Besides techniques and elements of design, intent is extremely important when photographing a building. As students look at photographs from their specific neighborhoods we will discuss what it is the artist wanted to capture about the building -- why is it important to the neighborhood? If it is important as an architectural structure, how can they capture that on the camera? If it is important as a meeting place for residents of the neighborhood, should there be people in the image as well? What angles best capture buildings? They will need to determine what makes one photograph more interesting than another. They will need to look at how viewpoint, perspective and what is actually included in the frame can drastically change the message that an image is sending. Students will compare a variety of different photographs in order to do this.
After looking at many images taken of New Haven and discussing composition, students should have a good idea of what makes a photograph successful and also the idea that photographers usually take a photograph with an idea in mind. Knowing that, students will begin using digital cameras to take photographs of the neighborhood they are exploring. They will take “candid” shots of the neighborhood, as well as shots of specific sites they have deemed important within the neighborhood.
We will start by learning to use the digital camera. Our school is lucky to have five digital cameras at our disposal, which is very convenient -- one for each group. First students will learn the basics of using the digital camera. I expect most of them to be familiar with using a digital camera already. They will learn how to turn the camera on, how to take a shot, how to erase individual pictures, and also about the different settings for picture quality. Many students when they use a camera simply set the camera on the setting which provides them with the most memory, or the largest number of images the camera can hold. Because students will already be familiar with Photoshop we will try taking a photograph at each setting, look at it in Photoshop, and then look at its print quality. I want students to understand that the higher the dpi (pixels per inch) they use to take a photograph the more memory the photograph will take up, however the image will be of a much higher quality.
After completing this unit students will understand and be able to take photographs with a digital camera, transfer them to the computer, touch them up in Photoshop and print them successfully. Once students have learned to use the digital cameras, they will go on photo shoots. They will need to determine beforehand what they want their photographs to say about the place or person they are shooting as a subject. We will discuss as a class that photographs best convey the message they are trying to send about the person or place. In order to take successful photographs students will need to understand the essence behind the people and will have to then capture those things on film.
I also have a small dark room and a limited number of manual cameras. If time and space allow I would like students to be able to have the experience of developing their own images to gain an appreciation of the precursor to digital cameras.
Students will go out in groups to shoot their neighborhood, sharing the camera. They will become each other’s photo editors. They will learn to print out contact sheets, which allow you to see smaller versions of all of the images you are interested in printing. This will allow them to compare photographs easily to see which ones best capture the subject.