Teaching Photography As If Nothing Has Changed


We teach photography as if nothing has changed; as if silver had never been swapped out for pixels. If fact, that is how we act, as if the silver grains on film frames were switched with pixels on sensors with no difference. We teach as if silver and pixels are two versions of the same thing, but they are not. We’ve changed the language, sometimes calling an exposure a “capture”, but we haven’t changed our approach.

I have a “full frame” camera sensor, which I was ecstatic to finally acquire. But it is a pleasure born from familiarity. We haven’t asked ourselves what the implications of pixels are. We have not acknowledged that the camera, as a device, has become more complex and interactive; that the image itself has become more liquid than fixed. We create new tools to manage the multiplicity of our digital captures without asking ourselves what it means to be able to shoot,  file, and recall thousands of images; to categorize the images and delete them at will.

These seem to be key questions that we must explore, that there are implications to the way we teach and learn photography, as well as to how we communicate and express concepts through photography. For example, how does the now hyper-precise control that a photographer has in post-production impact the initial image capture? Should HDR techniques become standard practice – is this our intent to create all images with detailed contained in lightest of highlights and the darkest of shadows – does this now define a well-exposed image? Some devices simultaneously create HDR exposures, so doesn’t this impact our expectations of the quality of the image? There seems to be a great number of considerations that we ignore.

A camera just as easily records high-definition motion as it does a high-resolution still image. The photographers we create today in higher education must be adept at both composing a moment of time and recording moments over time. But we continue to teach them only depth of field and aperture, shutter speed and motion. The camera has increased in capability, but the education has not grown with it – we treat video concepts and motion techniques as a supplement. Isn’t the red record button on our cameras now a third function, equal to the shutter and aperture settings?

…to be continued…

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About Douglas Barkey

Director of Teaching and Learning Effectiveness The Art Institutes
This entry was posted in Photographic Technology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Teaching Photography As If Nothing Has Changed

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    • Douglas Barkey says:

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