DC wedding photographer | Amber Wilkie Photography » Photography for awesome people.

Photo 11: The course to beat all courses

I’ve decided that 2011 is the year of schoolin’.  There are so many good articles to read, DIY ideas to try and interesting and important photographers to study.  So many business practices to implement, marketing ideas to work on, writing skills to hone.  I keep a huge database of ideas and things in my Gmail folder (as discussed here) but far too often they are bookmarked and forgotten.  2011 is the year to get serious about all of that.  Plus, there’s nothing being taught at my community college I can’t learn better by tailoring the subject to my needs.  Plus, my husband is knee-deep in grad school and isn’t going to be around to entertain me anyway.  Plus plus plus.  2011 is the year to learn, to grow exponentially.

With all that in mind, I’d like to present Photo 11, a composite course in photography, Photoshop, business and lots of other stuff.  I invite you to join me, even if not everything I am doing relates to your work or business.  If you’re interested in following along, just leave a note here at the bottom of this post and I’ll get things together.  In the meantime, you can see the schedule of assignments and due dates here.

The course will run on a monthly schedule, with the following themes for the first, second, third and fourth Sundays of the month:

  • First Sunday (starting 1/30): Shooting
  • Second Sunday: Photoshop
  • Third Sunday: Business
  • Fourth Sunday: Research
  • Any fifth Sundays during the year: catch-up or catch-all

Not all course materials are free and available on the web.  You’ll have to buy some, others are not available to you because they are out of print, etc. but I think you’ll find that most of what I’m doing can be learned in one way or another, if you really want to.  Also, I am very deadline-oriented.  If you want to participate, you’ll need to have your materials in by midnight on Saturday, as I will be announcing new assignments and discussing the previous week’s assignment on Sunday (or sometimes Monday).

First Sundays: Shooting Assignments

On the first Sunday of the month, I will announce a shooting assignment.  Some of these I will create myself, others I will borrow from my web instructors (more on that below).  Shooting assignments will hopefully build on the knowledge we have gained throughout the year.  For instance, you won’t see a strobist (off-camera lighting) assignment until we have mastered at least one off-camera technique.  Of course, this course assumes you are at the same photographic competency level I am.  If you’re not, I’d be happy to help you out along the way, but this is not an introductory or beginner’s course.  There are lots of those around.

DIY projects (homemade beauty dish, pinhole cameras, etc.) will fall into this category.

Second Sundays: Photoshop

Here’s where things might get a bit tricky for all y’all.  I have purchased Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Photographers by Martin Evening.  You can buy it online for under $10.  Each assignment week I will proceed in order through the book, mastering the concepts provided in each chapter.  When we hit chapters where I’m already knowledgeable in the subject matter, we may skip ahead to the next chapter quickly.  I’ll let y’all know ahead of time if I’m going to do that.

If you don’t have the book and don’t want to buy it, there is a wealth of information online about Photoshop.  I’ll post the subject matter of each chapter and you will have no problem finding appropriate materials online to teach yourself that topic.

Third Sundays: Business

Here’s where a lot of you will check out, and that’s okay.  On the third Sunday of each month, I will assign myself and anyone following along a business task.  I’m trying to run a wedding and portrait photography business here and it’s honestly the trickiest part about the job – not the photography, or talking to people, or writing.  It’s getting people to want to pay me to take pictures of them, finding people interested in paying for pictures.  For one week out of each month, I will work on growing my business from the business side of things, as opposed to the photography side, which is frankly the more appealing option, always.

A few ideas I’ve got for this portion of the course include calling all the venues I’ve thought about shooting at and inquiring if professionals are allowed to work there – for instance, in the Smithsonian museums.  Another week I’ll be doing my business taxes (kind of cheating since I’d have to do them anyway, but I’ll make sure I do them right).

Fourth Sundays: Research

This is something of a catch-all category in itself.  I have so many articles to read and topics to gain knowledge in.  I’ve been doing this slowly and in a haphazard way every time I open up my RSS feed, but I’m going to give my research direction and focus this year.  I’ve also been meaning to do a serious study of important photographers from the past.  I’ll pick a photographer or two or three on a couple of Research weeks and really get to know that person and their work.

I’ll also be scouting locations during Research weeks as the days get longer.  There are so many parks and museums and funky alleys I’ve been meaning to check out for their usefulness in engagement and couple sessions.  I’ve been working on building myself a database, but it’s sadly short right now.

Fifth Sundays: Catch-up and catch-all

On the fifth Sunday of the month and for that week, I will either relax and take a break, complete any assignments I just couldn’t get to during the rest of the month or find something random to insert into the lesson plan.  I reserve the right to do whatever the heck I want with my very few extra Sundays.

Extras – photo and business courses in themselves

In addition to the courseload described above, I will also be following two and possibly three other photo and business courses throughout the year.  I’m not in any way trying to steal their thunder, even if I could.  If you want to follow these projects/courses, please participate via the methods described on their websites.  I’d love it if you came back and told me about it, though.

MCP Actions is running a 52-week themed photo course, which is not a course so much as a theme every week to get you moving.  She’ll be organizing photo entries, talking about them on her blog and probably lots of other neat stuff as the year progresses.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to fit in all 52 weeks of shooting, but I’m going to try.

Lighting Essentials is running a very different kind of thing, similar to what I’m doing with a more in-depth look for photography professionals.  “We are going to immerse ourselves in the process and the production,” he says, “with plenty of discussion of the techniques.”  It’s not directly aimed at wedding professionals, but he says a lot of the work will be applicable.  I’m very excited to see what he comes up with.  You’ll see what his first assignment is later on down this post or you can click the link.

You’ll have to pay for [b]school, run by amazing wedding photographer [b]ecker.  I’m not sure if I’m going to or not, and I’ll decide when he debuts the new program on 2/2.

Photo magazines

In addition to everything laid out above, I’m also going to attempt to work through the 75+ magazines I just inherited from a local photographer.  I’ve got B&W, JPG Magzine, Photo America and lots and lots of others.  Because I don’t want them to be in my life forever, I’m going to attempt to read one of them a week.  I’ll cut out any amazing photos and add them to my ideabox and summarize important articles right here on the site.

Pre-Course Assignments

My course hasn’t started yet, but MCP Actions is on the first of their 52 weeks and Lighting Essentials (abbreviated LE) has already posted assignment one.  Lucky for us, they are quite similar.  MCP Actions wants you to take a photo of something around your house.  LE says,

What do you want to do photographically? Tell us with a single paragraph what you want to be able to do with your images. Tell us what you do without telling us you are a photographer. Accompany that message with a single image taken around your home. Inside or out, make a photograph that adds insight into the mission statement you will be writing.

I’ll hopefully have both these assignments completed and posted before the due date of 1/17 for LE and we’re not quite sure for MCP Actions.

Month One: February

We’ll start Photo 11 on January 30 for the month of February.  The assignments will be as follows:

Shooting Assignment #1, due Saturday 2/5: Water.  Rivers, drinking glasses, tears.  Photograph water in its liquid form.
Photoshop Assignment #1, due Saturday 2/12: Evening Ch. 2 & 3 – Photoshop fundamentals and configuring Photoshop.  If you don’t have the book, google these topics and I am 100% sure you will find quality in-depth articles for free.
Business Assignment #1, due Saturday 2/19: Find second shooting work.  I absolutely loved second shooting a wedding.  This week, I’ll try to find work doing it again this summer, hopefully a whole bunch with a fabulous photographer.
Research Assignment #1, due Saturday 2/26: Brainstorm locations to shoot at, add them to your database, and call every single one of them to determine their policy about professional photo shoots.

I’ll try to post my completed assignments on Sundays.  I hope some of you will find this stuff interesting and useful!

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