Musings, Photography

Thinking about an approach to teaching Digital Photography

It’s a funny thing, digital photography, in this day and age it has both adherents and detractors, and nowhere more so than in the area of photographic instruction.I recently did a search for curriculum documents for digital photography. One result returned the following, “Please note that digital photography will neither be covered, nor allowed in this course.” [American School Foundation of Monterey – Photography 10-12] whilst in contrast, another offered a full Diploma, “Diploma In Digital Photography And Digital Graphics (DV)/. First Year/ …” .

When it come to existing lesson plans, again there is an all or none division to the field. Now, why am I focused on this? Well because through the use of this blog, I intend to provide some background resources and readings for those who ask me, from time to time, to teach them a bit about modern, digital photography.

Currently on the web there are lots of cool and interesting sites that provide juicy titbits about going digital or making the most of it. Even here on Picture Social, via another blog is a link to Taking Manual Control Over Your Digital Camera.

However, I’m not interested in pinching content but directing others to examine the content and then to pursue a dialogue about digital photography here. It is through this dialogue and exchange of ideas that people learn and develop their skills and the mechanism for guiding such skill development.

Looking back over some of my books, yes I still use analogue reading matter, by authors such as Hedgecoe, Calder & Garrett, Beal, Busselle, Heller and others is that they are primarily grounded in the Silver Gelatine process, and this process shapes the mental paradigm that defines “photography.” As such, digital photography comes off as a facsimile of the real thing. Consequently, all comparisons and drivers of perceived quality find, by one route or another, an inevitable comparison to its film predecessor.

Film management, darkroom techniques, chemistry, silver recovery and waste disposal management have no place in modern, digital photography yet the process from image capture to final sharing of the image was intimately tied to this backbone. what is needed for teaching digital photography is an entirely new skeleton, a basis on which to map out each stage in the image creation process. A new foundation on which to build the definitions, expectations and quality criteria essential for the understanding, appreciation and quantification of what is digital photography.

Film is in its winter years, and while it may not die altogether, it’s relevance in shaping the visual aesthetic of present and future generations is rapidly losing the monopoly it once held. Digital, though still yet to glimpse a view of some halcyon future, is, at an exponential rate, taking fast grip of the imaginations of masses, a fluid, dynamic, instantaneous feedback, grip on the minds of the people.

If we, as proponents of photography, are to in any way shape the thoughts and skills development of future photographers so that they might strive to become master craftsmen of this art called photography, then we need to start now, stripping the shackles of the past from our definitions, performance measures, curriculum, and lesson strategies, so as future generations of photographers are not unduly burdened with increasingly irrelevant ghosts of the past.

What should be part of a modern digital photography curriculum? What are the levels of performance, categorisations of photographic users? What information would be deemed essential for each category? These are some of the questions I’m wrestling with as I review the skills that I may need to teach to those who seek my advice, knowledge and help to improve their skills.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and invite you to join this dialogue. Drop by from time to time, and feel free to engage.

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Line of Sight