Advice for teaching a General Digital Photography Course

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by taytho, May 12, 2009.

  1. taytho macrumors 6502

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    #1
    I am a high school teacher who will be teaching a Photography/Graphic Design course in summer school this summer. I would LOVE to get a whole heap of advice from you all. I am looking for general direction for this whole thing. 2.5 hour classes every day for four weeks. We have new imacs, NikonD80s, and CS3 for all students. What do you think i should do with this?
    Some students will have little to know photo background.
     
  2. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #2
    Since the tools of the trade(s) are always changing, I would place the greatest emphasis on those skills that never become obsolete. Structure the lessons to teach them to see and think creatively, and don't let the technical stuff become the focus.
     
  3. taytho thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #3
    i wholeheartedly agree and feel most comfortable teaching that sort of thing. I am really trying to figure out what sort of things to do for assignments or projects to do during this class. I am thinking of having them all create a flickr account (or something like that) with a bunch of tagged photos that demonstrate some of the main principles of photography as well as their favorites and also do some constructive criticism of their classmates' work. what do we all think?
     
  4. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #4
    Well, to me messing around with tags on a flickr account sounds unnecessarily technical. Why not just have them work through projects about composition, texture, lighting, balance, etc.?
     
  5. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #5
    I agree with Phrasikleia. Teach composition in the viewfinder and keep the tech stuff, especially PhotoShop played down. In my first photography class in '67, we were required to use very limited equipment and it helped me to learn how to see things in the viewfinder. Nikon D80s are a bit stiff for kids with little photo experience. You will have to teach the technical aspects of operating the camera first. You can't get away from that.

    Take a look at Phrasikleia's excellent portfolio. Click on the small link in her sig line. Her work is extraordinary. Very good use of the limitation of the viewfinder to frame the image before pressing the shutter.

    Good luck from a former teacher.
     
  6. taytho thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #6
    ooops. misspoke there a bit. I meant label or name their photos (not mess with tags) with what they are examples of. For instance..... After a week or two of the basic basics have them take some shots that are examples of things like leading lines, rule of thirds, contrast, texture, etc and upload them to flickr as proof that they understand the concepts.
    i learned, as many did, on a k1000 and really learned a lot from doing it all in my head and by eye and not all by the camera. I wish this were still an option but i have to use what the journalism department at our high school has.
     
  7. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #7
    When I took my first PhotoShop class, the instructor was a freelance photographer and our assignments were like you have in mind. Rule of thirds and such. The framing concept I had the most fun with was what he called Edges, placing the subject at the edge of the frame.

    You will do fine.
     
  8. cosmokanga2 macrumors 6502a

    cosmokanga2

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    #8
    I second teaching the basics and just touching technical things. I just completed what sounds to be a very similar course this year and found it great. Focus on the basics and composition, taking proper exposures, using foreground and background items and most importantly, creativity. Also help push and guide the students to explore different types of photography if needed. For example our course asked us to take posed portraits however it didn't give us guides on how to work with models. I don't know if you'll be going that far but is one area our course could have been improved. Remember, photography is an art, not a science.
     
  9. NightGeometry macrumors regular

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    #9
    On the most useful two photography courses I've done initial exercises had to be carried out with limited equipment. The first was using a Lomo LCA (great camera, but limited zone focus, auto exposure), the second using a disposable camera (pretty much no control at all).

    With little technical control and having to use film it forced us into considering composition way more than I would have done using my dSLR - this is a terrible thing to say I think, but at least for me very true. My photography improved dramatically because of this. When using digital I tend to take a lot of pictures, and sort out the good later, when using film I take a lot less, and tend to find that my 'hit rate' is far higher.

    One other thing - once you show a concept such as the rule of thirds I personally think it is also important to demonstrate that rules are there to be broken, otherwise people become constrained by thinking those rules *must* be followed, and creativity starts to become limited.
     
  10. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #10
    true, but one needs to learn the rules before breaking them.

    and maybe it's just me, but i was just taught to not put my subject in the center, and the thirds was just a guideline. more precisely, my instructor encouraged putting the subject into any of the 8 rectangles around the center, but the only real "rule" he set was no centered subjects.
     
  11. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #11
    You could devote a lesson or at least some time to the physical reasons behind depth of field, chromatic aberration, why sensor size matters, etc. You wouldn't even have to know a lot about physics to get the point across.
     
  12. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #12
    Composition and lighting will go further than most things. Teaching them constructive criticism and dealing with critics will also help immensely in opening up their avenues. Give kudos for best technique, most creative, most literal, etc. Do challenges each class, giving them a word or concept to shoot, then have them explain how their picture goes to the concept. Make sure fill flash is one of the first topics for people pictures, especially outdoors. Have some folks be designers and others photographers and let the designers spec the sorts of pictures they want and do some classes where they accompany and "direct" the photographer and some where they spec it and the photographers go off and shoot- then have them switch off, also have them work with multiple photographers and multiple designers.
     
  13. Olivier L. macrumors member

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    #13
    Do these 2.5 hours per day include them taking pictures? My advice will not be "what to include" but how to develop this course (and decide what to include).

    A) What time budget do you have exactly? 2.5 hours x 5 x 4? That's 50 hours.
    What do you have to cover with that?
    1 theory
    2 quick exercise / handling of devices (camera, layout software..)
    3 quick pictures in classroom or direct environnment + quick feedback
    4 real assignement / detailed feedback?

    B) Which areas do you want to cover? How do you spread the time budget?
    I would start with the following time budget (not chronological).
    - 1 week for photography basics (theory + exercise)
    - 1/2 week for advanced photography (theory + exercise)
    - 1 week for graphic design basics (theory + exercise)
    - 1/2 week for advanced graphic design (theory + exercise)
    - 1 week for a "big assignement", mixing photography and graphic design, to allow the student to integrate all the notions, and conclude with a kind of personal portfolio.

    As mentioned, this should not be chronological. focus the first week on basic photography, then second week: basic graphic design, then advanced photo and graphic design for 3/4 week... in parallel with the "big assignement".

    Example: Big assignement:

    For example, each Friday is dedicated to the "big assignement". They will develop their project as they learn and develop their skills. It takes time to mature something personal.

    The first week, they gather their idea, decide on a general project (alone or maybe by 2 or groups? Depends on the total size of the group). The Friday of the second week, they come up with the pictures, the Friday of the third week, with the layout (graphic design) and the conclude the integration on the Thursday of the last week.

    Keep the last course for an event and general presentation (invite guest, a local photographer, the parents...)

    C) What are the objectives for each area?
    Setting up clear objectives will of course help you developing the course, the students to focus on the important to learn, and will help you perform fair and useful evaluation (if needed).

    Example: Photography Basics
    Objectives:

    Theory:
    - have some notions of origin and history of photography
    - some theory of light
    - some theory of lens
    - basic principle of 'camera obscura'
    - typical camera architecture (film and/or digital)
    - main specifications of an image and a file, especially digital (color depth, resolution,...)
    - general rules of exposition
    - general rules of composition (depth of field, 2/3, negative space, ...)

    Exercise (try to find an exercise for each theory item):
    - find a book or very old picture that illustrates an important step of history of photography
    - make a picture of a rainbow, or any evidence of light phenomena blabla :)
    - take pictures illustrating various exposition, composition...​


    Repeat and develop for advanced photography, graphic design (font, typography, layout, color and printing process...)

    Another idea: you can also include in your course a visit to an exhibition or a guest speaker (a photographer, a graphic designer from the local newspaper, etc..)

    I would love to have to do that! Wish you good luck and don't hesitate to keep us informed...
     
  14. NightGeometry macrumors regular

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    #15
    The other thing which may be helpful would be to do a short history of photographers, maybe 20 minute each session go over a body of work (Walker Evans, Stephen Shore et cetera).

    In my opinion that starts to get across the idea of narrative in a set of images, as opposed to just a bunch of nice pictures.

    Of course I could just be talking utter tosh :)
     
  15. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #16
    Good idea, but I'm not sure I'd include Stephen Shore at the high school level. Evans, sure. I think at that level photographers like Ansel Adams, Yousuf Karsh, and Alfred Stieglitz are easier to grasp, but I could be wrong.

    And thanks for the compliments, Designer Dale, but I'm a "she." ;)
     
  16. taytho thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #17
    Thank you so much..... this is a lot of what i was looking for.... just a general direction. Lucky for me the idea i had in my head is VERy similar to what you wrote which leads me to believe i am on the right track.
    I think i am mostly looking for the bigger project ideas now and maybe some basic theme days. any ideas for that, anyone? I may use some of the assignment ideas in this forum as day ideas. if anything spring to mind, keeping in mind we are working with teens, let me know!

    tt

     
  17. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #18
    The first thread in the Digital Photography forum (this place) is a post by firstapple. It is a list of links to all the photo contests that have been run in this forum. It should give you lots of food for thoughtand great samples.

    Here is a shortcut..

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=580184
     
  18. beatzfreak macrumors 6502

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    NYC
    #19
    I took a photography class a few years ago and there was one assignment that really gave me that aha moment as a student.

    We were asked to find an interesting object and photograph it 36 times, using different lighting, angles, perspectives etc. Around photo number 20, the creativity really kicked in and yielded some interesting results.
     
  19. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #20
    Teach them to get it correct in the camera. Four wheeks is not enough time to teach photoshop or other technical issues.

    Here is one good asignment: (1) Go to library and find a photographer who's work you like. (2) then attemp to make a series of images that replicate his/her style. This will allow students to learn about famous photographers and their work and also teach students that photography is abot having the vision FIRST and then doing what it takes to capture it.

    Any asignment should have them thinking about images, not how to diddle with controls and computers. Have them loking at line, contrast, colors, All the stuff art teachers talk about only yur students are using cameras and not paint brushes
     
  20. Olivier L. macrumors member

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    #21
    Interesting, but I think they would need even more than 4 weeks to develop a vision...
    Hence, the idea to focus on basics "technical" and, also, composition (we don't differ so much).
    After working 4 weeks with their camera, maybe they have a first idea of a real project they would like to handle. Vision may come after several years of photography.

    More important, I think it also depends on the overall context of the course. Is it for more art oriented? Or more general introduction to photography, for general public? This is decisive in determining the tone of the course.
     
  21. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #22
    Somehow I missed this post when reading the thread yesterday. Compuwar's idea of having them play alternating roles of designer and photographer is brilliant. I also agree with his suggestion that you have them practice constructive criticism. I wish someone had exposed me to it before I reached art school (that was baptism by fire for me).
     

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