Watercolor Brush Painting

Art Education

Photo containing items that could be on a vision board

How to teach the Elements and Principles with Photography Vision Boards

What is a Photography Vision Board?

A vision board is a collection of objects and photos that convey a visual representation of our hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the future. Creating a vision board is useful at the beginning of a new school year, the beginning of a new calendar year, or the beginning of a new project. Allowing students time to reflect on what they want for their future and placing a symbol to that goal is a powerful exercise and great activity for goal setting in general. Having this collection of symbols helps them to formulate intentions for the future. 

A photography vision board is a photograph or digital image of the completed vision board. It allows you to carry this digital image with you throughout an intended time frame instead of having a physical board that perhaps collects dust as time marches on. The ability to photograph the objects makes this vision for the future portable. I like to place my vision board as the lock screen on my phone to remind me of these thoughtful intentions each time I pick up my phone. 

The process of goal setting and creating this vision board is useful in and of itself. Creating an aesthetically pleasing vision board is a bonus. The exercise of creative problem solving that goes with this notion of combing the Elements of Art and Principles of Design is a great way for students to create something beautiful during the goal-setting process while using media that students tend to love. 

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Why Photography?

My high school students LOVE photography! I think there’s something about the ability to simply hit that trash can button that frees students to be creative in ways that scare them off when they have to put pencil to paper. As someone who used film photography throughout high school and lived through the struggle of waiting a whole 24 hours for the pharmacy to develop my prom photos, I’m still amazed at the ease with which we can capture, well, EVERYTHING. This ability to whip out our phones AND have high-quality images has completely changed the way photography can be used in the classroom.

Smartphone photography has been incredibly useful in my art room in recent years. Here are some basic things to consider when asking students to use their smartphones as a tool in the artroom. First, take a look at the available light and demonstrate how to use the lighting to their advantage. Explain how to hold the camera so that the artwork’s composition is square and not skewed in any way. Eliminate background noise by placing the composition on a solid surface background. Lastly, help students change the settings on their smartphone to turn off live photos and HEIC formats for best compatibility for sharing the images with ease.

With a few simple tricks like this, a smartphone in the art room can be a valuable and useful tool in many situations and works very well for a photography vision board activity. If you are looking for more information on how to make the most of smartphones in the art room, I reference iPhone Photography School often.

SmartPhone image with Photography Vision Board product

Elements of Art and Principles of Design meet Photography

Students enjoy activities that center around them and allow them to express themselves. Allowing students the opportunity to reflect on what they want their future to look like can be scary for some, but liberating for others. We ask students over and over what their plans are for after high school, what their major will be, or what they want to do with their lives, but rarely do we afford them the space to reflect and ponder what those answers might look like. 

Applying the Elements of Art and Principles of Design to a painting could take weeks and lots of practice before the concepts begin to click for even the best art students. Having reviewed the basic definition is a great start, but walking through the process of arranging objects and planning a composition is great practice. Allowing students to arrange and practice with objects that so clearly represent them is a win-win situation and should offer immediate buy-in for students.


In my classroom, I offer a five-day exercise on goal setting, Elements of Art & Principles of Design exercise, and a photography activity. This exercise worked very well during virtual instruction. I used the lesson right about returning from the New Year holiday, but it can easily be adapted to a back-to-school activity or mid-year activity for getting acquainted with students or college planning. If you’d like to know more about how to bring these concepts together, be sure to check out my Photography Vision Board lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers or in my store!

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I help middle school & high school teachers, like you, create art rooms built for student growth & creative expression even if they don’t have a background in art!

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