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Author Topic: An informal photography course  (Read 2803 times)

Simon Withington

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An informal photography course
« on: September 09, 2011, 10:52:35 AM »


I am frequently approached by friends and acquaintances to 'help them learn' photography. So, recently, I decided to set up an informal course for a small group. I'm going to see how things go and then maybe offer it wider as a bit of a sideline.

I've racked my brains and have come up with the following topic areas to cover and a rough structure. The delegates will all be complete newbies who have just bought their first SLR and have not yet taken it off Auto.

Has anyone got any thoughts on the following or any other advice? I want to keep it nice and informal and use lots of different locations to meet and shoot (so, maybe cityscapes, landscapes, sports, night time etc).  The topic areas are not necessarily going to be taught in this order.

A second part to my question is, how would you go about teaching exposure and DoF?  I was thinking that what I might do, is quickly explain the exposure triangle of Aperture, Shutter Speed & ISO and then get them to play with this in a shooting situation.  So maybe set them all on Manual, at a fixed Aperture and ISO, then get them to change the shutter speed and notice what happens to the image.  Then to do the same thing, but for A and ISO, with the other elements being constant.

Taking this to DoF, I was going to get them all to focus on the same point in a scene, to shoot on Aperture Priority (for ease) and to then change the aperture by a stop at a time - noticing the difference on DoF.

Any thoughts or tips on any of this appreciated!

Thanks lots,


1: Basics and composition
How modern cameras work
Introduction to lenses (focal length, speed, angles etc)
Memory cards
Basic camera operations (focusing M v Auto, zooming)
Holding the camera
Composition + framing (rule of thirds, leading lines, perspective, clutter, subject selection etc)
Timing (shutter lag, critical moment etc)
Light (golden hour, shadows versus highlights)

2: Exposure & depth of field
How camera's interpret light (metering)
Camera presets (auto, A, S, M et al)
What is aperture
Shutter speed
Relationship between them both controlling exposure
ISO & light sensitivity
White balance
Problems and basic solutions (low light, backlit, washed out sky, no detail in shadows etc)
Different ways of metering (spot, centre, matrix etc)

3: Depth of field
How depth of field works
Selective DoF
Using the DoF scale and preview modes
Relationship to focal length

4: More advanced stuff
In-camera flash
Shooting in bright light (fill)
Limitations of flash
Effects (eg rear curtain sync)

5: Filters & accessories
Skylight and UV
Special effects and grads

6: Shooting in low light and a night
Cable and remote releases

7: More advanced camera adjustments
Exposure compensation
Flash compensation

8: Basic Photoshop
Or similar


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Re: An informal photography course
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2011, 02:47:34 PM »

I was thinking about this subject myself recently while speculating what I would do if I were asked to teach a photography course at the college I am currently employed. One problem I see with many photography courses is that we get all caught up with the settings and the camera. Shouldn't it start with the basics? Why not talk about light first. How cameras deal with and interact with light. Why light is important. What affect light has on an image. (photo -- graphy) Why not also talk about the history? The development of both the equipment and the art form. I think these extremely basic things are something I find myself lacking at times.

Simon Withington

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Re: An informal photography course
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2011, 03:11:17 PM »

Yeah, I know what you mean.  This is why I want to spend as little time as possible talking about it, and as much time as possible actually shooting.  Throughout the sessions, in the different settings and scenarios, I want to get them thinking about the scene - then using the camera as a TOOL to create what they want to see.  I just think a quick hour on understanding exposure is a good place to start.  As is a session on composition et al, as it will get them to start 'seeing' images, rather than just hitting the shutter release and hoping for the best.


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Re: An informal photography course
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2011, 10:40:12 PM »

How about aperture priority mode first where you can have them set the aperture to demonstrate depth of field.  You can line up batteries or soda cans for demonstration.  Homework to shoot in this mode and bring examples.

Then move to shutter priority where you can do the same with shutter speed showing blur versus stop action.  Homework again.

Introduce ISO.

Then on to manual mode.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2011, 10:51:22 PM by rmyers »

Sussex Landscapes

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Re: An informal photography course
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2011, 03:36:20 AM »

Too many factors in your list, especially if thats for a day. i have had over 60 people through my door teaching, and one thing i have learned v-quickly is evryone is on different level and learns at different paces.
if on you own, i would suggest no more than 6 people tops.

whilst you should have the knowledge for teaching, very basic is what your newbies will want.
dof nd exp is easy to teach, if you have the knowledge you do? teach them how you do it.

if they want advanced star trails, or high end techniques offer that as 1-2-1`s.


Simon Withington

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Re: An informal photography course
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2011, 06:33:05 AM »

Thanks everyone for your help. 

@the last post: it's not a 1-day, it probs going to be 6 2-hour sessions and it's meant to be very informal and be more about the needs of the students, as opposed to a strict syllabus.



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Re: An informal photography course
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2011, 06:15:08 AM »

You have a great list of potential subjects, but my view is you teach them from images - go out with them, have them take some images, go back to the PC and review / critique them.  It needs to be a discussion, not a lecture.  "what do you like?"  "what don't you like?"  "how could it be different?"  "would that be better?"  My point is that technique isn't an end in itself, but and end to a means and the means here is image content.  Fantasic image quality with awful content is still an awful image.

It should give a natural lead-in to moving away from Auto and so on, but most of all to looking at what they are going to shot before they press the button.  The human eye is very deceptive, we have a strong tendancy to selective seeing but the camera of course doesn't.

You do probably need a short talk / demo on how to download and where the images you have downloaded are.  Also on the importance of 'Save as' if you start editing the photos.  These were things that completely foxed some people on a course I did, despite the preamble saying they needed to be computer-literate - I think some of them either didn't read that bit or interpreted it as being able to turn it on and off...
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