Photography lesson

Lesson Plan: Sports Photography – The New York Times

Note: This is our last lesson of the day for the 2021-22 school year.


Featured Article: “Our favorite sports photos of 2021by The New York Times

Late last year, The New York Times asked photographers to pick their favorite sports images they shot in 2021 and explain why they liked them. They selected photos taken at skate parks and swimming pools, high school football games and Olympic trials, crowded streets and empty stadiums.

In this lesson, you’ll take a close look at these stunning images and learn what makes them important and meaningful to the people behind the lens. Next, we’ll invite you to take on the role of a photojournalist and document sports stories from your community that you think are worth sharing.

What do you think makes a good sports photo? Before looking at photos, make a list of the qualities you think are essential in sports photography.

Then watch the slideshow of photos below from The New York Times and The Associated Press, taken throughout history and in the present day, and ponder these questions:

  • What qualities do you notice in these sports photos that make them compelling? Add them to your list.

  • Do any of these images challenge your ideas of what makes good sports photography? If so, which ones and why?

  • Which photos stood out to you the most? What do you admire in them?

Read the articlethen answer the following questions:

1. What did you learn from the article about being a sports photographer? Was there anything that surprised you?

2. Which photo of the article stood out to you the most, and why?

3. How was Chang W. Lee able to capture Simone Biles’ dramatic bird’s eye view of the vault? What does this tell you about being a talented sports photographer?

4. “Compelling sports photography captures the spirit of competition, and some of the best moments are found on the periphery,” wrote Todd Heisler. Do you agree? What do you think he meant by “found on the outskirts”? Which images best illustrate his statement?

5. Some of these photos do not take place at sporting events. Why do you think photographers chose them as their favorites of the year? What do they reveal about the sport and the stories that the photographs can tell? How do these images expand your understanding of captivating sports photography?

6. Review your list of qualities that you think make good sports photography. Would you change anything on your list now that you’ve read the article? What else could you add?

seven. Did any of the stories remind you of a sporting moment you had in your own life?

Now it’s up to you: put what you’ve learned about sports photography to good use and become a sports photojournalist for a day (or more!).

What sports stories in your community do you think are worth telling? Here are some ideas:

For additional photography skills, watch this video from Mr. Heisler on how to think like a photographer (also embedded above), or this lesson in which he and two high school photography teachers share tips on how to to make interesting portraits.

After the assignment, choose your favorite photo and write a paragraph about why it stands out, using the featured article for example.

Additional teaching and learning opportunities

  • The work of a photographer: Learn more about the life and preparation of a New York Times sports photographer by reading how Doug Mills photographed the Olympic trials or how Sara Krulwich became the first woman to photograph on the football field during games at the Olympics. ‘University of Michigan.

  • Creative writing: Use your imagination to write the opening of a short story or a poem inspired by one of the pictures you have seen in this lesson, or tell us about a memory from your own life that the picture reminds you of. think.

  • Favorite Sports Photos: Take a closer look at sports photography in The Times and elsewhere, and write about the photos you found most effective. You can check out Sports Illustrated’s “100 Greatest Sports Photos of All Time” from 2015, or ESPN’s “Iconic Sports Images” compilation from the 2010s. In The New York Times, you can browse the Sports section and “Our best Olympic photos”. You can also search online for a memorable photo of one of your favorite athletes and write about what the athlete and the photo mean to you.


Want more daily lessons? You can find them all here.