Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Balance describes the harmonious combination of elements (texture, color, form, and shape) in an image.

Composition is the arrangement or structure of the formal elements that make up an image.

Focus refers to the areas of the image that are the sharpest. Focus can create areas of emphasis and influence the mood of the image.

Foreground, middle ground, and background describe the areas in the front, middle, and back of the composition.

Framing describes the area within the boundaries of the photograph.

Light refers to the light and dark areas in the image. Light in the image can be natural or artificial. This is different from value, which describes the range of light to dark tones in the image.

Line describes a dominant path of movement in an image. Lines can vary in direction and length. For example, they can be horizontal or vertical, straight or curved. By creating paths through the image, lines help communicate information and influence our interaction with the image.

Scale describes relationships of each part of the composition to the whole and to each other part.

Shapes are created from lines. They can be organic and irregular, or geometric and organized.

Space describes the area between objects. Space between objects contributes to the perception of depth in the image.

Pattern refers to repetition in the image. Textures can be repeated, but so can shapes and other elements.

Photographic ephemera typically refers to paper-based objects that incorporate photographic images (postcards, posters, broadsides, pamphlets, etc.). These objects are inexpensive, broadly circulated, and mass-produced to serve various and immediate uses (commercial, commemorative, educational, decorative, promotional, etc.).

Proportion is related to balance, but it refers to the specific combination of the sizes of different elements in the image.

Texture is the surface quality that can be seen and felt in an image. Textures can be smooth, granular, and so on. Ask: If you could touch the surface of the photograph how would it feel? When textures repeat, this can form a pattern.

Vantage point is the position from which the photographer takes the photograph. The vantage point can be from a particular angle: straight on, or at a diagonal, for example. It can also be elevated, at a distance, or close in proximity.

Photographic Processes

Gelatin silver prints is a general term that describes the most common process for making black and white photographs since the 1890s. They are made with papers coated with a layer of gelatin that contains light-sensitive silver salts.

Digital photography describes the art and science of producing and manipulating photographs that are represented as pixels. Digital photographs can be produced in a few different ways, including by digital camera or by scanning. Digital images are also created by non-photographic equipment, such as computer tomography scanners and radio telescopes.


Baldwin, Gordon. Looking at Photographs: A Guide to Technical Terms. Revised edition. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust, 2009.

Library of Congress: “Popular Photographic Print Processes”

Nuovo Contemporary Art


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