Making it possible to finally teach photography

I’ve taught yearbook and journalism for years, but until this semester, never felt I could teach one of the most important components to my students–photography.

For years, I’ve placed cameras in the hands of my kiddos and had them shoot in auto mode or the action presets, never realizing the freedom that could come from taking time to learn manual mode.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kent State’s Teaching Multimedia course, but for some reason, I wasn’t expecting to have a unit on photography. I did expect some of the other units: podcasting, video, and polls, but this 3-week photography unit was a pleasant surprise.

I about fell out of my chair when I saw the first portion of the assignment, to read the manual for the camera I would use for the course. I could not imagine a more boring assignment, yet the packet we had to fill out as we read the manual was eye-opening.

My camera of choice was the new one our journalism staff just purchased, the Canon 80D. Reading the manual allowed me to learn things about the camera I never knew existed.

I set out to take my first set of photos of our Saturday morning drama rehearsal. In four hours, I took nearly 500 photos. I felt solid about many of these shots, yet the real education for this unit came when the instructor evaluated the photos of each class member in an online chat.

We were each able to see the work of our classmates, listen to feedback provided to them, then receive feedback on our own work. Hands down, this was one of the most helpful experiences I’ve experienced. I went into that discussion believing I had at least half of the ten required photos that met the criteria set for us, turns out I had to reshoot all of my photos.

The following weekend, I offered to take photos of my daughter and her boyfriend. They were eager for some nice couple photos, so we ventured outdoors on a foggy afternoon. I struggled with settings at first, then everything started to make sense.

I was anxious to teach what I’d learned to my students. On Monday of last week, they began working in manual mode, following a simplified version of the assignment I had completed the previous two weeks. They also had me to walk with them and talk them through changing settings when they weren’t pleased with their photos.

I watched them get excited when they got a perfect action shot of dodgeball, as they helped each other change settings to get perfect depth of field. Their excitement was contagious–showing each other their photos, rushing to show me what they were proud of capturing.

We ended the week talking about how they would use both PhotoMechanic (which I purchased for all the desktop computers in my classroom) and Photoshop.

Tomorrow, these 13 students will begin the editing process. I can’t wait to share their favorite photos with our readers.

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