Photographic Education – Part 4

by William Lulow

Workshops and classes in photography are also important ways to continue your photographic education. One day workshops are great because a lot of information is provided in a fairly intensive environment. Tutoring is also effective because students can ask pointed questions about a certain technique or situation. But, the most effective way to learn a lighting or other photographic application is by following lessons, executing ideas with one’s own equipment and then having the efforts evaluated by a professional instructor.

My classes conducted through the New School for Social Research in New York were run in this manner. Students were shown a particular lighting technique by demonstration. Examples of that technique were then shown in existing images or on a screen so that the students could see what the effect of the lighting actually was. Then, they had a week to go home and practice it for themselves with their own equipment. When they came back to class, they were told to bring their own prints in for evaluation. As an instructor, I have always endeavored to find positive qualities of my students’ efforts before giving my criticism. The proper way to provide effective criticism is to ask whether or not the assignment, whatever it was, was fulfilled. For instance, if I taught the Hollywood Lighting, my first question would always be: “Is the Hollywood Lighting evident in the photograph?”  Since photography is both an art form as well as a science, critiques can often be totally subjective. What one person likes, another person doesn’t. So, as an instructor, I’m always trying to objectify criticism, if at all possible. The question of whether or not the assignment was carried out correctly is about as objective as one can get.

There is a lot to be said for having students experiment on their own, to let them try to master the techniques you are trying to teach. That is actually the best way to learn.  The intensive workshops try to incorporate this idea as much as possible. Students are shown a technique through demonstration and then asked to try it themselves with my lighting equipment and their own cameras. Through the use of EYE-FI connections, their efforts can be immediately projected on a screen for evaluation. It is a form of “instant gratification,” that lets them know if they’ve mastered the concept.

Here is an example of a Hollywood Lighting made with one strobe: