Basic photography course

photoworks 16 320 United Kingdom
30 Jan 2019 6:01PM
I have been asked to dispense a 8 week basic photography course at my local community center. I am not sure how to approach it and what to cover.

Have you guys ever taught a photography class in your community ? I think the course cannot be too technical as there will be people who will only have a basic digital camera or just a camera on their phone. But beyond that I am not sure. Do you guys have any suggestion?

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JackAllTog Plus
9 5.4k 58 United Kingdom
30 Jan 2019 6:32PM
Has the audience been defined yet, what will they expect at the end of it?
banehawi Plus
14 2.0k 3983 Canada
30 Jan 2019 7:16PM
Theres loads on inspiration on Youtube. You need to know if the audience are DSLR owners, Phone cams,, Bridge or P+S. So details will vary, but whats common to all quite simply is how to get a good exposure. Cover apertures, shutter speeds, and ISO. Theres likely a mixture, so I would touch on each area and allow lots of time for questions, and have a whiteboard and markers.
Tianshi_angie 4 2.2k England
31 Jan 2019 10:23AM
Coming from another perspective - I would add that a good picture also needs some artistic input - composition, colour, framing and nothing worse than a really excellent photograph i.e. correct in all the technical details but it is boring and dull.
Railcam 12 729 2 Scotland
31 Jan 2019 10:48AM
Don't forget light - quality and angle. Most people think that the sun "should be over the left shoulder". Teach them that is the last place it should be, unless they want flat pictures.
dark_lord Plus
14 2.2k 566 England
31 Jan 2019 11:23AM
You need to know the current level of knowledge and skills.
If you can find this out beforehand, with a brief questionnaire beforehand that's good.

If not you need to establish that at the first session and take it from there so in that cas you'd need to have several plans bbefore you start and choose the appropriate path from there.

If there's a widespread variation in imaging devices, and really even if there's not, I'd start with light and composition first. Being overly technical at first will put a lot of people off. The technical considerations can be introduced as you go along, for example discussing aperture and depth of field when ou talk about foreground interest in a landscape. More relevant that way.

At the first session get the participants to bring along one or two (no more, depends on the size of the group) photos to discuss. why they like it or why the are dissatisfied. How could they have improved (or not, even!).

Give them a small exercise to complete for the following week base on what yopu've gone through. This could be really simple such as photographing winter shadows.

As well as equipment and levels of knowledge, also consider accessability and learning styles and difficulties, for example some people may be slower to absorb things or may be technophobes.

Let us know how you get on.
keithh 15 25.5k 33 Wallis And Futuna
31 Jan 2019 7:48PM
I always begin with the fundamentals. At its heart, the camera has not changed since its invention. The trinity of shutter, aperture and iso. You can compose a photo all you like but unless you know how to achieve the basics and their affect on your image, you cant go forward.

Itís no good talking about light and composition until you know how you to operate and change the basics of the instrument.

If youíre good at what you do, they will gain something from each lesson regardless of their starting point. If you start tailoring lessons to fit individuals levels of experience you will alienate people in the class.

Franticsmurf 16 837 Wales
8 Feb 2019 10:43AM
I agree with the above - start with the fundamentals of how a camera works - aperture, shutter speed, sensor and focus. You can gauge the levels of knowledge and interest while doing the basics, then tailor the rest of the course to suit. Once you have introduced the basics, you can use them to illustrate and explain the means by which you would tackle various genres of photography (action, portrait, macro, landscape etc), referring back to the mechanics every time (which gives coherence). Try and put a set of notes together but don't give them out until the end of the session. You can say right at the beginning that they don't need to remember everything at once.

In my experience, people are initially reluctant to show their work to strangers but once they start to have confidence, get to know the other students (and they see that they're all of a similar standard) they are more at ease. Towards the end of the 8 weeks, you could set weekly challenges to consolidate their learning, and to provide specific images for the following week.

Set one week aside for a Q & A session, or perhaps 10 minutes at the end of each week.

Above all, be flexible - you can cover the basic stuff in as much or as little detail as is required. The tap analogy (light is water, diameter of tap is aperture, length of time tap is open is shutter speed and size of bucket is sensor ISO) works as it is immediately obvious to (almost) everyone.

There will be differences in ability and expectations. I ran a one day course earlier this year and had three novices, one returning after a break who just wanted a refresher and one who was quite advanced. Had to balance it out but the advert said 'for beginners', so I took the other two to one side, explained that it might be a little simplistic to start with, and concentrated on the beginners. The advanced guy helped out with answering questions (I asked him for input during the course to recognise his ability and involve him) and the 'refresher' appreciated the explanations of the basics as she'd never had them set out before.

Good luck, and enjoy - if you do, your students will too.
mrswoolybill Plus
12 1.4k 2022 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2019 12:10PM
There's loads of good advice arriving here. I'm just an amateur but I run a U3A Photography group and occasionally run one-off sessions. I would anticipate two main problems.

Firstly, as above, the wide range of equipment that will turn up.

Secondly, time management - there will always be one or two individuals who want your undivided attention for the whole session...

I have always started with the absolute basics. Exposure, the old filling a bucket analogy. (Tap turned full on, takes a short time; tap not turned on takes longer...) I have a set of Waterhouse stops which are very useful for showing what changing aperture actually means. (I have had one self-styled professional express amazement, he didn't realise that in a digital camera the aperture actually changes physically. A lot of people who haven't done film have no idea of what is actually going on inside the camera.)

Light. Set up a vase or ornament, move a torch around it, show what directional light actually does for you...

Focusing, why it matters.

And composition, because I don't see any virtue in taking pictures that nobody will be interested in viewing - and that basically is what composition is about.

Build up information very gently, with set targets. Homework, definitely.

Be patient. A friend who runs another group set her students some homework recently. She showed them a shallow depth of field image of some daffodils and asked them to try to replicate the effect. They all complained that it was totally impossible because daffodils aren't in flower yet...

And have fun. This is about enjoyment.

mrswoolybill Plus
12 1.4k 2022 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2019 12:38PM
Apologies for typo - tap not turned on fully takes longer...
8 Feb 2019 9:07PM
All the above is good advice.

I taught basics at evening class for 5 years

They are there to learn photography. To me that initially means craft skills. A proper pro cookery course teaches knife skills, hygiene rules etc because they are the foundation.

Learning aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure and the main camera settings are the bedrock of everything else.

I used to reckon I could chuck a rangefinder, a Hasselblad or a Nikon F4 at my class, and they could use it. The same goes for digital.

At least the darkroom is optional now, and instant feedback on the camera back speeds up learning.

I reckon, set them assignments on shutter speed (waterfalls, yawn), aperture (cobbled streets). My classes used to come back wowed by learning the difference those things made, then we built on that.
photoworks 16 320 United Kingdom
13 Feb 2019 11:11PM
Speaking of time management, how do you determine how to divide the teaching in one hour units?
Franticsmurf 16 837 Wales
14 Feb 2019 12:01PM
I usually pick one theme (e.g. basic camera controls, composition) per session. Allow a few minutes at the start for introductions and for you to tell them how things are going to work over the 8 weeks. It's worth asking the individuals what they are hoping to get from the course. Allow 45 minutes for the main content and a few minutes at the end for questions. Phil's idea (above) of setting assignments is good because it means you effectively extend the session beyond the hour. In the next session, you have to build in time for the assignments to be reviewed. Depending on the potential for learning from the assignment, this might take up most of the session. Even if not everyone does the assignment, they'll pick up from those that have and it's always good form to acknowledge the efforts the students have made.

Session 2 might continue the basic controls theme with emphasis on the application and effects. I find that inevitably, things will over run. You might be able to get away with answering specific questions from individuals after the session in a different location if the room is no longer available. Another option might be to offer questions by email.

You could set a photographic challenge for (say) session 4 and use that session purely as a review of their work. This would point out the areas that need a little more work, and would set the agenda for the remaining sessions.

I usually do at least one session on the 'rules of composition', with the caveat that they are there to be broken. I find starting with some specifics (thirds, foreground interest etc) means it's easier to get the ideas across. Then you can talk about the effect/impact of breaking those rules. It's a good idea to have examples of both rules and broken rules.

I would leave the last couple of session loosely planned so that you can adjust the content to suit the needs of the students. You might find they ask for one on landscapes, or sports, or taking pictures of the kids. I talk about travel photography as it's an interest of mine, and even if they're only taking photos of the family holiday, it's a familiar topic they can relate to. For each topic you can go back to the basics and relate them to the techniques you are talking about.

I used to do workplace training and as a start when planning a course or individual sessions I found it very helpful to set an aim and several objectives. The aim would be the overall outcome I was expected to achieve and the objectives would be individual points to get across within that aim. For example: Aim: To teach students the fundamentals of photography through a mix of theory and practical exercises, encouraging participation and interaction. Objectives. 1. By the end of the course students will understand how the controls of a camera work. 2. Students will understand the fundamentals of composition. 3. Students be able to use the camera in manual mode to create an image. etc etc.

14 Feb 2019 12:21PM
Excellent stuff above.

See if you can get students to complete a quick 10 question survey before the course. e.g. select a movement stopping shutter speed from a choice, red-eye is caused by etc. That will allow you to pitch at the right level.
Franticsmurf 16 837 Wales
15 Feb 2019 12:09PM
Thanks Phil,

And if this is something you think you'd want to do more of, get them to complete an evaluation of some sort, so that you can show prospective clients the good reviews. Base it on your aims and objectives and as long as you've covered all of them they shouldn't have cause to criticise the content. The community centre may want one anyway to justify their funding but if you make sure it's not a generic 'did you enjoy' type questionnaire, you'll get valuable information for next time.

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