Editorial Photography for NEA Today Magazine

By Douglas Gritz

Denver Photographer

The National Education Association hired me last week for another story for their NEA Today Magazine. I first worked with them on a story about a Denver teacher who moonlights as a dental assistant. This time they have a story involving two different Denver schools that have unique methods for engaging with their students. The story runs in the July issue. I can’t wait to see it!


a denver teacher high fives a student at Denver North High School

The editors sent me a list of shots they were interested in for the story in their magazine. First on the list was something showing how staff at Denver’s North High School greet students who come into the building in the morning with high fives, hand shakes, shout outs, etc. NEA doesn’t like to show faces of students who are not media cleared by the school, which can be a challenge, but it also can lead to interesting shots. For this one, I went outside and shot ¬†through the glass front doors so I could use the reflection in the glass to both obscure the student and frame the action. Look closely at the top middle of the reflection on the right and you can see the North High School logo, which I TOTALLY planned. :}


two students stand on a "peace mat" on a Denver elementary school

Down the road from North High School in my old neighborhood of Capitol Hill is an elementary school where NEA also wanted some shots. One of the teachers came up with a unique solution for teaching kids anger management. If two kids are having a disagreement, they are pulled aside with and asked to stand on this vinyl mat.


Two students engage in conflict resolution at a Denver elementary school

Here, two kids work out their disagreement with the help of the mat.


A teacher leads a music and mediation circle with her elementary students

Included in NEA’s article about the school is a teacher who starts off each day with music and meditation.


a student participates in a meditation moment at her school


The word "curiosity" appears on a column at Denver North High School

Back to North High School where NEA asked me to find signs around the school with positive messaging. This and the photo below show what I found.


The word "optimism" appears on a column at Denver North High School


A Denver elementary school teacher poses for a portrait in her classroom

Finally, NEA asked if I would get some “casual headshots” of the teacher who does meditation, the principal, and another school leader. When I hear casual, it usually means unposed and shot, you know, just kinda as you’re going about things. But in reality, to get something good, time needs to be spent setting up, finding a good location, working on a pose, and bringing in light. For a “casual” shot, the latter should not be obvious, so I’m careful to find ways to make my light enhance existing light. For the shot above, you can see window light hitting the background. The light on the teacher’s face is not coming from that window but rather, my light. But because of placement and composition, she looks like she is being lit by the same window source.


A principal of a Denver elementary school poses for a portrait in her office

For this shot, utilizing a window in the background helps give the illusion that the subject is being lit by that light. In reality, her face is facing away from the window and a light is what is illuminating her face.


A school administrator poses for a portrait in a stairwell for a NEA Today story

Here again, the background is being lit by window light, so I placed my light and subject in a way that would make it feel as if he was being lit by the same source.

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