Photography Merit Badge
Rules for Photographs

This page should help clarify what sorts of pictures you are expected to take for requirements 4-7 of the badge. 

A few general notes:

- Mike Brown

4. Do TWO of the following, then share your work with your counselor.
a. Photograph one subject from two different angles or perspectives. Definition: "Angles or perspectives" means how your camera is positioned relative to the subject. For example, you can use high angle (looking down on the subject), low angle (looking up at the subject), or eye-level (looking straight at the subject). Or, you can show a front view and a side view of the subject taken from the same level. 

Note: This does not mean two pictures of the same subject taken from (or in) two different geographical places. 

Front view of a Beech Starship

Side or oblique view
b. Photograph one subject from two different light sources-artificial and natural. Definitions: Natural light is sunlight, whether the picture is taken out of doors or inside by light through a window. Artificial light includes any man-made light source, which could be ambient indoor lighting from lamps or overhead lights or even candle light. Flash counts as "artificial light" for the purposes of this requirement. 
Natural Light (sunlight through windows)

Artificial Light (Flash)
c. Photograph one subject with two different depths of field. Definition: "Depth of Field" means how much of the subject is in focus from the foreground of the image to the background. You control depth of field using the lens aperture ("f/stop") - the larger the aperture (smaller f/number) the less the depth of field, the smaller the aperture (larger f/number), the greater the depth of field. To adjust the aperture, use "aperture priority" (A or Ta) or "manual" (M) mode on your camera. 

Note: You probably won't be able to satisfy this requirement with a cell phone or a very basic point-n-shoot camera without an adjustable aperture feature. 

Large Depth of Field (small aperture - f/22)

Small Depth of Field (wide aperture - f/5.6)
d. Photograph one subject with two different compositional techniques.


(a) To satisfy this requirement you need to provide two pictures showing the same subject using two different techniques. At right, I've provided some of my pictures illustrating a number of compositional techniques, taken from my presentation when we first started the badge. 

(b) The point of this requirement is to demonstrate that you understand the techniques of photographic composition on some level, and that you used those techniques when you took or selected the photographs. Don't just provide a bunch of photographs in hopes that some of them might accidentally comply with some rule of compostion, and expect me to tell you what techniques they show.

(c) This list isn't exhaustive. There are other techniques known to the photographic art which I've not shown here - feel free to use them, as long as you can name and explain the technique and it's a recognized technique. No, you can't just provide a picture and say it shows "my new technique".  

(d) I've given a couple of examples of each technique to make the technique as clear as I can, but you don't need to do that. One picture per technique is adequate.

(e) I can't speak for every merit badge counselor, but I'm inclined to be lenient regarding the "one subject" wording - if you have two really good pictures showing that you truly understood and used two techniques, I'll accept them.    

Rule of Thirds: Divide the picture up in thirds, like a tic-tac-toe board. Position the subject on one of the one-third lines - or, better yet, on one of the intersections. 
Rule of thirds - hikers on left-hand one-third line
Hiking to a bothy at the Blair Atholl Jamborette in Scotland

Lighthouse on one-third line
Tobermory Light, Isle of Mull, Scotland
80/20 Rule: When you have a horizon in the image, don't put it in the middle. 

Rather, the horizon should be either 80% up from the bottom with the remaining 20% being sky, or 80% down from the top with the remaining 20% being foreground. 

Choose which you use depending on whether the interest is the foreground or background. 

Aird Uig, Isle of Lewis - emphasis on the moorland in the foreground. 

Aird Uig, but emphasizing the mountains and sky in the background.
Leading Lines: Use elements in the image to lead the viewer's eyes into the picture. 
Railroad Tracks are the traditional leading lines...
Blair Atholl station, Scotland

... but a winding road can provide leading lines, too.
Atholl Estate, Blair Atholl, Scotland
Move in Close / Fill the Frame:  Just what it says - move in closer to make the subject fill the frame. 
Wide shot - not bad, but...

...better if you move in close.
Framing: Use elements of the image to surround and emphasize the subject. 
A literal frame - a Scout framed in a window in Caerlaverock Castle, Scotland...

...or a background element of another sort, a juggler visually framed by a Ferris wheel in Edinburgh.
Patterns / Colors / Textures / Shapes: Look for these sorts of interesting things to make the subject of your images. 
Color - forty shades of green with black and white cows in Dingle, Ireland.

Pattern and texture - lichen and rock with a piece of broken pottery, Crail, Kingdom of Fife, Scotland
Light / Shadow: Look for interesting shadows, or the effect of unusual lighting situations. Watch as the color of the light changes throughout the day and into the night...
Sunlight and tree shadows on a roadside plow mound.

Light and shadow from a midnight snow plow.
Reflections: Just what it says. Include reflections in your images to make them more interesting. 
Lock-keeper's house reflected in the Caledonian Canal, Fort William, Scotland. 

Reflection in a spherical mirror - Camera Obscura, Edinburgh
5. Photograph THREE of the following, then share your work your counselor.
a. Close-up of a person Definition: picture is taken from close enough to fill the frame with part of the person. 

Note: A full-length portrait would not qualify as a "close-up". 

b. Two to three people interacting Definition: obviously, the picture must have two or three people in it, and the people have to be "interacting" - that is, doing something together or reacting to each other. 

Note: This does not include just a posed group picture where everyone is just staring at the camera. Also, "two or three" means two or three - not twelve or twenty. 

There's always a Gift Shop - in this case, at the Scottish Seabird Centre

If knights could take selfies - Bannockburn Battlefield, Scotland
c. Action shot Definition: the subject of the photograph must be doing something active. Here's an opportunity for you to practice your panning technique (move the camera with the subject using a slow shutter speed to blur the back ground) or freeze action (high shutter speed or peak of action). To select a shutter speed, use Shutter Priority (S or Ts) or Manual (M) or Sports Modes on your camera. 

Note: Blurry pictures are not acceptable. The subject of the photo must be in focus and not blurred. Partial blur, as in the panning picture at right, is OK - that's part of the technique - but the subject has to be sharp. 

Freeze Action - Hammer Throw at a Highland Games in Scotland
High shutter speed - 1/1500th sec

Panning - a P-40 Warhawk at the Sun'n Fun air show
I used a 1/350th second exposure, and moved the camera to track the airplane, so that the background was blurred. The airplane was flying fast, so the 1/350th shutter speed worked - normally, with slower-moving subjects, you'd want to use a shutter speed of about 1/60th for panning so that the background is sufficiently blurred. 
d. Animal shot Definition: The subject is an animal. It could be a domestic animal or pet, or a wild animal. 

Note: for the purposes of this requirement, people are not considered animals.  

Raven at the Grand Canyon - wide aperture to blur background

A squirrel on my bird (and squirrel) feeder.
e. Nature shot Definition: The subject is something natural other than an animal - a plant or flower, a landscape, a close-up of an interesting rock... use your imagination. 
An interesting mushroom in the forest.

A landscape - a cobble beach at Machrie Bay, Isle of Arran, Scotland
f. Picture of a person - Candid, Posed or Camera Aware

Note: Strictly speaking, this requirement calls for "a" person. I would accept a picture showing a couple of people, as in two of the examples at right, as long as you can explain which technique you're showing. 

Candid - the subject wasn't aware of the camera (or, at least, not actively looking at it).
Posed - the subject was put in a position by the photographer and held it for the image. 
Camera aware - the subject knew his/her picture was being taken, but wasn't specifically told to take a pose. 
6. Describe how software allows you to enhance your photograph after it is taken. Select a photo you have taken, then do ONE of the following, and share what you have done with your counselor. 


i. You should present both the original image and the processed image, so your counselor can see what you did. 

ii. Whatever change you make should enhance the picture not just change it. That is, the changed picture should be better than the original in some way. 

iii. This is an open-ended requirement - have fun with it. Feel free to use more than one processing technique to improve your picture. You have to show at least one of the three techniques listed in 6(a) to 6(c) - but there's nothing to stop you from using all three. 

a. Crop your photograph. Definition: select part of the original image, and extract it to a new image. 
I also used the PhotoShop "Field Blur" filter to blur the background - which means this pair of pictures would equally satisfy requirement 6(c)
b. Adjust the exposure...  Definition: Make the picture darker or lighter, or adjust the levels or shadows/highlights to make the picture "pop". 
Original Image - boat on Caledonian Canal, Scotland

Exposure adjusted using the PhotoShop "Auto Tone" function. Note that this also removed the color cast introduced by the haze. 

           ....or make a color correction.

Color Correction definition: Adjust the color of the image. This can be to remove a color cast (for example, to make a picture taken under fluorescent light less green or to remove a blue cast in a snow picture or a hazy aerial photo).
Original Image - mix of incandescent and natural back light. Note the color cast in the white ribbon and the uniform.

Color Corrected Image (also adjusted exposure using "Shadow/Highlight")
Color Removal or Enhancement: You could also make the color in a picture more or less saturated. "Color Correction" includes converting a color image to grayscale (black-and-whate). 


Original Image - Isle of Lewis, Scotland

Image converted to grayscale
Partial Color: You can even convert a picture to partial color (mostly grayscale, but one element is in color) if you like.
Original Image - full color

Image converted to Partial Color - the background and feeder are grayscale, only the Cardinal is in color
c. Show another way you could improve your picture for impact. Definition: This is a catch-all - if you would like to try a filter effect or make a composite or panorama or HDR image, go for it!
Edinburgh, Scotland - an HDR (High Dynamic Range) picture made up of five different images, each taken at a different exposure so that both the shadowed Flodden Wall and the illuminated Heriot's School were properly exposed. .

Several different filters used to convert a color image of the Camp Barton Mess Hall into black and white line art.
7. Using images other than those created for requirements 4, 5 and 6, produce a visual story to document an event to photograph OR choose a topic that interests you to photograph.
c. Select eight to 12 images that best tell your story. Arrange your images in order and mount the prints on a poster board, OR create an electronic presentation. Share your visual story with your counselor.
  • This requirement is as much about storytelling as it is about taking pictures! Take and arrange your photos to tell a story.
  • Definition: If you choose to "document an event", the photos need to be related, and arranged in a chronological order to tell the story of the event. The "event" could be something as simple as taking your dog for a walk to a pond, cooking a favorite dish, making a model airplane or exploring your neighborhood, or it could be about a campout or hike with your troop.
  • Definition: If you choose to illustrate a topic, the photos need to be related to the topic and chosen and arranged to tell the story of your interest in the topic.
  • The acts of choosing and arranging are part of the requirement! You must have no fewer than eight pictures, and no more than twelve.
  • If you're presenting the photos in person (or virtually), you can tell the story orally. If you're going to supply the photos some other way, you should also provide some way of explaining the story you're telling - a Word or PDF document, or perhaps by providing the pictures in a captioned PowerPoint presentation. 
  • As with the earlier requirements, don't just pick any old eight to twelve pictures and expect the counselor to figure out what they show or why you chose them.

An example of a Visual Story:

A Ride on the Hogwart's Express (Jacobite Steam Train) in Scotland

The train is waiting for us at Fort William Station in the West Highlands

"All Aboard!" We have our own section on the train.

Crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct - can you see Harry Potter and Ron Weasley flying a Ford Anglia up ahead of the train?

The train has to stop at Glenfinnan Station to allow another train to pass, so we all get a chance to step out and visit with the engine driver and stoker.

The West Highland line passes through some beautiful scenery.

It's been a long day - some of the Scouts nodded off...

We made it to our destination - Mallaig - a fishing and ferry port...

...just in time for a great fish dinner.

Photos Copyright 2000-2021 Mike Brown