The settings available on a camera have always intimidated me. I love taking photos, and am often designated (sometimes it is a self-designation) as the trip “historian” when I travel with friends and family. But there is definitely a difference between a passion for photography and the skill to do it.
Last year, I bought my first DSLR camera. And then proceeded to use it permanently set to the “auto” mode. Every month or so, for the first eight months of ownership, I would get online and reach articles and watch videos about “how to use a DSLR,” but nothing was really connecting with me. I had always wanted to take the photography class at the Arkansas Arts Center, but the schedule never jived with my work life and my life life. Until I decided to go work as a freelancer and I controlled my schedule!
I signed up for an eight-week “Fundamentals of Digital SLR Photography (Photo I)” taught by Bryan Clifton on Tuesday mornings at 10 AM. It felt incredibly indulgent to be able to go to a class in the middle of the work day and the middle of the work week, but I justified it by reminding myself that photography is a skill that applies to my work as a content producer for clients’ websites and social media profiles.
Because this class was hands-on with a small class of diverse individuals, it was perfect for me to take the time to learn and get familiar with my camera. Bryan never made any of us feel stupid for not understanding basic principles or asking questions more than once. We had classroom time and we had field trip time. We had “homework” each week and would share our pictures in each class and discuss what we did “right” and “wrong,” and every shot was a learning opportunity. The learning was at a comfortable pace and our class — as a group — enjoyed it so much, almost all of us signed up for the “Photo II” class for the next eight-week session available at the Arkansas Arts Center.
Am I better photographer after four months of photography classes? Yes. Am I a professional photographer? Absolutely not. But I feel like I know how to use the features on my camera and I am more comfortable experimenting and continuing to learn. And of course, I now what to be able to do more than my one year-old Nikon D5300 can do, so I have already sold that and am saving my pennies to trade up to the Fuji X-T2 soon!
Here are a few of my favorite shots taken during the 16 weeks of photography classes: