Student Photojournalism Project

Mike de Jong, Aoyama Gakuin University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Journalism, news, media
  • Learner English level: Advanced
  • Learner maturity: University
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Activity time: Three class sessions
  • Materials: Mobile phones or cameras, access to computers and printers

It is said that a picture represents a thousand words. That is certainly true in journalism, where photos can tell dramatic stories about poverty, war, pollution, and other social issues. For students, learning about journalism by taking photos opens their world to the power of the media in a democratic society.

For this assignment, students use their own cameras or mobile phones to tell journalism-style stories with photography. Learners must take a series of 9-10 photos around one theme; perhaps a social issue in their neighbourhood, an event such as a local festival, or an issue that impacts friends or family. All photos must work together to support this theme, and short captions must be provided to explain the content. Students are told that high quality images and expensive printing are not necessary for this assignment. The goal is storytelling, not photo perfection.


Students are asked to bring in smartphones or cameras for the first session.


Step 1: The instructor prepares students for this assignment with a brief lecture on famous photojournalists and their work. Here, the work of Magnum photojournalists W. Eugene Smith and Robert Capa could be used.  In particular Capa’s photos from the Spanish Civil War and Smith’s work in exposing the Minamata scandal in Japan are excellent examples.

Step 2: Students are given some photos in which a narrative is clearly present. They are then asked to suggest captions. Working in groups, they also discuss possible themes for their own projects. This prepares students for producing their own photo narratives.

Step 3: The instructor confers with each student to discuss themes and topics. Further instructions about story-telling narratives could also be explained at this point.

Step 4: Students begin the assignment by shooting photos outside of class.

Step 5: The following week, students bring in their first photos for review. Gathered in groups, students analyse each other’s work, while the instructor also gives an assessment on the photos and themes. Further advice about developing story-telling narratives is also useful at this point.

Step 6: Students shoot more photos outside of class and complete their assignments by providing captions and printing off their work. They also prepare their photos for an in-class “exhibition” the following week.

Step 7: Students participate in an in-class photo “exhibition” where they share their completed assignments with classmates. Each student is asked to give a brief presentation explaining their photos and narratives. Invitations might be offered to other classes to see the photo “exhibition.” This gives the photojournalism students motivation to produce professional-quality work.

Step 8: Assignments are handed in to the instructor for grading.


This assignment allows students to further develop their language skills, while gaining a better understanding of photojournalism and the power of the media. They get hands-on experience in producing a journalistic assignment and learn to take photographs that tell stories. As they work on their projects, students develop new vocabulary and communication skills, and expand their English fluency and pronunciation. This project proves enjoyable, as students have fun while learning about an important aspect of the news media.


Magnum Photos. (n.d.) Retrieved from