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Thread: Fundamentals of photography

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    Senior Member danlindberg's Avatar
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    Fundamentals of photography

    I'm off to a pretty good start with my serious attempt to establish myself as a workshop instructor in small groups. In three days I have had three enthusiasts every day to come along for around 8 hour outings - visiting both historical villages for architecture photography as well as huge sand dunes and seascapes /landscapes.

    9 people in total and I have started to get a 'feel' of what is wanted and what is needed.

    All three days with the different groups I have been SOMEWHAT SURPRISED of the extremely low level of understanding the fundamentals of photography.
    Ok, nine people is not a lot of people of making accurate conclusions, but out of these nine people ALL of them where using auto exposure, auto iso and none had any idea how their camera measured light. Without exception all were using their equipment as a point-and-shoot no matter what camera they own.

    In other words, I see it necessary to start the day with breakfast and have a crash course of between 1-1,5 hours of the very very basics - before we head out.

    Now, I can ofcourse put together a crash course myself of what I think is important and necessary knowledge, but I suppose that there are numerous books out there used as course literature, and this is where I would appreciate some pointers from you guys!

    Haha, all three days I have had someone in the group stopping me at some point saying that they don't understand a single word I'm on about....so I need to be able to adjust level of language...I didn't see this coming to be honest....

    So, books please. What literature for a 1 hour crash course!?
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I'd guess it's hard to find a book that is so compressed.

    Modern electronic cameras have so many functions that it become confusing for beginners. I think a good idea could be to demonstrate an old mechanical camera so you get the basics of exposure - aperture / shutter speed / ISO. An old mechanical camera you can only control just that. My Linhof with a Copal shutter lens is a good introduction to photo basics, it's easier to understand when you actually get to see the stuff. You see the aperture how it becomes larger letting in more light, and then you need shorter shutter speed etc. And then go into why one would want to have a large or small aperture (depth of field) etc. In a modern electronic lens it may not be so easy to actually see the aperture as it only briefly changes when the exposure is made, it's less intuitive so I'm not surprised that there is such a low level of understanding.

    I think it would be easier to make some powerpoint slides out of these basics with your own words than finding a book that summarizes it well.

    How modern cameras measure light and controls auto ISO etc varies between brands and models so I'd keep that stuff to a minimum, and rather go into how to shoot manually as that's the way of landscape/architecture.

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I began with photography just a few years ago and I recognize the situation when its easy to start shooting thanks to all automation, but quite difficult to get good understanding of the basics due to the information overload from the huge number of features there is in a modern camera. One really did not care to learn and just shoot away. When I got my Linhof I realized how good a demonstration of the basics a traditional view camera is, with ground glass and everything. You can see with your own eyes how every aspect works and therefore its easier to understand and remember, which is much harder with an integrated digital system.

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    Senior Member KeithL's Avatar
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Confiscate their cameras at the door.

    Teach them the true fundamentals, namely focus and exposure.

    Insist they use manual focus and exposure cameras for a year or two.

    Job done, they'll never need another workshop.
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Every person has a reason(s) why they want to do photography. The reason(s) or motivation(s) will define for each person what the workshop content or approach will be. ( just a long way of saying answers follow questions )

    I'd start the session talking about each individual's motivation/ambition/interest and from there you will get a good idea of what approach to take with each person.

    over time you will see that the reasons are pretty uniform and will develop routines for these various interest and tailor your instruction accordingly - probably developing both written material yourself and a workshop approach ...

    Good Luck
    Pete

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I do not believe in strict "you must use manual mode" or ansel adams-like ideals, ie you are a bad photographer if you bracket or do anything else that indicates that you do not know all tech details. I guess you will be teaching mostly amateurs that do this for their own enjoyment. I know a few amateur photographers that have good eye for the image and make great compositions but have limited technical interest/understanding and would not have had this great hobby if it was as unforgiving as in the analog days. Automatic digital cameras has really opened up the world of photography for many more and that is a good thing I think, except possibly for professionals as it is better for business the fewer there are doing the same thing.

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Quote Originally Posted by KeithL View Post
    Confiscate their cameras at the door.

    Teach them the true fundamentals, namely focus and exposure.

    Insist they use manual focus and exposure cameras for a year or two.

    Job done, they'll never need another workshop.
    +1. Precisely the reason the Pentax K1000 was so commonly used in photo instruction. I'm not sure what camera is the modern equivalent of the K1000, but in the case of Pentax, a digital body using older lenses (K or M series) requires stop down metering and manual focus, but retains the auto diaphragm. I'm also out-of-date with book suggestions but The Camera, published by Time-Life, is very readable and well illustrated using Time-Life's incredible inventory of images. Perhaps, in a short course, you could assign some reading material prior to meeting the class.

    Tom

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Time-Life "Photography" series of books hooked me as a kid. I do not think it is still in production. I know for a fact that there is an entire collection recently donated to a thrift store in the Washington, D.C. Area
    I remember how many of my photography friends asked me how I learned Photoshop skills so fast, back in the v.1 days and worked with Adobe. I told them it was because of my fundamentals training. That and I was absolutely in love with darkroom processing techniques learned in the 60's and 70's.
    good luck, it sounds like you have a good thing going and a small but growing following.

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Here is a link to a textbook derived from the Time-Life series. I have the 4th edition (I guess I'm really dating myself with my references), it's quite good at explaining fundamentals.

    Photography (10th Edition): Barbara London, John Upton, Jim Stone: 9780205711499: Amazon.com: Books

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I would take the group to a good shooting location and help them set up for a shot either as a group at first or then on an individual basis.
    1. Composition
    2. Lighting
    Then I would explain any technical difficulties that are associated with the image they are about to make and how to solve them, grad filters etc.
    Make sure they all get a great shot when the light arrives, then play a game like you now have to make an image within 20 feet of wear you are standing.
    I think the usual basics are not up to you to teach rather how to see the light and motivate one self to continue to make images that are pleasing to the photographer.
    I once took my two girls on a private workshop with a very famous landscape photographer who's name I will keep anonymous. This photographer started with the basics on the first day for two hours without them taking one photo to the girls they lost interest quickly. That afternoon we took a break and resumed at 6:00 for a sunset shoot, great location, great images they had fun...but the next morning at a new location this instructor set up a large format camera and began to make personal images saying that we needed to be on our own for a while, this caused a toxic reaction, I mention this because a educator needs to educate not to participate in personal gain on these kind of workshops.
    Why did your students sign up for your workshop what did you promise to them and what do they expect to learn in the timeframe?
    I believe your students don't need to know the complete technical workings of their equipment just that it is possible for one to change what they see either in the frame or with a filter or even by a combination of setting on the camera. but that if the image they record is what they envisioned or better yet if you as the instructor helped them to go home with some, (a few) memorable images then that would be a success to their participation in the workshop.

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    Senior Member Swissblad's Avatar
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Thanks for this thread - I've been approached to assist newbie camera owners - and the input is very helpful.

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I was smiling reading this post because what has been said reminds me of what happened to me when I started. I took my wife's digital camera I had purchased for her years before and tried to figure out all the settings and thought to myself, it has to be easier than this for the basics. So, I went and purchased a Fuji GX617 pano camera, a light meter and the rest is history. I am so glad I started out with the basics on film, now that I shoot digital MF, I love that I have that background.

    Mark
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    It's an impossible task. When I'm occasionally asked to do 2 day workshops, I often find my self spending the entire first day to explain the relationship between DOF and composition. It's a question about what works for me, and that's what I have to teach. What I start with though, is the reason why photographers sit with theirs back towards the windows at restaurants
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Dan, I don't think this problem is only in photography. In general people just want everything quick, they drift around from one pillar to the next without really assimilating anything useful, that's why consumerism is so rewarding, they just need to know what to buy and have the money to buy, then hey presto it arrives, they get bragging rights and talk knowledgeably without really knowing anything. It's an uphill struggle again the sheer amount of noise out there, as there's just so much incorrect cr*p around, and people jump on a bandwagon, grabbing a piece of 'knowledge' then repeating, without questioning or really knowing!

    I sold a pretty powerful sports bike (ducati 998) many years ago, to a dealer. He sold it to a guy who fell off it and had them repair it 4 times on the stretch of road outside the shop, before selling it back to them. The sheer ignorance astounds me, surely after the 1st time you'd say to yourself, this is beyond me, I had better get some help.

    One book I found was called the photographers eye by M Freeman. What I like is that it focuses on concepts of composition and image visualisation, plus it's nicely printed and has some pretty inspiring photos for people who haven't really experienced photographs in that way.

    Another resource I used to teach people was using the ultimate exposure computer. Essentially guessing the best exposure for a given scene becomes a game, and people really enjoy it. Of course with digital it's free to get wrong. I have a PDF somewhere with the tables nicely formatted to be printed onto a sheet of A4 and folded up. Let me know if you want it, I can mail a copy of it
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    There are several online / apps to help demonstrate photography fundamentals. I have provided links to a couple of them below.

    Canon Explains Exposure

    CameraSim Apps

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    Senior Member danlindberg's Avatar
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Thank you all for very useful links and tips. Great.

    I have already realised that even in small groups there will always be different levels of knowledge and understanding. The tricky part will be how to teach and not get one person bored with stuff that is second nature or the other one not understanding the concept at all. I suppose that is exactly what a good teacher is - to read each person early on and being able to teach in their own level and comfortable pace.

    I think that Torgers suggestion of bringing an old filmcamera was a brilliant tip! The Hasselblad 500cm with a standard 80 must be the easiest way to grasp the concept of the amount of light reaching the film/sensor with exp.times and f-stops beside each other. Then changing them simultaneously for explaining dof and visually seeing one faster time means one larger f-stop and the other way around. And/or bringing the Olympus OM2n for measuring light in a scene with its centreweighted metre and easy readout. Moving it around and seeing with his/her own eyes the metre change pointing it at the white wall and shadows under the tree....

    As I understand it, so far everyone has been very happy with my tours and I have recieved plenty of gratitude which ofcourse I am very grateful for, but I must learn to quickly assess what the anticipation is for each participant and stay focused on individual needs. This is definitely going to be a challenge!

    I'll keep you guys posted! Next one is already booked
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I do a lot of instruction on photography, image processing, design, and desktop publishing. The important thing is to get your students to a functioning level to what you want to achieve. Identify the things your student need, make the relationships clear, and then make a framework so they can understand it--basically, you are giving them a workflow. That is how you would build that introduction. Then on your first stop, you would have them basically practice/reenforce that workflow. As you go through the day you can add and subtract things for your students on an individual basis. It is like mountain climbing where you cannot lose the slowest, but you need to keep the fastest happy as well.

    Whether you want them to shoot manually or with automatic functions does not matter. Neither makes learning photography easier or better, or, for that matter, worse. What you need is a functioning workflow to get them making images. Since your outing is not about the basics of photography--they can buy an app for that--but rather they are going to you by the way you photograph, then you need to make sure they can function to make a photograph so that you can get to the good stuff.

    Basically, I would imagine the level of your students are going to be low rather than high. When was the last time you went on a workshop? I would use the students you have had so far as the baseline. Beside, if your group is better, you can skip this intro stuff or raise the level of discussion. It is far easier to increase the level of the discussion than lower it.

    Personally, I design my own material. I would send everyone a checklist, not for just the things they should have (charged batteries, camera manual), but also one where you require them to know how to find and change thing on the camera (ISO, aperture, etc). Then I would make the document for the intro session. This is a great opportunity to create the elements or the workflow, but it help you streamline the presentation. If you wing it, it tends to be rambling--there are just so many nuances to the photographic processes that you could get bogged down in detail.

    Your material should also include your contact info, bio, and upcoming events like workshops and exhibitions. You can also use your work in the examples.

    In the field, make this a team effort. You cannot be everywhere at the same time. Get the group to work as a group and have them help each other. Set this expectation up at the beginning. If someone asks a simple question, simple ask the group if anyone can help this person. I don't know if your budget can call for an assistant, but that is another great resource. If you have someone who is really slow and you are doing demonstrations, do the demonstration with that person's camera. You will have done one of the best tricks in self-working magic and have that person up to speed regardless.
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Quote Originally Posted by danlindberg View Post
    So, books please. What literature for a 1 hour crash course!?
    One short question: are you looking for a book you want to recommend / give them before the course starts - or a book you can give them / show them things inside this first 1-1.5 hours? I think this would be a big different for your choice.
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    what I typically do is have a cheat sheet that acts as a glossary. With all the basics on it and their descriptions/functions. I essentially go down the list starting with ISO, aperture, focal length, etc.

    The sheet then goes into some more specifics like "how to blur a background" because thats the most common request I get, mostly from parents wanting to get better shots of their kids. So i explain aperture's effect on the situation and subject distance to camera and subject distance to background.

    I print out enough for the class and they all get to keep it. I go over it at the beginning of the class and then do examples with subjects and I let them practice.

    as for books, everyone i know recommends the understanding exposure book.

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    The technical basics are not complex, but like a 15 pieces puzzle you need some time to properly assemble the components. After you did it once, you don't understand why it took you 15 minutes to succeed.
    Try to assemble it while reading a notice, you will become crazy.
    You simply need to play with the components and progressively assimilate.

    In photography for example the smallest aperture corresponds to the highest figure. The higher the figure, the lower the DOF. Grr.

    I also did try to explain technical basics to various friends, with master degrees of science, phd, mba or whatever high education level. Once you left school, you become enable to assimilate any kind theory ;-)

    So my sugestion would be :
    - rely on practical cases, say take a picture of a baloon
    - prepare x examples of results they should get : high DOF, low DOF, correct exposure in case the light is in front or is in the back, low light, etc
    - distribute the 15 basic rules in a summary card, starting as much as possible from the user point of view, not the technical point of view :
    Aperture * speed = quantity of light captured
    Over exposure = too much light captured (show example of histogram)
    => need to close diaph or increase speed
    Underexposure = not enough light captured (histogram)
    => need to close or speed down
    high DOF = closed diaph = high Aperture value ;
    => landscape : close diaph, lower speed, stabilize
    => portrait : open diaph, increase speed
    Etc
    - let them try to reproduce the cases
    - summarize afterwards while taking each case again and asking which parameter is required
    - take some real photos and ask how they would have done them
    Let them keep the card during the whole session so they can refer to it and continue to assimilate

    Book : just saw a Kodak book from 1983 "take better pictures" from the Kodak encyclopedia of cretative photography, that might be a good support.
    Some technical chapters : keeping steady, focusing the image, the shutter, the aperture, getting the exposure rigth, controlling light, measuring light, manual and automatic, where should the light be, handling limited light, using flash,
    Steps to better pictures : viewpoint, how lenses control the image, the size we see, widening the view, concentrating the view, recording everything sharply, isolating what is important, moving subjects, anticipating the moment, closing in, using simple filters, recognizing patterns and outlines, exploiting colour.

    Just a few ideas.
    But I would add that going to a lesson with you without knowing these basics is like attending a course with M Schumacher while never have tried a sport car.
    If I were attending your course, I would wonder how you can make so many great pictures in about any landscape : how do you find the places, how much time do you take to select the right place, how long do you wait for the right moment. Because I am sure you would make plenty of great pictures in the places I see every day and where I do not detect the interest.

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    Senior Member danlindberg's Avatar
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Thanks again for all tips. Very helpful!

    I admit that in the longer perspective I would prefer to work with more advanced photographers where we do not talk about the very basics, but instead concentrate on compositional vision and finding balance in the image. What to include and exclude, using existing light to your advantage and just simply 'see' possibilities.

    But! For twenty years I have been working alone and I am self taught so I do not have the natural flow of explaining methods and concepts, I must find that 'groove' somehow. So, starting with beginners I believe is not at all wrong from my position. Teaching is completely different from shooting and the very last thing I want is somebody feeling it was a waste of time and money being with me......
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    in my opinion, a workshop is not the best place to teach fundamentals. certainly a few technical questions can be answered, but if i attended a Dan Lindberg workshop, it would be for a very different reason, and I would be annoyed if i had to listen to fundamental instructions, especially those that can be picked up from many, many books.

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Wow right up my alley here. My first and most important thing to do is get to know each persons needs and there level of experience. Everyone is different so I find this the most important aspect of teaching. From there I will work on each needs and what they are trying to accomplish. I'm very hands on so really hard to put this down on paper as almost all of it is instinct. For some its understanding the gear but for almost everyone it's how to get great images. That takes more effort on my end and I'm constantly standing over folks shoulders. I must drive them nuts but I just become part of them and explore with them how to get it done. As a Pro that is my daily job is to figure out how to get it on the sensor. That is really what I teach. It's really all field work to me that works for them the best. Bottom line they go home with great images and when done they have a much better grasp on how to accomplish that. I'm more about composition and lighting plus subject matter. I try real hard to stay away from them getting postcard images but real art.

    I have a lot of students on this forum that have turned into great artist. I hope I share with some of them that accomplishment. For me its all about giving back what I learned. It's really why I'm here to start with and why I'm a part of this.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Quote Originally Posted by danlindberg View Post
    Thanks again for all tips. Very helpful!

    I admit that in the longer perspective I would prefer to work with more advanced photographers where we do not talk about the very basics, but instead concentrate on compositional vision and finding balance in the image. What to include and exclude, using existing light to your advantage and just simply 'see' possibilities.
    But we tend to learn the technical with the creative. At a certain point, we become self learning. Just as I imagine you did. The only way to get higher level groups would require a portfolio to be accepted and with places like Flickr, that becomes easy. That way you can filter the applicants.

    It might be a good thing to see if you can do some research in what motivates people to take a workshop and what the background of the workshop participant is.

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I have taught off and on for nearly 40 years. People take these type of classes for a variety of reasons and each one has, usually, a vague goal. Better, in some form or another is the stated goal, but, again usually, the one thing lacking is the discipline to practice a lot. I teach more basic fundamentals or fine art photography rather than specialized since most people are not that interested in the more minute details of lighting for instance. There are people of course who want specialized knowledge but they are a smaller population. I enjoy teaching fundamentals, however. One of my assignments is to only use back light or cross light. It forces people to be conscious of light. I find that once they really are starting to see light, it gets easier to teach them about exposure and composition. People generally buy much more sophisticated cameras than their skill level. But partially that is because sophisticated cameras are ubiquitous. Even my IPhone is technologically advanced. A $100 point and shoot is a marvel considering the last 50 years of photography.
    The K1000 was what I reccomended to people just starting out, it was a value for the money.
    I make the whole experience fun, entertaining, funny, I have found that people will play harder than they will work, so we play quite a lot. Joe

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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I'm not sure I'd bother Dan. I teach a beginners photography class at a local art college. I can't do the basics in an hour. I do it in three 3 hours sessions. I'd concentrate perhaps on teaching light and composition and leave them to work out the basics another time, light and composition are the base common denominator of any kind of imagery regardless of skill set.
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Dan,

    I've done a number of workshops over the last few years. I have learned a huge amount and been to some great locations. One conclusion that I am coming to is that some pro's (the majority) who I will call 'Tour Leaders' are less interested/skilled in teaching and more interested in taking people to iconic locations from which they will leave with some good or even great images. Big names help sell these tours but add considerably to the costs. This can be time well spent but tuition is unlikely to be a priority. Some, the minority, are 'teachers' as well as photographers - interested in teaching, passing on their knowledge and having their customers leave as better photographers. I'm generalising and there's no right or wrong. There's room for both approaches but I think both workshops organizers and participants perhaps need to be clearer up front what they are offering and signing up for.

    This is not at all a comment on your approach or frustrations but more my reflection on a number of trips I have done. A tour to some of the locations you have captured in Sweden and a workshop on getting the best out of a technical camera would be very attractive propositions but from my own experience I am not sure they are easily combined into one event.

    Miles

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    Senior Member rayyen's Avatar
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    Dan,

    I share your feeling, specially when I saw the kind of cameras my students brought to my workshop.

    But I guess your workshop objective is clear, "landscape". So they should some how know why sign up your classes, and they all want to learn some technique to take good pictures

    I focus technique in 2 areas:
    - knowing your camera (because many of my student don't really know how to use them apart from A-mode)
    - photographer's own technique (those old school very basic photography knowledge)

    I normally spent 1.5hr to cover each of the above area.
    During the session, I'll let them play my toys on table, my new canon 1DX, my old canon A1, old mechanical Leica SLR, Rolleiflex, Hasselblad, old mechanic Leica M, and filters, etc. I also show them print out of my photos. It will be helpful if they can see how mechanic camera works to learn how to use their DSLR better.

    Only until they finish the 3hr basic, then I'll go outdoor with them.

    Powerpoint is helpful and I prepare powerpoint covering those basic concepts by myself.

    Cheers,

    Ray
    Leica | Angenieux | Alpa | Hasselblad | Phase One
    www.raymondchak.com

  29. #29
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I cannot echo the "Time-Life" book recommendation enough.

    The concepts of how a camera actually works are actually quite abstract when you do not understand them. Once you "get it," it all seems so obvious and simple ... but IMO, in order to be an effective teacher, you have to remember back when you didn't understand it yourself.

    As a photography novice, I vividly recall reading the Time-Life section that showed how the lens was like a water faucet, only it controlled the flow of light. Wham! I got it immediately.

    I also think it is extremely important to establish this fundamental understanding or the student merely ends up parroting what you do, then forgetting it by the time they get home ... having never really learned how to make images other than what the automation of their do-it-all cameras will spit out.

    It is up to the instructor to make the fundamentals interesting and fun. A water faucet from Home Depot and a lens as props would go a long way to help them get it ... and so on.

    On a related note:

    My original reason for learning photography wasn't to make photographs. As a young Art Director, I was all shot in the bum with my own talent at creating visual advertising concepts ... but had not yet learned that there were physical limits to actually executing those visual ideas. One day I swaggered into a commercial studio demanding an 8X10 fisheye Ektachrome, my over-confident bluster was met by spontaneous laughter from the crew. The long suffering old photographer took me aside and kindly explained how huge such a lens would be, but he could rent one for his Hasselblad that'd work just fine. I vowed to learn about photography after that.

    Later, as a seasoned AD, few photographers could BS me. Then as a Creative Director I always urged young ADs to learn about photography, and not just about pretty pictures. I also strongly suggested that the local Art College make it mandatory that Art Direction majors take a basic photography course.

    Good luck ... I envy your fortitude in doing this worthwhile and potentially rewarding venture. I have taught many novices that assisted me on weddings, and some have gone on to great success.

    - Marc

  30. #30
    Senior Member danlindberg's Avatar
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    Re: Fundamentals of photography

    I'm happy I started this thread. Excellent input from everyone!

    You know what....I had a friend in the car yesterday on a two hour drive that had nothing to do with photography and he suddenly asks a photography related question. I explained slowly, he asks more and deeper, I explain further and suddenly I realise - I'm teaching! I like it, I enjoy it!

    What I need know is a structured method of teaching depending on level of the participants and hours and more hours of actually doing it!

    There are many of your replies here that I am going to consider and use. I really want to thank you for that

    @Marc, I think you and I have one thing in common and that is that I also have worked parallel to photography as an AD, in my case a couple of decades. I am certain that has influenced my photography in that I 'see' images in a graphical manner. I often think in cover shots and full spread ads when composing....
    Alpa FPS MAX TC | Alpagon 32Hr | Helvetar 75 | Schneider 120N | Leaf Aptus II 5 Leaf Credo 60 | www.danlindberg.com

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