Posted by: David Vernon | October 23, 2008

Learning, Training, Education – Oh My!

The Tree 44So here’s my first blatant attempt at comment fishing on this blog. Bear with me.

A few months ago we started revamping the curriculum at the Peoria Art Guild when it came to photography classes. The current “Intro” class introduces about a half-dozen post-processing tips and tricks: adjusting levels, color correction, portraiture retouching tips, etc. – but we don’t get very deep. On purpose.

Jeff McSweeney teaches a more advanced Photoshop-oriented class for the Guild but really we don’t have anything to fill the gap between our intro and his complexity. That’s where we’ve come up with a Camera to Computer class that focuses on getting students experience with more then the basics. I’m working on a creating that specific curriculum but I’m struggling with two things.

First – I think I want to avoid getting specific to one piece of software. I think I want to teach concepts that are universally workable in almost any imaging program, be it Elements, Lightroom, Photoshop, or *gasp* some non-Adobe product. I think it’s a better idea then say teaching a “Lightroom” class or an “Elements” class. Is that a good idea?

Secondly, this would probably be about a 20-hour class. I’ve come up with a lot of topics, listed below. What do you think are good topics? What do you think is definitely a more advanced topic? Here’s the list:

  • Camera Raw
  • Image, Canvas Size – Resizing
  • Layers / Adjustment Layers
  • Masking
  • Selections
  • Levels
  • Curves
  • Saturation
  • Shadows and Highlights
  • Blurring/Vignettes
  • Blend Modes
  • Color Correction
  • Black and White Conversions
  • Filters
  • Noise Reduction
  • Sharpening
  • Image Cleanup: Healing/Cloning
  • Transform / Free Transform
  • Adding Text to Images

It’s a lot – and it’s certainly a lot for 20 hours… What do you think?

I also had another photo instructor ask me my opinion of good introductory books – not about post-processing, but about photography in general. I advised she look at Scott Kelby’s two volume Introdcution to Digital Photogtraphy, Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure” (and Understanding Shutter Speed) tomes, and Rick Sammon’s “Complete Guild to Digital Photography books. What books matter to you?

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Scott Kelby’s website – a great place for video classes – particularly on post-processing – but there’s more out there. There’s also the outstanding training site – which Adobe considers their official site for training – a little pricey but outstanding instruction. Where do you go on the Internet to educate yourself on photography?

Never stop learning. Never stop challenging yourself.


  1. Selections, levels, curves, etc – might be considered advanced topics. Something a beginner might also be interested in is organizing, tagging, dating, searching … the thousands of pictures that eventually collect on your hard drive. And maybe even discussion of archiving them. Im really wishing I took more time in the beginning with organizing. Now I look at the mass pile Ive accumulated and can only shake my head. I dont know how or where to start.

  2. Talk about setting your goals high for the 20 hour intermediate course!

    I’ll begin by saying I think all of the topics you listed are definitely good and I know people would sign up for something like this.

    My comments/questions are as follows:

    – You have 19 topics listed and 20 hours of course planned. My concern would be some of the tougher concepts like Masks and/or Layer Adjustments to just name two might eat up more of your time then you think. I might remove a few topics(transform, resize and maybe sharpening) just to be on the safe side and have a couple of the dropped ones in reserve to fill in if need be.

    – The advanced topics from my perspective are Masking, Layer Adjustments, Camera Raw, and Blend Modes. Depending on how deep you go the Selection topic could also bump into that realm.

    I would still do all of those “advanced” topics you are suggesting however since chances are you will have some people who may be more advanced and want to stretch their boundries.

    – The only part that I have trouble with is a decision to be software agnostic.

    Someone might be disappointed if their software is different then what you use for your examples.

    For that reason I might put in the course advertisements/curriculum, “The instructor will use software x,y, & z to illustrate key principals.” or something like that.

    Along that same realm… If you are being software agnostic Curves may not be a good topic since from an Elements 6 and earlier perspective there isn’t a curves option. I don’t know if Paintshop Pro has it either.


    As for the books I loved the Understanding Exposure book. Even though I understand exposure I learned a lot. One of the key concepts for me was there is more then one correct exposure for any shot. It’s one of those, “I knew that!! So why haven’t I been thinking that way!” moments.

  3. I would love to see a class that is almost the same post-processing that you run through day-to-day much like Kelby’s 7 Step book. This way you get a very repetitive and functional class that focuses on the steps. I’m often confused in my head whether I want to start with levels, then saturation, then contrast, or any other combinations.

    Also, I think a bit more time spent on color balancing would be quite effective. How to color correct/balance in RAW and JPEG effectively, etc. Another topic of interest to someone just “starting” out might be how to do some of the photographic filtering and editing that produces certain photos. There are definitely some styles of photos out there that I am always wondering how they either shot or edited in post. An analysis of these photos would be interest and then maybe students could point out images they want to know how they were created and there could be discussion and “diagnosis” as to how the image was created.

    Also, how do camera filters actually work on the images you are shooting ie. using a polarizer for better contrasts in skies and for reflections. I know it took me a bit to get used to my polarizer and when and when not to use my ND filter.

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