Documentary Photography

Watch the video Borderlands then answer the questions.

Step 1

Research and Development

Documentary Photography

Documentary photography is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects, and events, and is often used in reportage. –Tate


Many photographers assume that as long as the subject(s) is not looking at the camera, that they have produced a documentary picture.  While we do not want the subjects to be camera aware 99% of the time, it’s not that simple.

Documentary photography is really an art, it is a type of photojournalism where the photographer is aiming to create a series of pictures that will tell a complete story.  The photographer is making pictures that make the viewer feel something towards the subjects by carefully choosing light, composition and moment.  These pictures are deliberate in nature, they are thought out and executed with the photographers perspective at the heart of it. 

While candid moments are more like snapshots, pictures taken of the subject, documentary photography is allowing the photographer to take complete control of their choices in which to tell the story while giving up complete control of the environment in which to do so.


For those who want to stay committed to the art of photojournalism, photographers may not physically change or influence the scene in any way.  This includes changing or altering the light source, moving objects to clean up the scene or even asking the subjects to “redo” a moment or move where the moment is happening.  Once you begin altering the scene, you are now approaching the work as a lifestyle photographer rather than a documentary one. – Kirsten Lewis

In this section of the project, students will research and think about a topic that they would like to capture a complete story through documenting the subject and looking at it through an objective lens.

What is a subject that you would like to explore as a photojournalist? What is a topic that is important to you? Think about Borderlands video and how the artists in the video documented what they saw and also challenged viewers to think about relations between Mexico and the USA as well as the space/landscape on the border.

Make a quick video on on Loom and submit to Google classroom.

Step 2: Shooting and making contact sheets

This step will take a couple of weeks. You will need to capture enough images to fill a contact sheet (20 images). Then, you will analyze the images with the group. Then, you will go out a shoot more images, then make a contact sheet analyze your work again. Repeat.

Step 3: Edit the images.

Using Bridge, Camera RAW, and Photoshop, students will edited the imaged that are approved as their to 10-15 images.

Step 4: Adding images to digital Portfolio

Add your images to a new subpage under the digital photo 2 page.