October 23, 2012

Battle of the Pictures

So my first photography class was last night at the MacLaren Art centre in Barrie with Alex. Our teacher’s name is Andre Beneteau and he’s an old school camera geek more than an artsy fartsy photographer I think. I think we’re going to learn how to make our cameras our bitches, the technical stuff. Not so much how to compose a photo (thank god, I do just fine on my own thank you very much and if I read any more about the goddamn golden ratio one more time I’m going to barf – my philosophy is that you either naturally see it or you don’t, which is why I get so frustrated that I can’t naturally see the rule of thirds).

Anyway, this was the course outline for last night (I’ll type this up for each class):

Oct. 22nd: Introduction of instructor and participants. Course outline – “The Slow Photo Movement” What do you want from this course? Clarity in photography. Getting to know your camera. Photo shooting tips Outing suggestions? Shooting assignment.

Andre, I think, has ADD because we were ALL THE FUCK over the place last night. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but it was basically 8 people and him sitting around geeking out over their toys for 2 & a half hours. Lots of people didn’t know how to use their cameras. A couple of them didn’t even have DSLRs. Lots of people had their cameras on weird settings that shouldn’t have been. ┬áMaybe it’s just because it’s a beginner’s class or maybe just the first class, but he had us all using P (Program) to take test shots of each other. I was slightly horrified by this but just went with it.

This is a blurry picture of Fred.
He’s taken the class before.

This is Bob.
Bob has bitchtits.

Just kidding.

He’s taken the class before too.
That pic was taken (on fucking P…as a jpeg…) at ISO 100.

What did I learn?
Nothing new, really.
Just that ISO apparently stands for International Standard Organization and it was a replacement for ASA which was American Standard Association.

Here’s Bob again at 6400 ISO.
These test shots were pulled up on the projector to show that the higher the ISO, the more noise there would be (but honestly, unless you’re printing huge prints, I don’t think that matters much with these digital cameras but that’s just my experience so far.)

Andre actually told everyone that they were better off shooting JPGs as opposed to RAW and I just about fell over. I get why he said that, a lot of these people are super amateur and just want to know how to take better pictures of their kids, and this is a super beginner’s class, but now that I know the difference between RAW and JPG I would never EVER dream of going back to shooting JPG. That would just be idiotic. And he seemed shocked that I, a blogger, would shoot RAW when I would just be making JPGs out of them for the web anyway. But that’s not the point. If I was *just* taking pictures for my blog, I could have stuck with my point & shoot. I want the OPTION of 100% control and also the option of printing a fucking billboard if I wanted to. I don’t know if this photography thing is ever going to amount to anything, but I’m kinda hoping it does because I really like doing it. Blake keeps telling me that I need to find something I find FUN and I find photography fun. An optimal day for me is shooting something and then spending all day editing the pictures.

Anyway the other reason he wants everyone shooting JPGs is so he can put them up on the projector. The projector won’t read RAW files. Fair enough, I can make my camera take both at the same time and I have plenty of SD cards so I’ll just do that.

And yeah, I kinda did get made fun of on the first day for always using burst, which I expected. BUT I REFUSE TO CHANGE. My philosophy is that if the 1st 3 don’t turn out then maybe the next 5 will. Also I shoot outside pretty much exclusively and I’m shooting movement. There’s wind in people’s hair. Dogs running around. I would miss that movement if I weren’t using burst.

So this is our first assignment and I’m asking for your help. He gave us this sheet of tips and wants us to bring 7 photos on an SD card that follow some of his tips. Here they are:

– KISS: keep it simple, stupid.
– Get close: “The name of the game is Fill the Frame.” Rick Sammon, AP
– Check your whole viewfinder – look for distractions and bloopers.
– The Decisive Moment: catch the peak of the action, the fleeting expression, the interaction…
– The Rule of Thirds – apply to horizons and subjects…or not.
– Watch the Direction and Quality of Light – be aware of shooting against bright light (underexposure).
– Choose an ISO appropriate for the situation you are shooting in: Grabbing action (high) vs. top picture quality (low), etc. Auto ISO is usually OK.
– Expose for your Subject! You may have to be selective. [I don’t even know what this means.]
– Include some foreground interest in wide angle shots for depth and perspective.
– Watch out for distortion at the sides/corners of really wide angle shots – circles become ovals, people gain 40 lbs (stand in the middle of the group to lose weight!)
– Get low (or high) for interesting perspective – kids, pets, landscapes, abstracts.
– Place subjects close together for better impact/simplicity. Now get closer.
– Be aware of limits of flash range – turn it off for distant subjects (arenas).
– Use Fill Flash outdoors to fill in shadows (most cameras can do this automatically). [I don’t know what that is either.]
– Match camera orientation to subject – Vertical for verticals.
– Focus carefully even on auto-focus – lock focus on your subject if necessary.
– Manual focus makes most cameras respond quicker – good for catching movement. You can pre-focus on the right spot or focus manually. This does take some practice.
– Match your white balance to your light source (for critical work) or use it for creative effect.
– Soft light is best for portraits. Straight flash is seldom flattering or interesting.
– Don’t be afraid to shoot several shots of one subject. I firmly believe in “just one more”.
– Look for interesting lines, textures, contrasts and frames. Getting real close can create “art”.
– Use a decent tripod or other support for low light and/or high quality shots.
– Have fun by trying something different or breaking “rules”.

I wanted to use this one for the “vertical for verticals” one:

I wanted to use this one for the manual focus on one spot for action shots one:

And I wanted to use this one for the soft light/portraits one:

These two for getting low with kids/dogs:

And I dunno what else. Help!

Here are all the pics I’ve taken this fall with the Rebel (that are worth looking at anyway, I don’t think my Squam pics or Madison’s grad pics [especially since I never uploaded the colour corrected ones] are all that great). Lemme know what you see. Which pictures follow which rules? I need 7. Thanks in advance!

All in all, class was a positive experience. Everyone was super nice and aside from a little anxiety before we went in, I had a great time. As long as I always bring a big drink with me, I’m good.


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  1. scutterman says:

    Well, I’m no good at the visual stuff, so I can’t help you with the rules, but I did remember this which may be useful. Building cheap photo gear (like lighting and reflective surfaces) from household items.

  2. Erica says:

    I can’t wait to read about how the classes go for you. I took an intro to photography class and I found it a huge waste of money. I was so disappointed with it that I complained to the college. Turns out the teacher teaches the class from a camera store as well (i signed up for some classes but after I attended the first one I asked for a refund since it was all the same information) so right now I just read a lot of photo blogs and search the net for tricks and tips. Good Luck!

    • Sunny says:

      I don’t know how long you’ve been following my blog, but I took a full day beginner’s class at Squam this fall and LOVED it. This class seems pretty fun so far, but really technical (which is good because that’s what I want). Feel free to throw any links my way! I don’t even know where to begin Googling to find decent photo blogs and stuff like that!

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