to establish correct exposure.
Focus: 10pts (exercise, aesthetics)

Fifth Lecture:  May 28  – bring camera.
We will continue work on depth-of-field concepts, documenting a person and a place.  

Week Three

Sixth Lecture:  June 2
Images from assignment  2, Focus are DUE. Upload to Smugmug and post best shot. Color Code best shot for Adobe Portfolio.

Creative Shutter gallery

Assignment 3 Creative Shutter handout

Photograph Stop Action and Panning.
Use fast and slow shutter speed to freeze and pan action
 (a) someone walking down steps (b) a bicycle in motion.
Creative shutter: 10pts (exercise, documentary, esthetics)

Seventh Lecture:  June 3
Images from assignment 3, Creative Shutter are DUE. Upload to Smugmug. Color code best photo for portfolio.

flash gallery!

 Creative Flash handout

Turn in 3 examples of flash technique: (a) two heads using direct or bounce light, (b) fill-flash with direct flash (in front of backlit background, (c) bounce flash portrait. Use a hotshot flash for DSLR or us a fill card. Use a hot light to light indoors without a flash.

Eighth Lecture:  June 4 –  bring gear,  camera,  flash or fill card.
Lighting exercise.
Field trip (exercise, esthetics)

Week Four

Ninth Lecture:  June 9
Images from assignment 4, Flash Photos are DUE. Color code best shot.

Night Photography gallery
Night Assignment handout

Shoot night scenes of (a) incident light and (b) reflected light night scenes (tripod helpful).
Night: 5pts (documentary, lighting, esthetics)

Tenth Lecture:  June 10
Images from assignment 5, Night are DUE. Upload to Smugmug and post best shot. Create ‘about me’ page for Adobe Portfolio.

Silhouette gallery:

Silhouette handout

Photograph silhouette, a backlit subject – expose meter for the bright background.
Silhouette: 5pts (exercise, lighting, esthetics)

Eleventh Lecture:  June 11 – bring camera.
Photo essay – Field trip, shoot portraits and a sense of place of location near you.

Week Five

Twelfth Lecture:  June 16
Images from assignment 6, silhouette are DUE. Upload to Smugmug.

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, aesthetics)

Thirteenth Lecture:  June 17
Images from assignment 7, Color are DUE. Upload. 
Create ‘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 18 –  FIELD TRIP
Continue with photo essay – photographing portraits, sense of place, action shots in location near you. 

Week Six

Fifteenth Lecture:  June 23
Images from assignment 8, self-portrait are DUE. Upload.

Famous Person gallery

Famous portrait handout

Photograph an environmental portrait of someone you do not know and who does not work for BU.
Environmental portrait: 10pts (documentary)

Sixteenth Lecture:  June 24  
Review blog final requirements, add ‘photo essay’ page.
Environmental portrait assignment due.

Shooting assignment 10

The Photo Essay handout

Finish shooting narrative photoessay.   
The images should be uploaded to Smugmug and also presented as a gallery on Adobe Portfolio.

Final photo story: 20pts (documentary)

Seventeenth Lecture:  June 25  
Finish editing portfolio

Week Seven

Eighteenth Lecture: June 30 
Assignment 10, Photo Essay 
Upload five photos to Smugmug and finish Portfolio
Adobe Portfolio: 10pts (publishing)

Nineteenth Lecture:  July 1, Last Class
Review Photo essay and Adobe Portfolio

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 class reviews of 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. Environmental Portrait: 10pts (documentary)
  10. Final photo story: 20pts (documentary)
  11. Adobe Portfolio: 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.