Lesson Plans

Captioning and Curating Photography

Students from Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C. practice curating images for the Everyday DC exhibition. United States, 2018.

Note to educators: This is the fourth of seven lessons in the Everyday DC unit, and all seven lessons can be found here


Students will be able to select images that best convey their everyday lives to an outside audience. They will also be able to define the elements of a strong caption and write captions to accompany photos.

Warm-up: Captioning and curating experience

Students have likely already practiced many captioning and curating skills, though they may not have known it at the time. Have a brief class-wide discussion surrounding the following questions:

  1. Where are some of the social media platforms you have used to post photos? Make a list, and then consider the following: 
    • How do you choose which images to post and which to not post?
    • When you've chosen to post a picture, do you usually post a caption?
    • If so, what information does the caption usually have? 
  2. Examine the two images below. If you had to choose one to post to social media, which would you pick? Why?

    Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.


    Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.


  3. What information do you want to know about the image you chose as your favorite? Make a list of questions that a caption for this image should answer.

Introducing the Resource: A Photographer's Toolkit

  1. Review this video from Everyday Africa co-founder Peter DiCampo and respond to the following:
    • What is the mission of Everyday Africa?
    • How does Peter select images for the Everyday Africa Instagram feed?

Extension Activity 1: Curation Exploration

  1. Set a timer for 10 minutes and ask students to use cameras or phones to compose as many images as they can of details in the classroom.  
  2. After ten minutes, have students review the images they composed and identify 1-2 images they would keep, and 1-2 images they would not keep.
  3. As students share the images they would and wouldn't keep, note commonalities in why students are choosing to keep some photos and not others. Then, discuss the following:
    • What are the elements of a strong photo?
    • When selecting images for an exhibition, what are some reasons that a curator will include some images and exclude others? Here are some examples a photo may be excluded: 
      • The photo is blurry or unfocused
      • The photo is too dark or too bright
      • The photo's subject is cut off by the framing

Optional: Students can practice the exercise above using images they took in previous classes. They can also review print images taken before the class.

An Everyday DC photographer curates, titles, and captions their image. Washington, D.C. 2020


Introducing the Resource: Caption Exploration

1. Ask students to make predictions about images from the Everyday Everywhere feed using the questions below:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you think is happening? Why?
  • What do you wonder about the image? 

2. Share the captions with the students and ask them to check their predictions. Discuss the following:

  • What new information do you learn from the captions?
  • What are the elements of a strong caption?

3. Share the following video from Everyday Africa co-founder Austin Merrill about the elements of a strong caption, and then review the elements of a strong caption.

Extension Activity 2: Writing Captions that Add New Information

1. Students work on their own, or with a partner, to write captions for the two images they selected in Activity 1 as their strongest images. 

2. Students trade captions with a partner and check their partners' captions for the following:

  • Who/what is in the photo?
  • What is happening in the image?
  • Where the photo was taken?
  • Why the image captures everyday life in their communities?

Optional: Students who have taken photos in previous classes can write captions to accompany the images they selected as their favorites from those days.

Image by Fareed Mostoufi of art by Ana Baruca. United States, 2020.



Students select images that best convey their narratives for an outside audience and write captions to accompany photos.

Sample rubric:


Exceeds Expectation

Meets Expectation

Needs Improvement

VA:Pr5.1.8a: Collaboratively prepare and present selected theme based artwork for display, and formulate exhibition narratives for the viewer.






VA:Re.7.2.6a: Analyze ways that visual components and cultural associations suggested by images influence ideas, emotions, and actions.




Educator Notes: 

This lesson plan adapts exercises and activities developed as part of the Everyday DC unit, which was written by Pulitzer Center and D.C. Public Schools. Here is a PDF of the original lesson plan, which was designed by  by Fareed Mostoufi (Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting) & Andrew Westover (DCPS). This photography and curation unit is inspired by the Everyday Africa project created by journalists Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill and supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Everyday Africa, a collection of images shot on mobile phones across the continent, is an attempt to redirect focus toward a more accurate understanding of what most Africans experience on a day-to-day basis: normal life. 

The Everyday DC cornerstone unit is an opportunity for students to apply photography, photo analysis, and investigative reporting skills to the creation of photo essays that reflect their everyday realities as residents of Washington D.C. Students will create group photo exhibitions that they feel accurately and responsibly represent their communities. Participating schools had the opportunity collaborate with DCPS and the Pulitzer Center to select students who will help curate a district-wide Everyday DC exhibition featuring images from all schools participating in the unit. For support creating a photojournalism project with your students, contact education@pulitzercenter.org.

DCPS Standards:


Collaboratively shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-day life using a contemporary practice of art and design.


Select, organize, and design images and words to make visually clear and compelling presentations.

Additional Resources:

For an easily accessible PDF containing images from Everyday Africa, please click here.

For a PDF containing images of the 2019 Everyday DC exhibition, please click here.

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