Saturday, June 20, 2009

How to Become a Better Photographist

Remember back on the Ultimate Scrapbook Cruise when I won a spot in Karen Russell's Photographer's Workshop? I am now a proud graduate of the class, and I can say enthusiastically that it is worth every penny of the tuition (that I blessedly did not have to pay). The class was everything that I had hoped for and more. If you're not familiar with Karen, she is a past Creating Keepsakes Hall of Fame winner, designer of the fabulous Narratives line of scrapbook products (although she has now sadly retired as a product designer), and an amazingly talented photographer. She shares glimpses into her beautiful life on her blog, Snapshots of a Good Life.

Karen has said that she spent seven months working 50-60 hours a week preparing The Photographer's Workshop before welcoming the first student, and it shows. The course and the website are thorough and well thought out, and Karen responds quickly and graciously to questions posted on the message board. Probably because she is largely a self-taught photographer, Karen explains the technical aspects of photography in terms that even beginners can easily understand. She is funny and real, and offers constructive criticism while encouraging every student. The random photos in this post were all taken as part of my assignments, and every time I would pull out the camera, my kids would ask, "Is this part of your homework?" When I told them that I was finished with the class, Annamarie said, "So now you are a photographist like Karen Russell?"

I highly recommend The Photographer's Workshop to anyone who wants to become more skilled at capturing the beauty of everyday life in photos. It is probably not the right class for people who want to become studio or landscape photographers, and it does not cover photo editing. The course is designed to get participants taking better photos straight out of the camera (all photos in this post are editing other than minor cropping). The waiting list is huge, but it is worth the wait.

So what did I personally learn? Much of the information in the class was a refresher for me, which is always a good thing. Karen's explanation of the exposure triangle (the relationship between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture) was great. I discovered that I just may not be able to overcome my biggest weakness as a photographer, which is my inability to move myself around easily to get the best shots. I thought a lot about that, and on our Disney trip I would often set the camera up for a shot and then hand the camera to Ron, and tell him where to take the photo from. I might have to share credit for the resulting fabulous photo, but at least it will have been captured. (I did suffer one mini-stroke when I handed him the camera and he said, "I'm just going to switch it to Auto to make it easier.")

Just one more comment: Over the last ten years, I have taken a lot of classes with "celebrity" scrapbookers, and while I've enjoyed them all, I have often been disappointed by how thoroughly the instructors had bought into the notion of their own fame. That's all I'm going to say about that, but as a long-time reader of Karen's blog, I was really hoping that she would be as genuine in real life, and she could not have been sweeter when we met. She didn't treat me like a weird stalker at all. :) Also, I feel better about things after taking the class with some awesome ladies who are even worse Karen-stalkers than I am.

1 comment:

Karen Russell said...

Ok, so I'm just now seeing this Cyndi but I'm so glad I did.

Loved having you in class and I so appreciate all your kind words and feedback - you're the best and those photos are fantastic!