Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Photo Composition Tips

Assignment 1 A Day in the Life

Show a series of photographs (at least ten) that illustrate the day in the life of a subject of your choice.  Your subject could be you or include a model.  You must, through a series of photographs, illustrate a narrative that the viewer can identify as a whole day, so make sure to illustrate that in your work.  

The point of this assignment is to strengthen your compositional skills.  Utilize a strong focal point in each of your shots. Each one of your photographs must include the following strategies:

Direct Light Source (front, side, and back)
Unexpected or unnatural viewpoint Dutch Tilt
Creative use of Color
Use the wrong white balance setting
one image must be a selfie

When is it Due?

Due 50 pictures by the end of the day September 6th (Wednesday)

(photo by James Day)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Class Syllabus - Fall 2017

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. “
Dorthea Lange


This class will introduce students to digital photography techniques and concepts. Technically, students will learn the proper use of digital cameras, basic and advanced techniques in Adobe Creative Cloud, and professional photographic printing.  Concurrently, students will gain an understanding of the cultural, conceptual and creative ramifications of digital imaging. 

While photography should be fun, it takes time to master the skills. It also takes times and effort to be out shooting with your camera to find the good shots. For that reason, this class requires a substantial amount of OUTSIDE time to be used for assignments. There is an enormous amount of information to learn about camera technique and design software.  The class will move quickly early on to cover all this information.  The culmination of this course is the final project presentation at the end of the semester. 


  • You will practice image composition by shooting around 50 plus images a week, and will catalog those images.  
  • You will become technically proficient with the workings of your camera, including manual exposure settings and light metering
  • You will become proficient with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop on the Mac.
  • You will learn how to critique photographs both technically, compositionally and by the strength of the concept. 
  • You will learn about the history of photography from its origins in science and chemistry to it's current status as an artform. 


Class time will involve:
a combination of lectures and discussions on pertinent issues within the medium
application demos and technical instruction
introduction to other photographers that significantly connect to class projects
field trips and on-location camera exercises
work time for projects
critiques of projects

Outside of class, homework will be mostly centered around shooting images for homework assignments.  The best way to improve in this medium is to shoot as much and as often as possible.  You are expected to work around 2 hours a week outside of class.


Text: There is no textbook.  Any required reading will be posted on the blog. However if you prefer to have a take home textbook, I recommend:  A Short Course in Digital Photography by Barbara London and Jim Stone and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classroom in a Book by John Evans. Http:// is a great site for adobe tutorials. Your own subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud is not required but recommended.
A working digital camera (A digital SLR with removable lenses, manual settings, and shoots in an uncompressed digital format is recommended, as it will give you the most versatility and you will be able to get better results easier.  You may use a point and shoot, but you are expected to understand the limitations of what your camera can do.  Please no phone cameras for everyday use.)
Memory card for camera, at least 8 gig
USB drive ALWAYS back-up your work, you may save things to your lab computer, however it is a public lab so anything is possible, and hard drive crashes are not a viable excuse for late work. 
Final Project Printing – to be announced

The estimated cost for this course will be around 50 - 100 dollars (without buying a camera)


Schedule Subject to Change (and it will)

Week 1 intro to camera function and digital processing, another point of view project
Week 2 – composition, digital photo editing, manual camera settings, lighting life project
Week 3 – pixels and digital output, photography history 101, archival techniques
Week 4 – landscape photography, advanced digital output home project
Week 5 – long exposure photography, night time project
Week 6 – narrative storytelling, photoshop compositing, narrative tableau project
Week 7 -  advanced photoshop compositions, large format printing
Week 8 – photojournalism 101, research strategies, photojournalism project 
Week 9 – preparing images for the web, photojournalism project presentations
Week 10 – abstract for final project, intro to studio lighting
Week 11 – studio (people,still life) shooting, studio project
Week 12 – mimic a famous photographer - research/assignment, mimic project
Week 13 advanced photo techniques, final project
Week 14 final project display (book, website presentation)


1.) Blog: All assignments and required source material will be posted online. Specific Xeroxed articles, tutorials and other online source material will be assigned and posted on the blog as the course progresses. 

2.) Attendance: mandatory at all class sessions. Class moves fast and it is extremely difficult to catch up unless you take responsibility and look up anything you missed. More than three absences (excused or unexcused, they are all the same) lower your final grade 1 grade down each absence. Come prepared for work in class or you will receive an absence. Since most class material is covered at the beginning of class, being notably tardy also counts as an absence. Checking Facebook during class lectures or videos will make you absent for the day.  

3) Projects: There will be seven or eight key assignments in this course. Every week there will be deadlines for those assignments. They are always due at the beginning of class on the deadline date.  Late assignments will not be accepted without approval from the instructor.  

4.) Critiques: Students are expected to participate in class critiques of works, both completed and in progress. As the term evolves, we will orient towards weekly progress critiques. Talking about your work and others is a crucial aspect of assessing whether your images communicates effectively.  

5.) Grading: each project is worth 100 points and will be graded by:
• FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS– 34%- does the project match the online description?
Did the photographer take enough images, are they presented correctly and on time? 
• CREATIVITY – 33%- originality of thought and expression.
Does the artwork show innovation and uniqueness? Did the artist solve the given assignment problem in an expected or unexpected way? 
• CRAFTSMANSHIP -– 33%- attention to detail.
Does the artist skillfully manipulate the images so they look their best? Are all details carefully finished and/or intentional-looking? 

The photography assignments will be due on critique day and graded based on technical (negative and print quality) and conceptual accomplishment (sophistication of idea, creativity, intelligence, thoroughness, and ability to represent an idea). Hard work, self-critique, and determination most often result in high quality work. Participation is a significant component of any visual arts class as it will be in this class. One of the best ways to learn about your work, directly or in relation to the work of others, is to have critical dialogue. This includes but is not limited to: spoken and or written participation during critique, paying attention during critique and lectures (not being on your phone or working on the computer during lecture, crit, or discussion), showing up for individual meetings, and utilizing open lab days.

6.) Equipment check out: A student may check out equipment that is available by the Fine Arts department.  You assume responsibility for the item and you are required to return it before the next scheduled class.  Some of the items we have are: Portable Studio Lighting Kit, Strobe Flashes, Tripods, Video Cameras, and more.  We cannot check out digital cameras for students for the whole class, you must have your own at your disposal.  

7.) Lab Etiquette: Always back up your work. Data loss—from a lost, fried and/or stolen hard drive, or satanic software - cannot be used as an excuse for late or missing work.

Students are not permitted to use the internet or any mobile devices during lectures or student presentations. Cell Phones must be turned off unless instructed otherwise.  You will be marked as absent if I see this rule being broken.  


Cheating, plagiarism (submitting another person’s materials or ideas as one’s own), or doing work for another person who will receive academic credit are all impermissible. Turning in work made before this class, or from other classes, is also a violation of academic honesty.  All work turned in for this class must have been made during this class!  I can easily tell using the metadata in an image if your work is not yours, or was not produced during this class.  Breaking these rules may result in a zero point total for the project, and may also further impact your final grade in the course.  Disciplinary action may be taken beyond the Department of Fine Arts. 


It is the policy of Tarleton State University to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (HYPERLINK "" other applicable laws. If you are a student with a disability seeking accommodations for this course, please contact Trina Geye, Director of Student Disability Services, at 254.968.9400 or HYPERLINK "" Student Disability Services is located in Math 201. More information can be found at HYPERLINK "" or in the University Catalog.


Please note that some of the photographs we might look at during this course may include nudity, be graphically violent or be politically provocative. Some individuals may find these images disturbing or even offensive. Such works are included because they presented important challenges to artistic traditions and conventions, to social mores, to standards of beauty and taste, and ultimately, to the definition and history of photography itself. Students will not be required to subscribe to any particular theory of the purpose and meaning of photography, nor will they be required to like all of the images shown. However, if you choose to take this course, you will be expected to understand the issues involved and why they are important. Critical thinking in all areas is something I believe in. I want students to be exposed to good work, I want my students to be able to grapple with difficult ideas, and I want them to develop their own sensitivities and skills. If you have any special concerns, please discuss them with me.

{ANY QUESTIONS????!!!!????}

As you've probably guessed, you will have to spend plenty of time in and outside of class shooting, editing, and printing. You should therefore photograph subjects that you consider important or have strong feelings towards. Your projects shouldn’t feel like busy work. Please do not become discouraged if you do not quickly grasp the ideas and techniques discussed in class - photography is a difficult and complex subject that is hard for many people. Making good art always takes longer than you think! Trust the process.

Apply yourself, work hard, develop your skills and exhibit individual growth and you will do very well in this class. I am here to help you succeed, so do not be afraid to ask any questions. I will always try my best to make myself available to interested students. Have fun, keep positive and be creative!

-Chris Ireland