will milne
Photographer and Photography Educator

Portrait Recreation Project

Lesson Plan Published 4/25/16 Last updated on 3/2/20

This is a project I do with my Commercial Photography class after we have discussed posing, lighting and retouching. In this project, students will choose a well-known portrait photograph. They will then do their best to research the photograph to find out information such as the photographer, the camera/equipment used to create it, why was it taken, what was the critical reception and more. Afterwards, the student will attempt to recreate the photo to the best of their abilities while paying special attention to the pose, lighting and editing. I normally give them a pass on the background, clothing and resemblance of their subject to the actual person in the original photo.

I normally format this unit as follows: 1 day choosing photo/research, 1 day research/planning, 1 day shooting/editing, 1 day editing/finishing touches, 1 day presenting/grading. However, this could be scaled back and turned in to more of a homework assignment if need be.

Additionally, this assignment could easily touch upon other aspects of digital creativity by discussing things such as fair use when using others work in this educational manner. This assignment assumes that students are already familiar with using a DSLR camera in manual mode.

Much of the Photoshop/Lightroom elements of this project will depend upon the photo that the student chooses to recreate so the retouching techniques will vary from student to student.

After researching and recreating students present their photos and research to the class and discuss how they went about the process and self-assess.

Included in this resource: Lesson Instructions (written for students), example student presentation, example student essay, peer grading sheet, grading rubric for teacher.

  • Photoshop

    Editing and compositing for photos, web and mobile app designs, 3D artwork, videos, and more.

  • Photoshop Elements

    Organize, edit, create, and share your photos.

  • Lightroom Classic

    Desktop-focused photo editing.

Age Levels
1+ Week
ISTE Standards
Students: Creative Communicator, Students: Empowered Learner, Students: Innovative Designer, Students: Computational Trainer, Students: Knowledge Constructor

Photoshop, Computers, DSLR Cameras, Professional Lighting Equipment

CC License
Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
5 / 5 • 6 Ratings

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Comments (7)

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Shafiq Rehman

Posted on 9/14/19 4:54:06 PM Permalink

Thanks for sharing very useful ​

P. James Bryans

Posted on 4/10/19 3:02:20 AM Permalink

This is great. I do the same thing with my Certificate II students.

William Oesch

Posted on 2/18/19 4:28:27 PM Permalink

​Great resource. I plan on putting this into my lighting units. I really like how it brings the history into the process.

Ahmed Belal

Posted on 12/2/18 5:37:28 AM Permalink

​Thanks for sharing

rasaya marimuthu

Posted on 7/20/18 6:54:23 AM Permalink

Gives a clearer picture of how things can be done​ with my students. Thank you for sharing.

Suzanne Dell'Orto

Posted on 7/10/17 4:30:17 PM Permalink

​Terrific project; really open ended but clear, and it promotes creativity within a limitation, and forces self-guided research to complete.

There is a lot of data collected (rubric, peer review, essay); do you have a streamlined process for collecting this data and grading?

Tarek Bahaa El Deen

Posted on 4/29/16 9:54:14 AM Permalink

very useful resource

thank you for sharing