Hello! My name is Heather Liebler, and I'm Bubby and Bean's featured sponsor for the month of January. I am also a photographer, mom, wife, chauffeur, first aid expert, cook, yogi wanna-be and as two weeks ago, photography teacher. I am teaching a class for parents/adults at our local YMCA about composition. Not necessarily how to use your camera - more how to compose a picture and be able to get the image in your head to an image printed on paper. I have five students ranging from young mom to "retired Jack" and a few in between. Through teaching this class, I learned some of my own lesson about the basics of teaching: mainly to never assume anything!
Having been at this whole photography thing for awhile, I learned to take photos on a manual film Canon camera many moons ago. The great thing about film is that you can't really set it to automatic, because even if your camera has this option, it isn’t very refined. And film and developing is expensive, so you need to have the basics under your belt to get the shot you want. OH, and you don’t know if you got the shot until you schlep yourself down to drop off the film and then go back again to pick it up about a week later (unless you begged or promised favors to the kid running the darkroom). There's a lot to it.
So all that is to say, I decided to teach the "back to basics/need to know" class. In my opinion, that included aperture or f-stop, ISO and shutter speed. If you have those down, you can take the image that you intended to take WHEN you intended to take it. We had a great first class. I talked about the three basics of all images, then sent my students off into the world to test out their knowledge, requesting that they send me their images by Sunday night so we could go over them on Wednesday at the next class.
On Saturday morning, I started receiving panicked emails, ranging from "I don’t think this is right..." to "I hate aperture!" So I decided that we would set up a little still-life hands-on exercise for the first half of the next class. Their assignment was to use aperture to manipulate depth of field. The smaller the aperture opening, the greater your depth of field, and the larger the aperture opening, the lesser your depth of field. It sound straight forward, right?! Well, this morning we talked about the assignment, and all of my students had at least one particular area that they just couldn’t accomplish. One student kept saying, "I can’t get it to focus on the part of the image that you are talking about!" Finally I had them all take their cameras off of auto-focus (I just heard you gasp! I promise, it is possible!), and manually tweak their focus to the area they wanted. I was still getting blank faces and frustrated sighs. As I watched this student "manually focus," I took a deep breath, and realized that she had no idea how that you could truly focus your lens yourself. Then I realized that everyone else in the class had no idea either!
Right then I learned a valuable lesson - you should never assume that something is "known" just because you know it. I realized that it's important to risk offending to be sure that others know what they are doing - especially if you are teaching! So I reworked things a little. And I’m very happy to report that ALL of my students now understand manipulation of their apertures to help them achieve the looks they are going for! By teaching this class, I was able to learn something myself.
Before I go, here is a quick, basic DIY tip in photography for all of you. Set your camera to A (it stands for aperture priority, not automatic). Aperture is the size of the hole in your lens when you take a picture. The bigger the hole, the smaller your depth of field (the area in focus) and the more blur you will have to the area not in focus. The smaller the hole, the greater the depth of field or area in focus. The camera will set your ISO and your shutter speed for the optimum exposure. Then go out and take ten pictures of something you’ve never seen before, placing each object anywhere in the frame EXCEPT the center. It’s always more fun to shoot with a purpose that is not just to record a vacation. If you do this, I'd love to see what you come up with! I've also included some of my photographs throughout this post to help to inspire your creativity...
Heather Liebler Photography. Her photographs are so striking, and the places and things she's shot are really incredible. If you see something you like, she is generously offering Bubby and Bean readers a special discount of 20% off with the code BUBBYANDBEAN! You can also find Heather on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.