Boy Scout Photography Merit Badge Requirements Through the Years

Merit badges are earned by Boy Scouts to show that they’ve become experienced in a particular area of study after completing a list of requirements. The photography merit badge was created exactly 100 years ago in 1911, and its requirements have been revised through the years as photographic technologies continue to change and evolve. We’ve compiled some of the badge’s requirements through the years — see if you would be worthy of any of them with your current know-how.

Here’s the requirements you would have had to satisfy back in 1948:

  1. Show that he is thoroughly familiar with the essential parts of a camera and explain the purpose of each of the following: finder, lens, shutter, diaphragm opening, bellows, focusing scale.
  2. Understand the basic principles of composition, selection of background and handling of light and shade.
  3. Name the chemicals found in one standard developing solution and one fixing solution, and explain their purpose.
  4. Submit six good quality pictures taken, developed and printed by himself, putting into practice his knowledge of the principles in Requirement No. 2. (Not more than two pictures may be submitted from any one of the following groups, and the collection must include one from each group.)

    GROUP A.. Landscape or water pictures.
    GROUP B: Groups of persons or street scenes.
    GROUP C: Person, domestic animal or bird; wild animal or bird.
    GROUP D.. Architectural subjects.

Here’s the pre-2005 version:

  1. Tell what makes a good picture. Show your understanding of these as you take pictures for requirement 2.
  2. Do the following:
    1. Take pictures illustrating at least eight of the following picture-taking techniques. Use comparisons to illustrate your points.
      1. Camera steadiness.
      2. Rule of thirds.
      3. Level horizon.
      4. Moving in close – Fill the frame.
      5. Framing.
      6. Direction of light – Front, side, and backlighting.
      7. Quality of light – Flat light, bright sunlight and time of day.
      8. Point of view – Eye level, high and low angle.
      9. Use of leading lines.
      10. Flash – Proper range and reflective surfaces.
    2. Do one of the following, utilizing techniques of  planning a photo report. Start with planning cards;  then do your photography and editing, and complete  the requirements by presenting your report in an organized manner to your counselor.
      1. Expose a roll of print film, and select 5 to 10 good pictures for your picture story. Mount the pictures on a large art board or in a photo album.
      2. Expose a roll of slide film and select 10 or more good slides to tell your story.
  3. Explain how photographic film is processed and tell how black-and-white prints are made, or process and print your own pictures and show your counselor, explaining the steps you took.
  4. Do the following:
    1. Explain to your counselor the basic parts common to all cameras using a diagram you prepared.
    2. Explain common photographic terms such as lens, shutter, view-finder, camera angle, exposure, negative, transparency, f/number, and planning card.
  5. Describe jobs in photography.

Here’s what current scouts must fulfill:

  1. Explain how the following elements and terms affect the quality of a picture:
    1. Light-natural light/ambient, flash
    2. Exposure-aperture (f-stops), shutter speed, depth of field
    3. Composition-rule of thirds, leading lines, framing, depth
    4. Angle of view
    5. Stopping action
  2. Explain the basic parts and operation of a film camera or digital camera. Explain how an exposure is made when you take a picture.
  3. Discuss with your counselor the differences between a film camera and a digital camera. List at least five advantages and five disadvantages of using a digital camera versus using a film camera.
  4. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Produce a picture story using the photojournalistic technique of documenting an event. Share your plan with your counselor and get your counselor’s input and approval before you proceed. Then, using either a film camera or a digital camera, produce your approved picture story. Process your images and select eight to 12 images that best tell your story. Arrange your images in order, then mount the prints on a poster board. If you are using digital images, you may create a slide show on your computer or produce printouts for your poster board. Share your picture story with your counselor.
    2. Choose a topic that interests you to photograph for an exhibit or display. Get your counselor’s approval, then photograph (digital or film) your topic. Process your images. Choose 20 of your favorite images and mount them on poster board. Share your display with your counselor. If you are using digital images, you may create a slide show on your computer or produce printouts for your poster board.
  5. Discuss with your counselor the career opportunities in photography. Pick one that interests you and explain how to prepare for such a career. Discuss with your counselor the education and training such a career would require.

Do you qualify for any of these photography merit badges? If not, they provide a helpful guideline on how to become more familiar with analog and digital photography.


  • Sebastián Soto

    Are we in 2111? ;)

  • Michael Zhang

     Thanks ;) Changed 2011 to 1911, haha

  • David

     looks easy

  • Jeremy Bryner

     For all the years I’ve been in scouts and photography, I never thought of getting the merit badge. Oh well, looks easy to me.

  • Bilbo1313

    Don’t forget to take photos of all the people that are not allowed in the scouts, like homeosexuals, atheists and Muslims.

  • Rob

    Im a photography Merit Badge Counselor and it is getting harder and harder to compare film and digital.  I have a film camera just to show them the differences.

    @Bilbo – It would be news to the homosexuals, atheists and Muslims in our Counsel that they are not allowed to be Boys Scouts.  I will be sure to let them know you said they need to leave. Ignorance is equal opportunity, just like Boys Scouts. 

  • Bergur

    The next update should include “Get featured on Photoblog’s frontpage”, “Get mentioned on PetaPixel” or “Sell a stock photo”.

  • bycostello

    where’s me old scout shirt… one more badge to add…

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  • Dougww1

    In all fairness to Rob and Bilbo, there are some Councils that are heavily controlled by certain religious organizations that will remain nameless here.  It is in those that gays, muslims and atheists seem to find exclusion in scouting.  Rob, your area may be very different.  In my area, it is exactly as Bilbo says.

  • ScoutParent

    Muslims ARE allowed in scouts. Please give more thought to your speech. Try to understand what the Scouting values are, and maybe you can support the group for its efforts to make considerate leaders for this world.