BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Susan M. Carter

Choosing a course

Like some others, I am a bit overwhelmed by the number of choices and need a little help deciding. I've browsed the course categories and gone through the CourseFinder but I'm not really any closer.

Many years ago I had an OM-1 and developed B&W film but I haven't done any photography beyond point and shoot in a very long time. I am new to digital photography but I am a software developer with some Fireworks experience, so I am familiar with basic things like layers, saturation, unsharp mask, etc. I am still finding my way around a dSLR (a lot more settings than an OM-1!) but feel pretty comfortable about spending 'quality' time with the owner's manual.

I am probably weakest when it comes to composition, lighting or artistic flair. Mainly I want to photograph horses, particularly in motion but also posed, as well as other animals, domestic and wild, and nature.

What skill level would I fit in? 2? What would be more appropriate, something from the Digital Track like Digital Workout #1? Or something from Composition like Impact in Your Photos? Or is this the wrong level for me entirely?

As you can probably imagine I don't want to cover topics I understand such as basic depth of field, but nor do I want to be with a group of fledgling Ansel Adams! I already feel intimidated when I see some of the fabulous photos people post here.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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5/30/2007 7:21:04 PM

Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2005
  A mid level course on composition should be fine for you. If you don't understand anything, you can ask, or just do some research online.

ScrattyPhotography Blog

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5/30/2007 7:49:58 PM

Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  From the perspective of an instructor, many levels of students come to any particular course. I try to cater to more than just the narrow level I have listed by adding sidebars to the lessons that address varying levels. But the real area of betterphoto courses where your personal needs are addressed is in one-on-one interaction--both with the instructor and with other students in the course. This makes a course essentially customizable in that you can ask questions specific to your needs and interests. Students who are more advanced and familiar with online courses may jump into the discussions to share their experience along with the instructor.

From what you describe it seems to me that you have identified yourself well as far as skill level. You should use that as a general guide. Jim Zuckerman does have a How to Photograph Animals & Wildlife course that specifically says it is open to all levels though it is listed as level 3. It may be close to your interests. As far as photographing horses, I know Greg Georges shoots equestrian events and he teaches Photographing Fast-Action Sports. The course may not be a perfect fit to your description, but the interaction may be valuable and it is a 4 week instead of an 8 week course.

If you haven't yet, you might want to try a sample course first, just to see how it works.

Of course, if you are interested in improving your images after you shoot them, there are always my courses ;-)

Instructors do not mind you using the Contact feature on their galleries, so feel free to use that to contact instructors with questions about the course before you sign up. Most questions should be answered by the descriptions though.

I hope that helps!

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5/31/2007 6:15:26 AM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Susan and welcome to BP! I am finishing up my 7th BP class and can say, from my experience, that the classes here are first rate. Like you, my area of photographic passion is nature and wildlife. I also have horses and enjoy photographing them both in action and while quietly grazing. You already know that you need to study your camera manual and get a good understanding of each control. This you can do with the manual.

My first composition class was Kerry Drager’s Creative Light and Composition class. While the class did not focus on wildlife, the focus is heavy on nature and much of what you will learn can be used in your effort to capture images of horses. I found Kerry to be a terrific and inspiring teacher who provided lots of support and helpful advice to students. The second composition class I took was with Brenda Tharp, Creating Visual Impact. Personally, I would suggest doing Kerry’s class first and going on to Brenda’s. This is because, at least in my experience, what you learn from Kerry will prepare you to learn even more with Brenda. Brenda is an amazing photographer and terrific teacher. I learned a lot in her class and found that all of it, nature or not, applies to most of my images. Last summer I took Jennifer Wu’s Nature and Landscape Composition class. This was another good class that helped me build on skills learned in the other classes. I am currently completing an 8-week class with Tony Sweet on Reveling your Personal Vision. Tony is an inspiring teacher who has really pushed me into new avenues of seeing and shooting. I would not recommend his class until you have developed some of the basics of composition.

I keep looking at Jim Zuckerman’s class on photographing animals and wildlife and would, sometime, like to take this class. He is another amazing photographer and, at least according to some other students, an inspiring and helpful teacher. Personally, I would love to see BP add a class on photographing birds, but …

Good luck picking a class and if you have any specific questions about the classes I have taken, feel free to e-mail me direct.


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5/31/2007 6:53:03 AM

Susan M. Carter   Irene, Richard, Ariel, thanks so much for the input.

I saw the description for How to Photograph Animals & Wildlife and was immediately drawn to it, but thought that I would get more out of it after improving my basics. The fact that Greg Georges shoots equestrian events is a definite plus and his class will go on my short list of courses. I had to smile at part of the first assignment to submit, "a photograph that is not quite right, but one that you would have loved to have gotten right." I've got lots of those. Creative Light and Composition was one of the first I had initially identified along with Impact in Your Photos, it sounds like a great place to start.

Richard, after I get rolling I probably will enroll in one of your Photoshop classes. Of course I have to actually buy PS first. :)

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5/31/2007 4:35:54 PM

Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  "Of course I have to actually buy PS first. :)"

Just to beginner course can be completed using Adobe's trial version. It lasts just 30 days and that is perfect for the course and to see if you enjoy it as an editor.

ALSO...I am rewriting all my courses to serve both Photoshop and Elements users. That is, you can use Elements or Photoshop in the course...and considering Elements is 1/10th the price it is often far easier to budget.

When you said "I am familiar with basic things like layers, saturation, unsharp mask, etc." I was assuming you used Photoshop or Elements in addition to Fireworks. I've not used Fireworks for a long time, and I don't remember that it had those (version 1). I found it intreguing...I believe you could adjust vectors with brushes, which was an interesting feature...

I'm sure you'll be satsified with whatever course you take!

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6/1/2007 8:59:19 AM

Susan M. Carter   I've got Fireworks MX (version 6), which is itself fairly old, and it has layers, masking, brightness, contrast, curves, hue, saturation, levels (RBG or separate red, blue or green), inversion, grey scale, sepia, blur, Gaussian blur, sharpen, unsharp, burn, dodge and more. It can accept Photoshop plug ins. Plus it has the vector editing. Since Adobe bought Macromedia, I suspect support for Fireworks may be slowly phased out, which is a shame because it was a really nice, reasonably priced, web development tool.

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6/1/2007 5:34:21 PM

Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  Adobe doesn't have a tool quote like Fireworks, unless you count Image Ready (which is really a sub-product packaged with Photoshop), and Fireworks CS3 is available...I don't think they would have included it in the CS3 releases if they were planing to phase it out. They also have it as a component of their web edition suite.

I wouldn't give up on it yet!

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6/2/2007 2:44:33 AM

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