sharpen your selfie skills

1. Use this quick dip resource to hone your photography skills before sharing your school selfie

2. Share your selfie on Instagram with #sbsschoolselfie for your chance to win an SBS selfie stick. 


Develop your concept

Photography can represent fact or fiction; can be a singular image or a sequence of events. Today photography is used in many ways, both online and in print. The following well known Australian and international photographers have different styles and techniques they employ to convey meaning. 

Think about how different styles of photography help to tell a story or how different contexts and forms of presentation can change a photograph’s meaning.

A School Selfie isn't a selfie as you know it. Use your school/ school community rather than yourself as the focus of the image. 

Josef Koudelka, CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Prague. August 1968. Warsaw Pact troops invade Prague. © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos

Martin Parr, GB. England. Weymouth. From 'Think of England.' 2000. © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos



Consider the photographs you might make that would show someone what is unique about your school.


 “I had this notion of what I called a democratic way of looking around, that nothing was more or less important.”  William Eggleston, photographer


Getting technical

It is time to start making photographs. The following tasks investigate three key aspects of photography: point of view, light and shadow, and composition. 

Point of View

Where the photographer stands in relation to their subject is an important aspect to the visual language of photography. Point of view allows the photographer to represent the subject as they wish.

The following images demonstrate how point of view can be used to represent a subject as powerful, powerless, or as equals. 

Narelle Autio, Untitled (cat10) from the series Not of this Earth, 2001. © the artist.

Ricky Maynard, Wik Elder from the series Returning to Places that Name Us, Gladys, 2000. © the artist.

Susan Meiselas, Nicaragua, Managua, 1979, Country club. © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos 



Focusing on point of view, consider the scenes you would like to photograph prior to shooting, and apply various perspectives to your images. Ensure you take time to explore all the angles of a subject to visualise how the image’s meaning can change depending on the point of view.

Top Tip: Imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. You might be a four-year-old child, a fly on the wall, or a giant; this will help you to consider the meaning you wish to apply to your images. You may feel inclined to delete a bad photo straight away. Dont't! It is important to remember all photos will go through a selection and editing process and that after time and comparison your original opinion may change. 

Light and Shadow

The word ‘photograph’ derives from the ancient Greek words ‘phos’, meaning light, and ‘graphie’, meaning drawing. Photographers use light to reveal or conceal parts of their images and illustrate mood and emotion through colour and contrast.

In photographic terms, light can be discussed and used to enhance the narrative properties of an image, and to evoke a response from the viewer.

Direction: Determine what aspects of the image are revealed or concealed. The direction of light also determines whether textures within the image are revealed.

Quality: The quality of light will determine the contrast of an image (the range of dark and light in a scene). The contrast of an image and the quality of light are important factors in the viewer’s emotional response to the image.

Colour: The colour of light is important to the emotional response of the viewer. Different light sources, whether natural or artificial, produce different colours. Colour of light can be very technical, but for this resource we will discuss the three basic colour balances and their effect on an image.

When photographing on a smart device, adjust the exposure by tapping the area you would like to reveal. The camera will adjust to ensure that area is correctly exposed. This may mean that other aspects of the image are under- or over-exposed, but it will allow you to control your use of light and shadow.


Composition and Framing

 “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.”

 Garry Winogrand, photographer

Composition is the visual language that allows you to articulate your story. Choice of positioning and framing allows a viewer to be drawn to a particular aspect of the picture, or might lead their eye across the image. It refers to the how the objects within the frame of the photograph relate to one another and their position within the images (foreground, middle ground, background).

Rule of thirds: Divide an image into nine equal parts by imagining two vertical lines and two horizontal lines evenly spaced across the image. It is thought that where they intersect is where the important compositional elements should be placed within the frame. It is suggested that this placement creates tension and interest in the image.

Leading lines: Lead the viewer’s eye around an image, from the foreground to the background. They can be manmade or natural, including buildings, roads, trees, rivers and limbs.

What a photographer includes, or does not include, within the frame is vital. The viewer might be given a lot of information about the environment, or very little. Each decision to include, or not include, information can shape the message of the photograph and in some instances create points of interest that are not visible within the frame. The position of the frame (horizontal or vertical) will allow you to control what you include within the frame.

Frame within a frame: Using objects in the environment that you are photographing to create frames within your image can draw attention to your subject and provide points of interest.

The following images demonstrate how composition can be used to create a dynamic and harmonious image, creating a sense of order. Framing can also be used in fun, experimental ways. Try to explore tight framing, angled framing and wide-angle framing.

Narelle Autio, Skid marks, from the series To the sea, 2003-2013. © the artist.


Henri Cartier-Bresson, Hyères, France, 1932. © 2015 Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris.

Top Tip: Don't be afraid to break compositional and framing rules. Photographs do not always have to be made in the same way. The most interesting compositions can come from experimentation. When photographing, you are always able to crop an image if you feel there is too much in the frame. Work with more in the frame to start with and slowly focus in on subjects of interest.


Now apply your new photographic techniques – point of view, light and shadow, and composition and framing – to a photo shoot. This is an opportunity to rethink previous photographs and approach them with intention and vision, considering how images might work together as a series.

A great photograph can sometimes be a stroke of luck. More often than not, though, it is made through planning, determination and passion for the work. Taking pictures is easy, making photographs takes dedication. It is important not to feel pressure to get it right the first time and to continue to experiment and enjoy the experience.

Decision Time

Reviewing and editing work is as important as making the images. Digital photography allows images to be made quickly and in vast numbers. Through post-production and the final selection of work, you will strengthen your ‘eye’ and hone your creativity and techniques for future imagemaking. 

Top Tip: It is sometimes difficult to know when to stop critiquing and start congratulating yourself on a job well done. Too much post-production usually indicates the image needs to be reshot. Try  to apply minor edits and remember less is more – less post-production and images selected.

Using the app Snapseed on your smart device you can make adjustments to your images. You can use software such as Photoshop, but in-device editing with Snapseed will allow you to keep your adjustments to a minimum.

Key adjustments:
Brightness – brightens the mid-tones of your image.
Contrast – adjusts the separation between the darkest and lightest part of your image.
Shadows – adjusts the darker areas of your image.
Highlights – adjusts the lighter areas of your image.
Saturation – adjusts the richness of colours and can convert your image to black and white.

Colour vs. Black and White
Sometimes a colour in a photograph can distract the viewer’s attention from the image’s subject and overall composition. Converting the image to black and white may be a solution. However, don’t be afraid of colour; it can be a great way of grabbing the viewer’s attention and can also offer an authentic documentation of your subject.

Point of view and framing can be altered by cropping into an image and eliminating unwanted visual stimuli. The below contact sheet from French photographer Elliott Erwitt demonstrates how cropping can enhance the photographer’s vision.

Elliot Erwitt, Contact Sheet: Elliott Erwitt, Chihuahua, New York City, 1946, Digital Archival print.  © the artist

Elliot Erwitt, USA, New York City, 1946. © Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos


Review your images and select six images you feel best represent your vision and express what your school means to you

Upload them via Instagram with 



Top Tip: Try to pair your photographs with text. Captioning an image allows photographers to add context to their work.

Don't foget to credit the image with your name. It may be chosen as SBS selfie of the week.



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