Monday, 20 February 2017

Photography Basics & Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR Specialisation

Back in January 2016, I enrolled in a Coursera Photography Specialisation run by two Professors based at Michigan State University. It was the first {& so far only} photography course I'd ever taken & I thought I'd share my experience of the course & what it entailed.

In its entirety, the Specialisation ran from February to September. But there are new start dates every month or so. The course was brand new to Coursera when I took it, so I was among the very first to complete it.

The Specialisation was split into 5 separate courses:

Course One: Cameras, Exposure & Photography
  • Week 1: Basic Principles of Photography.
  • Week 2: Camera capabilities: differences and similarities
  • Week 3: Setting up yourself and your digital camera: Menus, Settings, and baggage!
  • Week 4: Picture Decisions: The Vantage Point and Frame

Course Two: Camera Control
  • Week 1: Elements of Camera Control 1.0: Exposure
  • Week 2: Elements of Camera Control 2.0: The Lens
  • Week 3: Elements of Camera Control 3.0: Depth of Field
  • Week 4: Picture Decisions

Course 2 Week 3: Shallow Depth of Field Assignment

Course Three: Principle of Photo Composition and Digital Image Post-Production
  • Week 1: Elements of Design: Building Blocks of Composition
  • Week 2: Composition means putting the Elements of Design together!
  • Week 3: Photo Editing Fundamentals 1.0: "Workflow," from Exposure through Adobe™ Lightroom™
  • Week 4: Photo Editing Fundamentals 2.0: SmartPhone Apps

Course 3 Week 2: "The Onlooker" Asymmetry Assignment

Course Four: Photography Techniques: Light, Content and Sharing
  • Week 1: The Content of a Photograph
  • Week 2: Light Fundamentals 1.0: People, Places, Things under Ambient Light
  • Week 3: Light Fundamentals 2.0: People, Places, Things under Controlled Light
  • Week 4: Finishing Pictures: Options for Showing and Sharing

Course 4, Week 1: "Portrait en Creux" Assignment

Course Five: Photography Capstone Project
  • Week 1: Defining and Launching your Capstone Project
  • Week 2: Learning from others
  • Week 3: Learning more about critically analysing
  • Week 4: Mid-Term review time!
  • Week 5: Getting ready to be ready to finish your project!
  • Week 6: Inspiration and Perspiration!
  • Week 7: Reveal the Capstone Projects!
  • Week 8: Review, Reflect, and Go Beyond!

Stroll Down The Promenade Capstone Project - "Sculptural Views"

Each course caters for smartphone & DSLR users so even if you don't own a proper camera, you can still take & complete the course. The only stipulation is that you complete & pass the first four courses to qualify for the final course where you put together your own project. The specialisation is done in video form, so you watch the videos, take notes {if you want} & complete a review test, which you need a certain score to pass. Most week's you also have a photography assignment to complete, based on what you have learnt that week. There are given deadlines to keep you on track but you are given 2 months to complete each course. One advantage to this course is that everything is online & you have access to all four of the weeks of the course you're on, so you can, if you want or need to, get ahead.

The only thing you have to be aware of when getting really far ahead, is that the assignment grades are done on a peer review basis. This means that the people taking the course with you {from anywhere in the world} have to review your photograph & accompanying statement. Depending on how your peers score your work, depends on your grade for the week & you need a certain percentage to pass each assignment. You are required to do the same for your fellow learners & have a number of reviews you must complete. You're given a certain number to do but you can do more if you want & have the time too. So if you're ahead, then you may have to wait longer for your grades & there might not be as many assignments for you to review either.

There's a number of lessons about how to critique photographs, these not only help you when reviewing other people's work but I found it makes me look at photographs in general in a different way, picking up on the detail in a shot & not just the photo as a whole. It also helps you to look at your own shots in a similar way.

Stroll Down The Promenade Capstone Project: "99 Lakeland Hills"

So from February through July, I worked my way through & completed the first four courses! To say I was proud of myself was huge understatement! This meant I'd qualified for the final course, the Capstone Photography Project, which is focused on a personal project & how to put a project together successfully. My hometown was my chosen subject & I enjoyed the entire process of working on it; from the planning, to taking the shots & writing up the "Gallery Statement". It was such a great experience & one that will help me as I begin to start other projects.

For those of us that completed the entire course, my fabulous Professors put together an exhibition consisting of one photograph from each learners project. The exhibition was held at the Kresge Art Centre at Michigan State University from the 21st November to the 9th December 2016. The exhibition will also be shown at the Coursera Convention that my Professors will be attending in March. They're also hoping that the exhibition will then be able to be sent & put on display any where in the world. It's absolutely mind blowing to think that one of my photographs could be travelling the world & put on display for all to see!

Stroll Down The Promenade Capstone Project - "Sea Through The Frame"
This photograph was on display at the Kresge Art Centre, MSU 21/11 - 09/12
So overall, I really do recommend this course to anyone interested in Photography. It was such a great experience & has greatly benefited my photography. I'm much more confident with my camera now. I was one of those "stay in Auto" mode photographers but this course has given me the push to play around with my settings more & be more creative when taking photos. It's also made me realise that I'd like to try & make a living from photography in the future.

If you'd like to have a look at my Capstone Photography Project, "Stroll Down The Promenade" in full, then you can find on my portfolio here: Stroll Down The Promenade Project
Please feel free to have a nosey at the other Galleries I have set up on there; some need tweaking & updating but let me know what you think. There may also be prints for sale of some them in the future.

Happy Snapping!


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