Aquatic Invaders in Maine (AIM) Program

Nature Photographers
November 2007

Title: Avoid the Blur/ Life in Focus

Author(s): Sarah Morrisseau (GMRI)

Grade Level:

Setting: Classroom & field

Time Needed:

Focus Concept(s): Plant & animal structure

Focus Skill(s): Photography, observation, identification

Essential Questions:
· What are the elements of a quality scientific photograph that can be used for species identification or habitat distinction?
· How can I take a good scientific photograph?

Learning Objectives:
· Students are able to identify a quality scientific photograph of a species or habitat
· Students have a general understanding of what scientists need to see in a photograph in order to make a positive species identification or to distinguish habitats
· Students practice taking quality scientific photographs in the classroom and field
· Students support their claims with evidence

Relevant Standards:

Prior Knowledge and Skills Needed:

Materials Needed:
· Digital cameras
· Example photographs
· Plant/ animal species
· iBook (PP/Excel/ Word/ NoteShare)

Activity Description:


  1. Take a series of bad-to-good sample photographs of plants/animals/habitats OR download a number of photographs from Getty Images, Bill Curtsinger, Petri, ….
  2. Load a smattering of these photographs in PP/ Word/ Flickr
  3. Put a caption on each photograph
    1. Bad photo captions – what you meant to show but didn’t, common mistakes, etc.
    2. Good photo captions – point out critical ID structures that students would otherwise miss
  4. Create a simple data sheet where students can rate photos and list evidence for each rating

Classroom Procedure:
  1. Access the file of sample scientific photographs
  2. Look at and compare a number of species/habitat photographs
  3. Determine whether each scientific photograph is good, bad, otherwise
  4. Log your evidence for each rating in the data sheet
  5. Using your data sheet, brainstorm a list of criteria that make a good scientific species photograph (clear, distinguishing structures in view, scale, zoomed in, ...)
  6. Using your data sheet, brainstorm a list of criteria that make a good scientific photograph of an aquatic habitat (clear, zoomed out, water in view, vegetation in view, substrate if possible, …)

Field Procedure:
Data Collection
  1. Take a series of habitat photographs
  2. Take a series of species photographs
  3. Collect a sample of each species you photograph to bring back to the classroom

Classroom Procedure:
Data Collection continued
  1. Take a second in-class photograph of each of the samples you collected in the field

  1. Download your photographs from both the field and classroom
  2. Using the criteria you established for good scientific photographs, assess your own photographs or trade with someone else and assess their photographs

Share results
  1. Choose one really good photograph and one really bad photograph to share with a small group/ whole class. Explain in detail why the photograph is particularly good or horribly and embarrassingly bad.
  2. Provide feedback and suggestions to others about how they might improve their photography

Discussion Ideas:
· What are (3) things you can do to improve future photographs?
· Is it easier to take photographs in the field or in the classroom? What are the challenges of taking photos in the field? In the classroom?

Assessment Ideas:

Extension Ideas:

Sources for sample images
· Getty Images:
· Bill Curtsinger:
· Petri/ GMRI image library
Example data sheet