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Photo Lessons Learned in Class: Part 2

Photo Lessons Learned in Class: Part 2

Looking for advice on how to take better photos? Travis Franch, a graduate of both Photo I and Photo II, follows up his first blog post with three more tips on capturing great images. As examples, he shares photos from his recent trip to Australia and New Zealand where he was able to put some of his classroom training into practice.

After learning basics like camera controls, composition, and exposure, you can start applying your technical knowledge of photography to your shots. Here, you can experiment with a lot of different gear, settings, or ideas to try and capture the image in the way you see fit.

For example, I like natural landscapes, so I spent a lot of time photographing mountains, plants, and animals. When presented with grass or brush, I move myself to the appropriate distance, and then, I allow for the appropriate shutter speed to let the grass and brush become mildly blurred in the wind but not so much that they lose form or cause motion blur which is too noisy and distracting.

A red-capped robin in the Outback

A red-capped robin in the Outback

For another example, one can use a filter over the camera lens to produce an effect. I used a type of filter (polarizing filter) that diffuses stray light rays that cause reflections on things that tend to have gloss or shine like glass, leaves, or water. Other filters can do things like change the white balance of the light, add color tints, or both protect camera film and enhance contrast. Another important technique is the use of a tripod. For shots that are farther away or use a slower shutter speed (long exposure), tripods are even moree important to provide consistency and stability. A tripod aids in replicating the capture of the same image, eliminating user caused motion blur, and steadying the view of an extremely magnified subject such as an animal or astronomical body. The skill and ability to change camera settings without moving your eye away from the viewfinder is quite useful. Sometimes you only have seconds to capture whatever you see before it fades!

Developing Style
The world is vast and so are the number of subjects, locations, and photographic genres. Exposing yourself to all of these things will help you hone in your area of focus. The best way to start developing a personal style is to carry your camera with you everywhere you go, and constantly shoot anything that interests you. Soon, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards certain things. I brought a camera on my travels and was drawn towards landscapes without people and contrasting natural features like mountains, rivers, and animals with artificial features like historic buildings, dilapidated construction, and cityscapes.

Cityscape in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand

Cityscape in Wellington: the capital of New Zealand

Start with what you like: automobiles, food, interior design, music, or whatever else your mind can conceive. Introduce yourself to new concepts like shooting in black and white, studio photography, or maybe photojournalism. You’ll never meet tomorrow’s unknown passion without passively or actively encountering it somehow. Collaborating with others to learn more about opportunities, organizations, jobs, or education helps open other pathways from which to explore. It helps to discuss topics in online forums, access others’ art digitally, or apprentice with other photographers to gain firsthand learning and experience.

Breaking into Photography
Obviously, the best time to get started with photography is right now. With camera tech becoming stronger, cheaper, and more competitive, it’s a good time to buy for personal use or professional ambition.

If you’re on the fence about expending money for a digital or film camera, it is possible to rent or borrow from anybody willing. Now, more than ever, there are more than enough social, printed, and digital resources to aid in learning. With consideration to frugality, I think one of the best ways to develop an interest is to borrow or buy a cheap point-and-shoot camera for a vacation, visit or road trip to see if photography strikes you as something worth pursuing. A used or refurbished camera is also a good deal since it can save you hundreds of dollars on what would have been a hefty purchase.

Spend time thinking about your purpose and researching products before buying camera tech. Experimenting and playing with editing programs like Photoshop and Lightroom is both fun and helpful in learning what post-processing is like. The bonus is, of course, that you can learn to edit your friends into still frames of “Star Wars” seamlessly.

Australia's famous landmark, the Sydney Opera House

Australia’s famous landmark, the Sydney Opera House

My Takeaway
Before I took Photo I & II, I had already been in the process of teaching myself through the Internet, discussing photography with my amateur friends, and researching knowledge and specifications on camera technology. I enrolled into the KSU continuing education courses to both push my personal interest further and polish my skills for future enrollment into urban design and architecture studies.

In the class, I found myself reacquainted with some basic things I had learned like the exposure triangle and technical camera specs, but it introduced much more new material.

The instructor, Bob Stewart, does outstanding work in fostering a friendly and creative environment and pushing students to initiate questions or self-discovery in outside experimentation. The course is a steal and comes with the benefit of having an expert teacher handily available. The course raised my understanding of photography and noticeably impacted my work. My recommendation for this course goes to anyone looking to increase their amateur skill or any non-photography professionals who need to grab additional skills in photography or editing. I believe that those enrolling will be happy with their choice to do so and appreciate the benefits of their study.

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