May 1, 2013
Teachers Talk - Resources for Digital Photography in the Classroom
Del Spenst, Teacher, Parkview Adventist Academy, Lacombe, AB

Having taught the Digital Photography class at our school for the past few years, one would think that I was chosen for my vast knowledge of the subject. However, if one thought that, one would be wrong. I am still learning much each year and am taking advantage of every opportunity to learn more.
 
When I started teaching the class, I was basically a point-and-shoot photographer and had never spent any time with a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera. A lot has changed in the years since I bought my film 35mm SLR a number of decades ago.
In my opinion, the main advantage of digital vs. film is the sheer volume of what you can try without economic penalty. Students can go out and take 200 pictures during a class period and then spend a little time with a photo editor and weed out the wheat from the chaff.
 
To get started with photography in a school, you need access to cameras. Point and shoot digital cameras will do, but older students who get access to digital SLR’s will quickly notice a quality difference in their photographs. Many cameras come with photo editing software, or your computer may have a minimal photo editing software program included when you buy it.
 
There are some online photo editors available, such as Pic Monkey (http://www.picmonkey.com/). There is also available for download an open-source program for photo editing called Gimp (http://www.gimp.org/). This is quite a powerful program and is free to use at this point. It might not be as powerful or easy to use as Photoshop, but the price is right.
 
Photoshop is the Ferrari of photo editing programs, designed for professional use, and therefore quite expensive. For the non-professional photographer, a stripped-down version called PhotoShop Elements is an easy-to-use editor with an extensive palette of features for much less money. (http://success.adobe.com/en/na/sem/products/photoshopelements.html?kw=p&sdid=EQAAM&skwcid=AL!3085!3!15007575794!b!!g!!photoshop%20elements&ef_id=UQlX-AAACpgsfCLb:20130212183148:s).
 
For instructional purposes, I have found YouTube to be a valuable resource. Following is a selection of my personal  favourites. Feel free to search for your own favourites.
 
If you are using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to edit photos, Adobe has a wide variety of tutorials to help you improve your skills. http://tv.adobe.com/watch/learn-photoshop-cs6/what-is-photoshop-cs6/
 
For a basic digital SLR outfit, I would recommend either a Canon or Nikon camera body. These can often be had with a basic zoom lens such as an 18-55mm zoom. I would also recommend a 100-300mm zoom to enable students to get up close to their subject. If you have the financial resources, you can add a macro lens which allows close-up photography. You will also need a sturdy tripod. Each lens should also have a UV filter, which also serves to protect the lens from fingerprints and scratches and weather to a certain extent.
 
If you want to explore studio lighting, and have the room available, a set of studio lights can be  purchased for $750 to $1000. Getting professional-looking results in portraits can be quite exciting for students. Backdrops can usually be improvised, but professional paper or cloth backdrops are relatively inexpensive.
 
Photography can add interest to projects in a variety of subjects and is a skill that is useful for a lifetime Either way, it gives opportunities for students to explore their creativity.
 
Photo by Celina Clausen
 
Photo by Katie Dunbrack
 
Photo by Nikki Grovet