Photography Course Dilemma

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by KillRamsey, Feb 15, 2013.

  1. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Feb 15, 2013
    Hood River, OR
    Kyle
    Hi all.

    A friend and I have been shooting again after big lapses, mostly on old film slr's but in my case on the X100 as well. He and I both decided we'd enjoy a photography course at night this spring, to get better. So we looked them up, and really only one had a workable time slot. But there are two problems - First, they expect everyone (digital users all except my friend and potentially me, who would be using film) to print 8x10's each week, no idea how many. The second problem is that the teacher's work on his website leads me to believe I will not be terribly inspired by his artistic abilities. I don't want to be unkind but the images were not especially good.

    Do all such classes normally forego simple cheap projection in favor of expensive 8x10 prints?

    Should one take a class under someone else whose work doesn't inspire you?
     
  2. Luke

    Luke FujiXspot Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    854
    Jan 31, 2013
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    the "basics" of photography don't necesitate (spelling?) printing 8 x 10s. And it's certainly POSSIBLE that a poor photographer could be a great teacher, but knowing those 2 things together before you start would encourage me to look for something else. You'll just be looking for more things to be wrong. Frankly, your photos are already good enough that you should maybe be looking for something a little more advanced.
     
  3. Hyubie

    Hyubie FujiXspot Veteran

    206
    Feb 4, 2013
    Weymouth, MA
    + 1 on great teachers not necessarily being good at their field. I don't remember Belichik or the Harbaughs being outstanding players. And Jordan is not coaching either. :)
     
  4. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Feb 15, 2013
    Hood River, OR
    Kyle
    Thanks for the feedback and the unsolicited compliment. I don't agree, but I'll take it.
     
  5. ean10775

    ean10775 FujiXspot Top Veteran

    885
    Feb 13, 2013
    Cleveland, OH
    Eric
    Photography courses can be difficult because of the reason you mention - namely that you could end up taking instruction from someone whose work or idea of what constitutes good work may differ dramatically from your own. If you're located in a large city there may be numerous options for courses, but in more rural areas you may be limited to what's offered by the local camera shop or club. I've taken one briefly from a local camera club and looked into several others in my area and came away uninspired as it seems much of what was in the curriculum could easily be duplicated with a little time spent online reading. I've gained a lot of my knowledge from reading and viewing images online, asking questions in forums such as this and simply going out shooting and making mistakes. I really like this approach, but do miss the dynamic that a live class or group brings.

    As an alternative, if you can't find a class you might enjoy and you enjoy shooting with your friend, perhaps you could create your own class with your friend where each week you focus on a different aspect of photography that interests you, do some reading during the week to prepare then go out and shoot. Then you could get together over a drink or coffee and compare your experiences/results
     
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  6. nianys

    nianys FujiXspot Regular

    50
    Feb 6, 2013
    France
    Claire
    I certainly wouldn't take any teaching from someone who's photos don't inspire me, period. The technical aspect is accessible enough that you can get through it nearly on your own. If the teacher makes boring shots, run away. My 2 cts...
     
  7. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs FujiXspot Veteran

    485
    Feb 1, 2013
    Near Philadephila
    It depends on what the purpose of the course is. If you're taking it to brush up on the basics of exposure, the tradeoffs among aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and how to use exposure compensation and maybe a histogram, it doesn't matter whether you like the teacher's work or not if he or she is competent at explaining the stuff you're there to brush up on. If, OTOH, you're there to learn to SEE better, to be pushed toward creating "images" rather than "pictures of" stuff, then it matters a LOT.

    I had a high school photo teacher who's work I probably never saw, but he did a great job of teaching me the technical stuff I needed to know and how to use a darkroom. I have zero idea if he was a good photographer or not. I recently was in contact with an old classmate of mine in his class who's gone on to make it a career and does some pretty technically stunning commercial photography and is used to endorse high end lighting equipment in photo magazines. So I guess we learned the technical basics well enough to take it forward, albeit in very different directions, one as a pro and one as a dedicated amateur. And I've stayed in touch with a couple of other friends from those days, who had the same teacher, and they're still pretty good photographers too, although not as insane about it as some of us! In college, I had two photography professors and the assumption was that we knew the technical stuff well enough and only had to refine it, but the goal was more artistic in nature, learning to see and translate that vision to paper. One of those professors was wonderful, taught me more than I could have ever imagined learning, and, to the extent I'm any sort of photographer today, he had a LOT to do with it. I studied with him for a year. The next year I was moving on with more career oriented studies and tried to take a photo course to keep improving, but the guy who taught THAT class couldn't have been more of a turn-off to me. Some really fine photographers studied with that guy and did great work, so there was nothing wrong with what he taught or how he taught it, but it was a clear mismatch with me. I hung in that class for a couple of months but I was starting to hate photography so I finally dropped it. Later I studied under a third guy who mostly gave me the space to explore what I wanted and was helpful with critiquing my work, but I can't say I learned a lot from him. The first two professors both challenged me and pushed me, but one in a way that made me want to explore different ideas and push myself further, and one in a way that made me want to just get away from the whole thing. So, yeah, the teacher MATTERS if that's what you're after...

    So, if the artistic side of photography is your goal in this class, being compatible with the teacher is HUGE. But if its just brushing back up on the technical end, it really doesn't matter much. And its not a bad idea to do - when I first got back into it about three years ago, I'd forgotten nearly everything. It only took me a few weeks of reading and shooting digital for it all to come rushing back into my brain and form enough of a basis to then learn the digital-specific stuff on top of it. But right at first it was like a foreign language. I didn't end up needing a course, but it wouldn't have hurt...

    -Ray
     
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  8. boid

    boid FujiXspot Regular

    31
    Feb 2, 2013
    Might I offer another perspective as well? KillRamsey I've seen you post pictures multiple times, and you certainly know your way around the camera. Your pictures are lyrical, and convey stories very well. If you've signed on for a photo class, you're looking for something specific. I'm not sure what that is, only you would be able to answer that. Sometimes one learns more from peers and the teacher just sets the parameters for one's performance, and that's really enough. If there's factual information to be gained in the process, that's a plus. Maybe printing pictures is exactly what you need to be doing with your photographs. I don't see that as a negative at all.
     
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  9. Nic

    Nic FujiXspot Regular

    118
    Feb 5, 2013
    Brisbane, Australia
    Photography is obviously something that can be learnt, but I'm not entirely convinced that it can be taught. The basic technicalities yes, but beyond that? Besides just getting out there and doing it myself, I find the internet (including a site like this) a wealth of information and knowledge, and just being able to meet and talk with other photographers in an informal setting. Maybe some kind of local group that does occasional "photo walks" would be a better way to learn a little knowledge, teach some of you own, and just enjoy talking shop with other amateur photographers.
     
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  10. Gary

    Gary FujiXspot Top Veteran

    698
    Feb 15, 2013
    SoCal
    Gary
    The expectation of the print, while certainly old school, does have significant value as a learning/teaching tool. Printing will teach you to print and to print well. A print looks, feels, smells much different than a monitor. For many photographers, the print completes the photographic cycle. The print is the final image. Interestingly, as a general observation, I've found that the consistently best digital B&W conversions were created by those who, at one point in their lives, performed a lot of wet B&W darkroom work. The print taught them what a good B&W image should look like. I'd take the course, learning to print well, will make you a better photographer.

    Gary
     
  11. AlbertInFrance

    AlbertInFrance FujiXspot Regular

    89
    Feb 11, 2013
    Morbihan, France
    I've recently joined a camera club, for a variety of reasons. Although almost everyone is digital, and even the film guys tend to scan their negs, the standard for competitions and print crit sessions is the A4 print. When you have maybe 20 images to discuss it's a lot easier to do comparisons with side by side prints rather than faffing around with finding multiple files and fitting them together on a screen.

    As for 'should I go with this teacher?' you need to really work out what you want to learn and whether a given person can deliver it. I'm a competent (ex-pro) technician and I've plenty of experience as a trainer. You'd probably find my work pedestrian but I can teach you how to create any image you can conceive.

    One of my college contemporaries is a world-famous photographer, but I doubt if he could teach anybody how to visualise the way he does.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...king-panoramic-shot-worlds-highest-peaks.html
     
  12. Isoterica

    Isoterica FujiXspot Regular

    170
    Feb 10, 2013
    I am in agreement that if you are looking for inspiration, for a teacher who can show you how to be creative, do not pick someone whose work does not inspire you. I'm not even sure on the technical side I would be interested in learning under someone whose work bored me. Have you considered online classes btw? I've read some of the Bryan Peterson books, he also has a photography school with several class offerings so you can address what you feel you need work in the most http://ppsop.com/courses.aspx You can check out some of the free to watch PPSOP videos and see if you like the relaxed teaching style however in the classes I am sure there is far more intensive tutoring. You could also check out one of his books, like Understanding Exposure [excellent, clear to read book with examples] to see if you like his style [the general school style] before you invest in a class. Just a suggestion :)
     
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  13. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Feb 15, 2013
    Hood River, OR
    Kyle
    These were excellent responses - very kind and helpful. The results, so far:

    1. The friend agreed about the teacher's portfolio. They were boring compositionally and often not well executed. Both are daming, for different reasons. Additionally the emailed reponses from the teacher were brief to the point of being off-putting.
    2. Looking at the readings, we decided we could pretty well find those things on our own and dissect them.
    3. We've met once already in the evening to go drinking / shooting with 3200iso b&w, and we intended to make that a regular thing.
    4. Thus, we've now decided to turn the "regular thing" into a little photo club. We have at least 2 other friends who also shoot, so we're thinking once a month we get together to look at last month's assignment and come up with a new one.

    So it looks like I'll save the course money, and continue plunking along with guidance from personal freinds, and from you lot. Thanks all.
     
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  14. Isoterica

    Isoterica FujiXspot Regular

    170
    Feb 10, 2013
    Most excellent, good luck and have fun!
     
  15. landshark

    landshark Fujiman

    208
    Feb 1, 2013
    SoCal
    This is a very loaded question and one that has no simple answer. I agree that if one is feeling the need to either freshen up on the basics or learn some new hot techniques one does not either need or necessarily want the great creative genius as your teacher. You want someone who is well versed in the technical. A teacher can still inspire without being a great artist, because what one should be looking for is someone who inspires you to find your style not, just learn one's instructor’s style.
    In both the classes I have taken and the workshops I have taught, I have tried to find or provide the help to get me or them to where we all wanted to go. Finding one’s own style and the technical skill and ability to se in order to achieve it.
    If you are looking for visual stimulation, first there is a wealth of photo books of the greats, but more importantly there is no stronger teacher than one's self, shoot, shoot, hard critique, shoot, shoot, hard critique, shoot and keep shoot.
    The most important part is to be brutally hard on yourself.
     
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  16. Gary

    Gary FujiXspot Top Veteran

    698
    Feb 15, 2013
    SoCal
    Gary
    Yes. My early mentors just kicked my butt ... in essence, teaching me how to kick my own butt. One needs to be one's worst critic. Sorta depressing if you dwell on that thought ... but, there is always room for improvement. The fact that you are consuming alcoholic beverages will be beneficial to mask the pain.

    Gary
     
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  17. Luke

    Luke FujiXspot Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    854
    Jan 31, 2013
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    I think you've found a great solution starting the photo club with your buddies. But make sure to heed Bob's advice quoted above. And if it's too hard to critique your friends, get them to join the SC and you guys can have a monthly critique thread where you submit the shots without letting us know who is who and ask for critiques. Some will be from know-nothing goofballs like myself, but I'm sure some real pros will give their 2 cents as well. Once you start to really see and understand others' critiques of your own work, you can start to self-critique a little easier. Most of the time when I get shot I like I'm super hot with it for awhile and then I start to nitpick all sorts of little things and then I get to the point where I can;t even stand to look at it. Hopefully the part eventually comes where I can nitpick it and hate it before I release the shutter and fix all the things that are wrong with it before I take the photo. But I think that's YEARS of training.

    Good luck with your club.
     
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  18. EBC Wilson

    EBC Wilson FujiXspot Regular

    100
    Feb 20, 2013
    I, too, would like to find a single course class I could take in the evenings. Locally, a VERY expensive private university offers a free digital photography course as part of a 'Local Outreach' set of Art-type courses. I was all set, until I found out that the requirements included a Canon or Nikon DSLR plus a laptop running the latest version of Photoshop. Sheesh . . . . . maybe it's me . . . .
     
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  19. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Feb 15, 2013
    Hood River, OR
    Kyle
    Not altogether different from my issues with this guy's course and the print requirements. I totally understand how a 26 year old with a D3100 could take and LOVE that course. But a 37 yr old guy with a job, a wife and a 3 yr old, and who also wants to shoot film for the class, is not a great setup for happiness. I would have to spend at least one night a week out of the house shooting, and make at least one (bicycle) trip a week to a lab that isn't close to home to develop / print. I already play with a band one night a week most weeks, and I have homebrew to futz with as well... I have several hobbies competing for that limited time. Making the whole thing a monthly party with friends - and getting honest critique - should be a lot of fun, and frankly if it isn't fun I'm not interested.
     
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