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Digital Photography 1a: Introduction

Have you wondered how professional photographers manage to capture that perfect image? Gain a better understanding of photography by exploring camera functions and the elements of composition while putting theory into practice by taking your own spectacular shots! Learn how to display your work for exhibitions and develop skills important for a career as a photographer.

Review Course Outline

Units at a Glance

Unit 1: Taking The First Shot

Welcome to the digital age of information and photography! This recent growth in technology has obviously changed our lives in many ways, and the realm of photography is no exception. While digital photography shares many characteristics with the traditional artform, digitization of the equipment, the process, and the products related to photography have been positively earth-shattering for expert and amateur photographers alike. With these rapidly advancing abilities, photographers have drastically changed the way they document the many things they see, incorporating significantly more convenience, ease, and efficacy. So get ready! Now you, too, can be a part of the digital photography wave, changing the visual world in colorful, innovative ways.

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Identify and explain basic camera anatomy and function
  • Discuss the main subjects found in photography
  • Explain how to care for and maintain camera equipment
  • Describe how a camera is held and used

Unit 2: Moving Into Manual

When you were a small child, you had to learn how to walk before you could run—and grasping the art of digital photography isn’t much different. At first, using automatic settings that allow you to explore without too much concern for control can be a great way to learn the ropes and get comfortable with your camera. But there will likely come a time when you, as an emerging visual artist, feel ready to “run” with your camera by taking on the challenge of manual settings. To prepare you for this next step, let’s explore the many ways basic camera functions are affected by certain manual modes and how you can use them to create exactly the right setting for your shot. Not only will this help you make informed photographic decisions, it will ensure you get the most out of your time behind the lens—and with the highest quality result.

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Explain the significance of file format
  • Identify different types of camera lens and how they function
  • Discuss the workings of a light meter.
  • Discover the importance of exposure and overall lighting effects

Unit 3: A Snapshot of History

When you stop to consider how far the field of photography has come over the years, it’s nothing short of amazing. As both a casual hobby and a profound form of creative expression, it has become an increasingly accessible practice that’s now available to every one of us. Yet, simultaneously, it has also risen to find a legitimate place in the world of fine art. Not so sure? Simply look back at the tremendous legacy left behind by the various artists who have embraced photography as a way to enhance their lives and their art form. By taking even a brief peak through the lens of the past at the innovators, scientists, and creators who came before us in the field, we can often trace emerging trends still widely seen today. And interestingly enough, such an understanding can often be incredibly helpful in teaching us how to take our own visions to the next level. So, are you ready? Let’s go!

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Explain the difference between art and fine art photography
  • Identify and discuss selected artists who have contributed to the development of photography
  • Identify and discuss general themes and trends in different periods of photographic history
  • Describe the mechanics of early photographic systems

Unit 4: The Nature of Light

Have you ever noticed the soft light that illuminates the sky as the sun rises each morning? Or maybe you’ve smiled while watching a child squeal in delight as they chase their own shadow? Maybe you’ve even considered trying to capture such moments and the different moods that the light and the shadows create? To do this effectively, you’ll want to understand how the elements of light and control work together to create certain effects. For those who want to really, truly grasp the magic behind photography, this is a critical step and one that takes a working knowledge of where light comes from, how it is characterized, and what it can accomplish in a picture. But once you have this practical awareness in your mind, an entire world of creative possibility opens that you can both enjoy and control.

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Identify light sources and describe how they differ
  • Explain how to effectively use available light
  • Describe safe and proper use of photographic tools and processes
  • Discuss the characteristics of color and how they are affected by light

Unit 5: Creative Composition

Have you ever noticed how some things come so easily while others simply…don’t? The world of digital photography is no exception—sometimes you manage to capture the perfect candid shot with no real effort, while other times you need to purposefully arrange and tweak various elements to achieve the desired effect. Because digital photography is often an artistic endeavor, there are no hard, fast “rules” for how to make this easier, but there are plenty of tried and true suggestions! Learning some of these visual organizational strategies, as well as how your camera can help you apply them, will give you the control and understanding you need to find just the right composition, no matter where or what you are shooting. And once you have these things under your belt, you will begin to see subjects and their placement in a whole new way—which means the emerging photographer in you can more easily communicate your vision to the world!

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Explain various composition techniques and their effects
  • Identify the appropriate lens for a subject
  • Discuss how a camera lens relates to visual composition
  • Describe the basic components of a tripod and other support equipment

Unit 6: Producing Great Images

Have you ever wondered if it is possible to snap pictures and collaborate with other creatives but still make your own artistic visions a reality—all while actually making money? If you have, the answer is yes, yes, and yes. All of those things are fully achievable if you understand your options and what it takes to access them in the real world. Finding a job, or even a full-blown career, in digital photography is not only realistic, it’s entirely within your grasp with the right motivation and know-how. Learning more about the various roles in professional photography is just the first step in finding out how these visual artists use their love of imagery to carve out a life of art and work, bound together by a solid devotion to the craft and a path toward ongoing personal satisfaction and success.

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Identify job titles associated with digital photography
  • Discuss the interrelationship among artists
  • Describe the various stages of production
  • Explain photographic terms and jargon

Unit 7: Manipulation and Management

Some people would say the absolute best part of digital photography is not learning about lenses or how to zoom in on a great subject but what can actually be done with those images once they are captured in digital form. Image editing and the art of manipulation offer digital photographers a whole new canvas for visual art while also opening a vast world of technical design tools. Turns out the creativity doesn’t actually end when the lens cap goes back on—but rather it continues en force as photographers turn to software, filters, and effects to bring out the best in their pictures while also harnessing the power of personal imagination. Learning how you can take advantage of these creative options is the first step in navigating the post-production world and understanding more about how to protect your own work while also enjoying the billions of images you see every day.

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Explain how image editing and manipulation affects the craft
  • Apply design skills to create original works of art
  • Discuss the significance of image distortion in digital photography
  • Define and discuss the boundaries of copyright protection

Unit 8: Presenting Your Work

After so much effort spent behind the camera lens, aren’t you excited for the day when you are finally able to share your photographic talent with the world? This next step in your artistic journey is exciting because it offers you a chance to produce a real event while also channeling your inner artistic vision. And it might surprise you to learn that pulling off your very own photographic art exhibition is not only possible—it’s tremendously satisfying. Once you learn how easy it is to plan and present your own work to the public, you’ll be itching to get started on planning your first big event. A big dose of positivity, some creative vision, and genuine effort is all you really need.

What will you learn in this unit?

  • Discuss the key components of a photographic exhibition
  • Create an artistic statement
  • Explain the various ways a print can be mounted and installed
  • Identify the important factors in a budget

Required Materials

  • Computer with:
    • Internet access
    • Slideshow program like Keynote or PowerPoint
    • Word processing program like Microsoft Word
    • Properly labeled folders to organize photo projects
  • A digital camera that offers both automatic and manual control


Note: Many activities require a digital camera though some tasks can be achieved with the use of a smartphone. The camera features explained in the course are done so regarding digital cameras only and some assignments may be difficult to complete without one.

Any students choosing to use a smartphone will need to make arrangements with their teacher on how to accomplish specific tasks. Students are also encouraged to consult their user manual and download appropriate applications to allow for more advanced controls.


  • Appropriate camera cables
  • Two friends or family members to volunteer as subjects/photo assistants
  • Miscellaneous objects to use for photography subjects (ex: soccer cleat, baseball hat, or a piece of jewelry)
  • Various lighting (overhead lights, table lamps, clamp lights)
  • A complete, plated meal to photograph
  • A tripod or household items to use as a stable tripod-like support for camera
  • An image editing program (GIMP or something similar)
  • Blank paper
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • A camera with video recording abilities (camera phone, digital camera, or computer camera)
  • Props and equipment that can serve as darkroom equipment (boxes, crates, tubs, etc.)
  • Various art supplies (paint, scissors, glue, posters, paper, magazines, etc.) to create original works of art
  • Audio recording device (smartphone, computer program, digital voice recorder)



  • Printer
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