To all my regular WordPress followers…please excuse this post. It’s a little left of centre and intended for my photography tutor to assess. For the last 9 months I have been undertaking an online photography course with ‘The Photography Institute’. Its been hard work for many assignments, with a steep learning curve, but steep is good! I have a huge interest in improving my photography as it is so vital to my paintings. One day, photography may take over in passion from my art…time will tell. I totally, 100% love capturing light and life in photos…to then paint them? Wow, so blessed.
I’m on my last assignment…clap, clap, woohoo, and I have been given the choice of uploading straight to the institute or to my webpage to be marked…so…webpage it is!
Assignment 11 – 6 portfolio quality images (listed in order of strongest with comment) in one area of chosen photography field. (Only 6!! Oh, so hard! Chosen field….yikes, even harder!)
I have chosen Children’s and Youth Natural Light Photography.
Image one – Capturing the eyes of a child. Black and white imagery allows for depth and beauty to shine through the photo without the distraction of colour.
Image Two – Capturing siblings, family or friends in a natural setting. When play is imminent, photos appear unstaged and relaxed. (These two cherubs are friends. This session was organised for a 50th birthday present for their shared Godfather. Great gift!)
Image Three – Children/ families and their pets. Pets, especially dogs are often a cherished part of family life. To capture the love of children and their pets is a beautiful gift to any family. This beautiful fur child is aging rapidly, so this photo will be cherished in years to come.
Image Four – Capturing children doing what kids do best – playing. By keenly observing light and composition, photographing a beautiful natural portrait can be achieved. ‘Life Portraits’ are often excellent photos to further develop into an oil painting. (I have painted and sold this exact image. See my Life portraits gallery for the final painting.)
Image Five – Capturing the whimsical. Allowing children to have fun during a photo session, by using props such as fun chairs, rugs, umbrellas and dress ups. Contemporary, natural light photos with a fun feel.
Image 6 – Youth and teen portraits. Capturing tweenies and teens at the cusp of reaching adulthood. Youth photography is such a precious area as it is often a time when teenagers feel so unsure of themselves. Capturing a beautiful image would be a gift to any family.
Hope you enjoy these images!
I sure did enjoy taking them.
|Nik is trained in journalism and joined ePHOTOzine with not much photography experience and has picked most of her photography knowledge up as she's gone along. As a result, she decided a formal photography qualification would be something that's not only useful for her but the company as well.||Dan is trained in accounting and as he's our Finance Manager, photography isn't something he has to do everyday. However, as Dan's just bought a new DSLR he decided a photography course would give him the chance to learn a whole new set of skills and make the most of his camera.|
With no formal training in photography myself (Nik) and Dan decided it was time to add another qualification to our belts. After all you can never have too many! However, as we work at ePz towers full-time and both participate in various evening activities, we don't have much time to be heading off to evening classes or three-day courses that are often run in the week so we opted for a training course we could follow and complete in front of our PCs.
As with everything on the internet, there are various courses varying in length, style and price but the "new cutting edge photography course" by the Photography Institute, priced at £550, was the one that caught our eye.
The Photography Institute are accredited by different bodies in different countries. For example in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and Ireland they are accredited by the IARC. In the US and Canada they are accredited by the BBB.
The colourful images circling the front page are good enough to impress even the most advanced pro so someone who's new to photography must dance with excitement at the possibility that they'd be able to take images like that one day. Accompanying the eye-catching art work are the bullet points that give you the snap shot information you need to make the decision on if you want to read further. If you do, you'll find that the duration of the course is 24 weeks. However, this is only an estimate and if you need longer, you can have longer. They'll even try and get you an extension if you need more than a year to finish the 12 modules. Each module, which are written by freelance photographer George Spencer, comes with an assignment which you complete and submit online and it's marked by your own, personal tutor who you have access to 24 hours a day.
You don't need to be Bill Gates to be able to work your way through the course and if school built a life-long fear of exams into you you'll be happy to hear there are no formal examinations either.
Once you've signed up, you'll have access to the student area where you can access assignments, modules and the message area where you can leave notes for your tutor.
The modules are vast and once you've worked your way through all 12 you'll graduate the course and be eligible to receive your diploma.
So, the Photography Institute now has two new students who aim to have 12 modules read and the assignments completed in 12 weeks. How will we get on? Bookmark this page to follow our progress.
Module 1Part one of the Photography Institute course is all about cameras and lenses. The 67 page module starts with the very basics such as what's a DSLR and what types of lenses there are before moving onto what each type of lens is used for and why. Once you've worked your way through the text you come to the first assignment which gives you a list of ten photography scenarios you have to imagine you're going to photograph. You have to say what lens you'd use, why you'd use it and any other points you'd think about before taking the photograph. Once completed you submit the assignment online and bite your nails while you wait for your mark.
When I first downloaded the assignment the 67 page document was a little daunting. Especially as I'd have to sit at my computer and read it all! I have to be honest here and admit that I did skip the first few pages because I already had a rather good idea about what would be covered and I really didn't need to know what the author does and why. The rest of the document I did read, twice in fact, as I found it a little hard to absorb all of the information during the first go. If you don't have the time or attention span to read the course documents in one go don't worry as your tutor won't pressure you for your first assignment even if you've had the module papers open for a week.
Talking of the tutor, they are very helpful and if you have any questions, even something as small as what's the word count for the assignment, they respond promptly and thoroughly which is good to know.
I eventually made it to the end of the document and onto the assignment. If you're a complete beginner to photography I think you'd struggle with some of the answers for module one as the information in the PDF document isn't enough to help you fully complete the questions. It's understandable that you're not spoon-fed information but if you are doing the course as a way to 'start an exciting new hobby' as the homepage suggests you can, you may be left a little confused and searching the internet for help. But don't forget there is 24 hour student support so even though your tutor can't give you the answers they will assist you as much as they can.
Overall, the information supplied was useful and in depth however, you can find the same information in photography books. The assignment questions are interesting though and they will make you really think about what lens you'd use and why.
As I worked through the pages I did find my attention began to waver and it took a couple of reads to fully grasp the information given. If you're like me and you don't have a particularly long attention span when it comes to reading educational material you'll be happy to hear that due to the relaxed course finishing time you can walk away from the document, make a cup of tea and come back to it once you've given your mind something else to do for a while.
You'll be happy to hear the assignment only took around forty minutes to complete and the submission process online was very easy to follow. The assignment was marked and comments back with us the next day which was impressive. The comments weren't just 'great answer', 'good work' either. They were constructive and quite lengthy which is good to know when you're paying for a course where you don't actually meet your tutor.
The first module wasn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be but I think that's due to the made-up scenarios that I had to imagine I was part of. I did learn about lenses I've never used before and the questions really put me to the test!
I look forward to seeing what module two brings.
Module 2The next module takes a look at shutters, aperture, ISO and their relationship. The good news was the reduction in the number of pages from 67 to 56. It is worth mentioning that included the 56 pages are the assigment questions and a glossary of terms, so the actual number of pages of course material isn't quite as high as it first looks.
Included within the shutter section is a closer look at shutter types, stops and f/stops. The next section is Aperture/Shutter Speed Relationship, which includes reciprocity, depth of field, circles of confusion, sharpness, hyperfocal distance, SLR shooting modes (Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Programme Mode). The last section looks at putting it all together and previsualisation.
Nik's opinion:Once again there was plenty of information to work through and I needed to read it a couple of times to be able to absorb it all.
When it came to the assignment, actually getting out with the camera was much more enjoyable than sat at a desk answering questions about scenarios we had to imagine.
The way the four assignment questions focused on different aspects of photography (ISO, depth of field etc.) before asking you to take and submit a photograph meant that once you got to the final, picture taking stage you were in the right mind-set to tackle the task correctly.
It was quite easy to get carried away with taking photographs at this stage and quite a few were saved to the memory card before I remembered we only needed to submit one!
This module was much more enjoyable than the last and more like I'd expect modules on a photography course to be.
Bring on module three.
|Nik's submission - "As module two covered using depth of field I decided a chess board would be a great subject to demonstrate this in use."|
Dan's opinion:I started off by reading through the course material before looking at the questions in the assignment. There was a lot of information and it was difficult to take it all in.
Despite not feeling like I had particularly learnt much from the reading I decided to have a go at the questions. This involved looking at the effects of adjusting the aperture settings to change the depth of field, different ISO's and shutter speeds.
Although all four questions in the assignment required the use of a camera, it was only the last one that we had to submit an image for. This was my chance to demonstrate some of the new skills I had learnt.
This module was much more enjoyable and it was great that I was able to see what effect changing apertures, ISO's and shutter speeds had on my images. I read through the course material again and everything seemed much clearer and I was able to submit my answers with confidence.
Dan's submission - "I decided to use my new found knowledge to take an aerial shot of these flowers, changing the aperture to get all the flowers in focus."
Module 3When you reach module three there's a large opening section on light meters and metering then you venture through information on ISOs and grey cards before reaching the point where you need to get your camera out to learn about Dynamic Range. There's quite a bit of work that needs to be done for this assignment and you also need the weather to be on your side!
Nik's opinion:I have to admit I found the reading for this module a little boring and it wasn't one I could sit down and read in one go. Part one of the assignment was a little hard to grasp at first and as even light was needed, it was frustrating having to wait for the weather to change so I could complete part one. The later part of the assignment wasn't much better as a bright, sunny day was needed to complete it and as the British weather is unpredictable this again turned into a waiting game. However, even though some of my time was spent looking out of the window waiting for the right light, I do feel this module really does help you think about the way you take photographs and I'm sure the knowledge learnt will help further along in the course.
Dan's opinion:I found this module of the course quite tough and also a bit tedious and boring at times, but feel I have learnt lots about my camera.
To start with I didn't really understand what I was being asked to do. It was hard to find somewhere where the light was even to perform the tests required and for one of the questions we had to take pictures on a sunny day, so we had to wait a while. As we are in England, we could have potentially waited weeks for a sunny day!
Having now completed the module I now understand how changing the ISO and shutter speed affects the lighting in my picture and what I can do to change the effect of these. As well as this I have learnt the dynamic range of my camera at various different ISO's and whether my camera has a preference for the shade or the light.
Module 4This module was largely based around the history of photography, going back many years, talking about how the first cameras was invented, right through to the introduction of film and processes behind develping film and then looking at digital image capture. The last section looked at the Histogram which can be found on all modern digital cameras. The assignment behind this module was purely based on the histogram, using some of the knowledge learnt in the earlier modules.
Nik's opinion:When I began to read about the history of photography I was wondering if I'd have to sit a GCSE paper at the end! I didn't see why this was part of the module and after completing the assignment, which didn't mention anything about history, I'm still wondering the same thing. However, without the look into the past it would be a short module as it's about the histogram and the explanation for this doesn't need many pages.
As I knew what a histogram was and how to use it already I didn't feel I learnt that much from this module. However, I did enjoy getting outside and taking photographs as part of the assignment. It was also fun having to take an image badly and rescue it in Photoshop. I just hope the rest of the modules involve as much practical work as this one did.
Dan's opinion:Umm, I wasn't too impressed by the history lesson unfortunately, but I am sure it is of interest to some pupils. The histogram was the best part, as I had seen this on my camera, but didn't know what it was all about.
But anyway, I cracked on with the assignment. There were two questions this time, both involving taking pictures, so myself and Nik both set out one sunny afternoon to take some landscape pictures, with the aim of both purposely over and under exposing the pictures to see how this affected the histogram.
It was great to go out taking pictures, although due to time constraints, it wasn't an ideal time to go out. Still, I got the pictures I needed and headed back to the office. I had a play with my images in Photoshop and was amazed by how I could save my images, even though they were badly exposed.
Module 5Part five of the Photography Institute course is all about light and colour. The colour spectrum, colour temperatures and the development of colour theory starts the module. You then move onto the digital world and using Photoshop to finish. The assignment is all about adjusting images in Photoshop and in a RAW processor but you do get the chance to go out and take several photos for the module first.
Nik's opinion:If you're already know your way around Photoshop you'll probably find some of the reading in this module a bit pointless. You may also ask yourself why history is yet again covered early on in the material too. But don't let this put you off the rest of the document as there is quite a lot of useful material that would be good to keep for future reference. However, due to my prior Photoshop knowledge, I did find I didn't have to read the notes too carefully to be able to complete the tasks.
I did enjoy the module's assignment questions even though it didn't really involve much picture taking once again.
|Nikita's before and after shots for the black and white question.|
I'm not much of an expert when it comes to Photoshop so found this module quite tough. I found changing the varying settings on my raw files could get quite messy as I was trying to do too much to start with and quite often started again. With much persistance I came to a result I was happy with and submitted by pictures.
Part of the assignment was to change an image to black and white. I chose an image I had used in the previous module and my tutor claimed the image looked even better in black and white.
Yet again, there seemed to be a lot of reading, little of which was used in the assignment, but as with the previous modules, I can happily say I have further expanded my photographic knowledge.
Module 6Module 6 of the Photography Institute Photography Course is all about Lighting. There isn't as much reading for this module but still plenty to get your teeth into. Topics covered are the Sun, colour, artificial light sources, lighting oudoors, fill in flash, mirrors, and much more. The assignment for this module was to take a photo of man and one of a woman using artifical light and also natural light. You are free to be as creative as you want...
Nik's opinion:The reading was interesting however, I actually felt I learnt more from actually getting out there and playing with light than I did from the explanations offered. Also, I found looking through the ePz gallery more inspirational and helpful when trying to come up with ideas than the reading for the module! The task for this module was far more interesting though and once I got into it, I have to say, I really did enjoy it. I hope the assignment for module seven is just as interesting.
Here's one of the many shots I took of Dan in the studio:
I quite enjoyed the reading for this module but found that when it came to the assignment what I had read wasn't of much help.
At first I was a bit lost as to what to do, but myself and Nik had a good look through some of the portrait photos on ePHOTOzine and the creative juices were soon flowing.
In the end I had a lot of fun creating my pictures, especially using the lighting we had in the studio. My favourite shot was a very high-key portrait of our very own David. The outdoot shots weren't as easy to be creative with, but I used a reflector to ensure light got onto both sides of the models face and was happy with the result.
Module 7Module 7 of the Photography Institute Photography Course is titled How to Take Better Photos. The notes briefly covers the different commercial areas you can work in as a photographer before going on to discuss visualisation, the photo taking process and why it's important to be honest and critic your work. The whole module's aim is to get you thinking about working as a photographer and it guides you towards picking an idea/concept and educates you how to carry it through successfully.
Nik's opinion:I have to be honest here and admit that I opened the assignment and began thinking about how I could work on it before I even thought about reading the module notes. I did however, eventually sit down with the notes and work my way through them. Personally, they didn't help me with the assignment but the course notes do provide you with some useful tips and pieces advice such as getting your work looked at by someone in the industry and not just relying on friends on family's opinions.
The document had the feeling of a pep talk where you all stand up and applaud each other at the end for your positive thinking which may work for some but with comments such as: 'have courage' and 'believe in yourself'. I found it a little obvious and not really needed.
Overall, there are some very good tips in the document but they're surrounded by, what I feel to be, material that's not needed. But not everyone thinks like me and some will find the positive encouragement useful. Do you need the notes to complete the assignment? Probably not. But do read the document anyway as you will find several educating points that are worth noting down.
Dan's opinion:I agree with Nik, the notes weren't much help with the assignment. We had to recreate a picture taken by a photographer we admire the work of. I chose a portrait of Helena Christensen taken by Rankin, which I thought was quite simple... it wasn't. I think I would have benefited with some hands on help in this module and studying by this method just doesn't offer that possibility.
On the whole though, I enjoyed the experience of shooting some pictures in the studio and was pleased with what I managed to acheive. This module assignment certainly took the most thinking about and I still think about how I could have improved my image.
Module 8Module 8 of the course is all about Equipment & Software, starting with the most obvious... which type of camera to choose. The module then moves onto lenses, lighting equipment, computers and monitors, calibration devices, data storage, graphics tablets and then software such as Photoshop and Capture One. The information provided also offered suggestions of which brands to consider and where to purchase from.
The assignment was a written piece of work this time, requiring around 500 words. It asked you to talk about what equipment and software you think you would like/need to own to be able to work in you chosen field of photography.
Nik's opinion:I didn't really find this module interesting at all. Going through websites looking for kit I'd like to use but at the moment can't afford seemed a bit pointless. It took me a while to get going on this assignment as it wasn't one that grabbed my attention. However, I did manage to write plenty for the answer, too much I think! The module notes did have some useful pieces of information though and was well worth the half an hour or so it took to read them.
Dan's opinion:I quite enjoyed this assignment, despite the fact it involved writing 500 words. It was a bit like assembling your Fantasy Football Team, but using all the photographic camera equpiment and software available and putting together everything needed to help be a professional photographer in a chosen field. The assignment also asked you to justify each piece of equipment to the person who would scare you the most, i.e. the wife or bank manager!
There was lots of useful information packed into a fairly consise module. The assignment did take longer than some of the others as it required some research into various bits of equipment and software before I came up with my ultimate list.
Module 9This module was all about post production. It talks you through retouching, image resolution and printing. It does cover more than just Photoshop and gives you links where you can find more information or purchase the products. There's also a couple of step-by-step guides in the module notes which is nice to see as I've always found it's a great way to fully understand the points you're reading.
Nik's opinion:As I know my way around Photoshop quite well I found this module was too easy. Especially as most of it was about following instructions and looking at the results I got. It was a useful reminder of why some techniques should be used though and if you're new to Photoshop I think the tutorial would be very useful and well worth making a note of.
Dan's opinion:This module was quite an easy one, basically just following some simple instructions in Photoshop and commenting on the results. I particularly enjoyed the part of the module which covered sharpening and wish I had known this information a long time ago. I might have to go through my old photos and apply this technique as the results are excellent in the images I have sharpened so far.
Module 10This module is a very in depth look into studios. Points considered were studio size, colour, daylight, the floor, poly boards, sharing, working from home and hiring your studio out.
The assignment asked you to consider two scenarios, either you want a studio, so you have to think about what you'll need and have to consider when setting up a studio or you don't need a studio. This scenario means you have to discuss other areas such as where you'll work and how you'll get your name out there etc.
Nik's opinion:I have to admit I found this module a little boring as at the moment, I have no intentions of owning a studio. However, I am sure plenty of people who do go on this course will need a studio at some point and the questions asked may make them think carefully about the equipment they need. On the other hand it could also just let them get carried away with looking at kit they'd like to use but could never afford and this isn't a useful way of using their time.
Dan's opinion:The assignment was all writing which isn't as fun as taking pictures. Personally, I have no desire to set up a studio, unless I win the lottery. Plus, I have the added bonus that I can use the facilities at ePHOTOzine if I need to. So I went down the route of discussing what I would do as a sports photographer who is out and about all the time. I found motivation quite difficult in this one as it was mostly a fantasy situation that is unlikely to ever apply to me, but I'm sure there are plently of freelance photographers who will need their own studio, therefore this module will provide them with plenty of food for thought.
Module 11Module 11 is about getting you ready for the big world with advice on how to set up your business as well as more tips and questions that will help you focus on what area of photography you'd like to work in. Several photography subjects are looked at and there are some really aspirational shots used throughout the module notes. Some of the tips given you may have heard before but there are also a few little gems to be found in the text that are new and worth noting down.
As with all the modules there's a handy glossary at the back that further explains some of the phrases used.
Nik's opinion:As you can get out there and take photographs I really enjoyed this module. It's one that's quite easy to get carried away with and if you're not careful you can spend months collecting images you have to then sit down and pick just six from. It does give you the motivation to get our there and enjoy taking photographs, putting into practice all the tips you've picked up along the course.
Dan's opinion:I really enjoyed this module. I decided on building a portfolio of sports images which involved me contacting local clubs to take pictures of them in action.
I took my time over this module and visited a local sunday league football team, hockey team and even a swimming club. This was a really good experience and I was certainly proud of my images.
Module 12There is no assignment for module 12 although there are some tasks set for self-assessment with a time-scale of upto a year. The questions ask you to think about how you are going to approach your photography career over the next 12 months, setting goals and trying to achieve them.
VerdictSo Nik and Dan have completed and passed the Photography Institute course with overall scores of 104/110 and 96/110 respectively. Here is what they thought of the course overall:
Nik's verdictNow I've completed the course I am glad I continued with it to the end and enjoyed most of the modules on offer. I like the fact that you don't have a strict timetable so it fits in with your life quite nicely and having a tutor on hand all of the time was great. Most of the time I had a reply from my tutor on the same day if I had any problems and the advice they gave after submitting my answers was always useful and well worth reading. It's also very handy that you can keep the course notes for future reference.
However, I did find some of the modules a little boring at times and also found that what I read in the course notes didn't always help me answer the questions asked. The cost of the course also seems a little expensive at £500 as I do feel some of what's in the course notes could be picked up from reading photography books. But if you studied this way you wouldn't have a tutor who you could turn to for advice and receive feedback from. You may also lose motivation as you wouldn't have the same structure to follow and complete as you do on a course like this.
Overall I feel if you're someone who is thinking about stepping out into the professional photography world and like to have a structured but not so pressurised way of learning, than you should think about looking at this course.
Dan's verdictOverall I have enjoyed taking in part in the Photography Institute course. It took me approximately 6 months to complete, with one module taking about two months to shoot the images required to build a small portfolio. I found some of the reading could be quite dull at times as well as extremely time consuming and many of the assignment questions didn't truly reflect what was in the reading material. It is really good that you can download all the writing material as PDF's which can be kept for future reference and as there is so much content, this is certainly going to prove useful in the future.
The feedback given by my tutor was also extremely useful and this is personal to your level and area of photography and he was always on hand with any questions and problems which I had. The downside is that it costs £500 which is a lot of money to anyone, but if you are looking for a more structured way to learn and improve your photography skills with the aid of your own tutor then you may consider this a worthy investment.
ePHOTOzine would like to thank the following for their support during the course: