How A Photography Class Didn't Teach Me How To Be A Photographer
I got the bigger picture, and it wasn't pretty
There truly is something to say about the phrase A picture is worth 1000 words. In the process I've made in photography for the past eleven years, I've learned that photography is more then just clicking the shutter and capturing the image. I wanted to learn photography so I could have better quality photos to use for anime conventions and my cosplay photos. But as soon as I got that fujifilm camera in my hand, my whole perspective changed. I walked around my neighborhood testing out the camera, I loved how I saw the surroundings through my lens. I felt creative, and a new sense of wonder. Photography gave me that feeling I never had to truly see the world around me.
We live in a day and age where it’s so easy to take a picture, capture the memory whether it's a good memory or a bad memory. The picture means something specifically to someone. To be able to learn photography only enhances the meaning of that picture because someone saw something and captured it in a way to express what that means. Everyone's picture is different in any way they choose to capture the picture.
I'm a photographer, not a professional one, I don't plan on making a career out it. I've expanded my knowledge to create unique photos for my own creative satisfaction. There is some techniques I follow, and some I just follow my own rules.
There are roughly a thousand words and a thousand tries I've done to get to where I am in photography, But if there is one part I didn't like, it was a photography class that I took in my last year of high school. It was the first time I willingly took a class to learn about something I'm passionate about. I was challenged mentally and creatively to keep up with the hobby despite what happened.
A Photography class was the worst decision I made as a photographer
When I wanted to take photography as a serious interest for my own benefit. Opportunity came up in my elective selection in high school for my classes in 11th grade.
I applied for the class, and then I was informed that there were too many submissions, there was a limited amount of people for this class. It was between me and another student and only one could take the spot, It was like Game of Thrones, but in this case it wasn't a throne and defiantly no violence to get that spot. I was hanging on for as long as I possibly could. We were neck to neck in the race for the spot, thinking other person would tap out and drop the spot. As the 10th grade year came to a close, time was ticking and I had to have my electives in for 11th grade. I took the high road, and I stepped down to let the other guy have the class. It would be fine and I would find something else. It turns out it was for the best because I ended up talking with a friend of mine that was also going through an elective change, what a coincidence!
She told me about the class she was signing up for called "evolution of the cinema" which became the class I took for my 11th grade elective. It worked out perfectly because I’m a movie fan, and then I would get the chance next year to get in earlier to apply for the photography. Then by the time the electives came up near the end of the 11th grade, I didn't hesitate to get my submission in for the photography class. I signed up, I got my schedule in the summer, and I got my fujifilm camera ready for the class. It was the first time I actually found a class that had to do with a hobby I had. I was excited to have this opportunity, and actually look forward to a class at school!...
-And then it was a total, utter, disappointing choice that I ever made in school.
There are moments in life where we fight for what we want for ourselves, only to find out that the fight was absolutely a waste of effort. So for two years it was very disheartening to know that this was what I was waiting for.
The First Couple Classes
When I walked into the classroom, I couldn't believe that I was getting the opportunity I waited for. I had my Fujifilm camera in my mom's blue camera bag. I couldn't wait to ask any other classmates about their cameras, or just get to make friends in photography. I had all these sweet scenarios about getting to do photography projects with other classmates. I had all of this ambition and pluckiness.
My teacher introduced Photography as "Drawing With Light". We were told about how the class would work, that it would dive into taking photos and then editing photos in Photoshop. I had some experience with editing photos from Microsoft Digital Image Pro, so I felt I had some confidence that I could understand the technical portion of the subject in Photography.
Our first assignment had to do with how we were told what the definition of photography was. To go outside with a piece of paper that would transfer light from the sun and put an item on the paper for a couple minutes to see how that shadow of the item transferred on the paper.
Another assignment we had was to take an index card with the rectangle cut out of the middle to be "the camera". We had to draw what we saw through the piece of paper to get the sense of how to see the world through the lens before getting to take a picture. That part was great to appreciate see the surroundings, take it in, and then go behind the camera and capture the shot.
During the first couple of days of photography class, I tried to reach out to my classmates because I was interested in what they had in photography. I could tell immediately from the classmates I talked to that were not interested to talk to me in photography, or talk to me in general. They were there for their own reason, and wanted to hang out with they wanted to hang out with. It was like a repeat of history. The way I was feeling in that class, was the same way I felt the same way I did on my first days of Kindergarten. Confused and very lonely.
All of that pluck and determination, it disappeared in the first couple of weeks. I just wanted to do my work and leave the classroom.
The basics were taught to the class, we the learned the history, saw some creative projects. Then it was time for the photoshop portion, which took over for the rest of the year. They should have just called the class "Photography class that is actually photoshop because we didn't think to actually just call it Photoshop class". It was about 95% Photoshop, and the only time pictures were taken was only for editing. I was really hoping that there would be more photography, that's the name of the class!
NOW, before anyone comes after me, I do know that photo editing is essential for photography, I mentioned earlier in the article that I did use a basic photo editor for some of my photos. Photo editing is important whether it's for business or personal artistry. But here's the thing- hear me out as I type this up. I didn't know what I was getting into, the bio explanation was vague and kept out the detail about photoshop until I learned it on the first day of school. If the class description said, "This is a class that includes photoshop". Then I would be a little more prepared to know that what I wanted wasn't going to be the main focus. What I wanted had to do with the cameras, knowing how they work, and how to take different angles. We did go outside or go around the school and take pictures to use for Photoshop. But it was still taking photos to edit and not just taking photos to enjoy having a picture with absolutely no edits to it. That was also what I wanted.
The only credit that I will give is it did make me learn one thing that I still do as a photographer, the birds-eye view and the worms-eye view. That tactic did-and still does-serve me in my use as a photographer. This piece of information is the only piece of valuable information I got from the class.
Now despite my complaints about the class, I will admit I did like a few of the assignments I did with the photoshop program.
There were some interesting creations to make by doing things with pop art or collages, and there was some thing to learn. When it comes to art I had to learn that there can’t be too much pickiness because of having to know every part of the criteria to fully learn about the pursued subject for personal gain. With photography in this day and age, it had to be apart of the learning process. But when you go into doing some thing, you wanna put your whole heart into it, and didn't have a lot of heart going into my projects. I didn't understand Photoshop like the rest of my classmates that excelled in that technical portion. I put some of my interests into my projects for my own amusement to get through the assignments, it was awful that I didn't like most of what I was creating.
By all means, it didn't ruin photography for me, I wasn't going to let one class take away the love I have for taking photos. It was just one year I had to get through, In a weird reverse of events, I even fought to get out of that class I did feel like I couldn't talk about it with my classmates or even my teacher. Let me get into that part next.
My teacher was at wits end with me, she had helped me when I asked. She had to go through the process twice with me. Any time that there was a new part to learn in photoshop, I would be grateful for the help and shameful that I couldn't keep up.
She skipped me in the presentations of the Photoshop projects.
How I knew this was one day in class, I was placed last. I noticed how everyone else was going but I hadn't had my turn yet. Then right when it was my turn, I was ready to see my assignment on the projector, and then my teacher said, "Ok, that's all of them". I raised my hand to point out how I didn't go, and the teacher would pull up my project for me to explain my vision and reasoning, then she would move on. The next time we had presentations, I had wondered, maybe it was just a fluke? Maybe she didn't mean to skip me. The thought never came to me at the time that she did it deliberately, I didn't want to assume a teacher would do that to a student.
The next time there was a class presentation, I waited just like everyone else to see if she would pull up my project to present, only to see she did the same thing again. Everyone else got to go but me, I stayed quiet because in that moment I thought I would have been proven wrong that it wasn't on purpose.
Looking back on it, it was just an assignment and she was the one that decided to dismiss my project of predetermined judgement and not show it to the class. I wasn't going to waste my breath again and ask the teacher to let me present my project when she is supposed to share every students projects, not snub some students projects. It wasn't my job to tell her that she wasn't being fair to me, teachers are supposed to give a fair shot to all their students, it just showed me that not all teachers are like that.
After that happened, I didn't have to prove anything to that teacher, nor did I want to, and she didn't want to know what I could do either.
This last moment I'll talk about, I will never forget this for as long as I live, and even though I have forgiven the moment it’s still a moment with a minor sting now and then. The day of my high school graduation, I was waiting in line with the rest of my classmates to go into the auditorium to be seated for the ceremony. Teachers were coming down the hall to say hello, goodbye, and good luck to all the students. Then I see my photography teacher, I was actually excited to see her, all my resentment was gone, and I just wanted to enjoy the last moment I would see my teacher.
As she was coming down the aisle, I smiled and called out her name. I watched as this woman pulled her lips in because she did not want to smile at me. She narrowed her eyes down to the ground, avoiding all eye contact with me as she walked past me, never said hello or goodbye. I knew she didn't like me, but to carry that resentment of me on graduation day? Even to the last day, she did not want to be amicable or fake being amicable because it would be the last time we would see each other. It was an awful thing to have to do to a student even on graduation day. But people are people, not everyone is going to like everyone. Taking out the whole context of student and teacher, we were both individual people and her being an individual person. She didn’t have to like me, I was just another student that she would never think about again for the rest of her life, and I am pretty sure she is very happy to forget about me and that’s OK. I was a very difficult student to have to teach because I couldn’t understand it and she tried everything she could to teach me it just was a bad match for a class. It’s understandable that not all teachers are going to Love or have a special significance to a certain student that excelled in the subject. There are some teachers that just get frustrated with a certain student, And that’s understandable because teachers are human too and they have a certain limitation on patience just like everyone else does.
I am grateful for what I learned, the experience wasn't great in class, but it was a lesson taught to me about being prepared that the subject I want to pursue. Most classes are just like any classes, it's going have material that will not be unlike anything that was expected. I never lost my drive for photography, and I still use those tactics to this day.
The class wasn't everything I thought it would be, if there is anything to look back on for that time of that mess of a time in an elective class. I hope that other student who didn't want to give up the spot back in 10th grade enjoyed the class more then I did.