DGMD E-10: Exposing Digital Photography

Fall 2014

Instructor: Dan Armendariz
Teaching Fellows: John Selig, Shelley Westover
Producer: Andrew Hill
Harvard Extension School

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Questions? Email the staff at staff@dme10.org or tweet us at @expodigiphoto.

Course Information

Welcome to Digital Media E-10: Exposing Digital Photography, offered Fall 2014 at Harvard University's Extension School.

Description

This course explores the artistic aspects, scientific foundations, and techniques of digital photography with the goals of enabling students to expand their knowledge of photography as an art form, to develop a deeper and broader understanding of the scientific basis of photography, to improve their photographic technique, and to effectively use photographic software tools. Although the primary focus is on digital photography, many concepts apply to other photographic disciplines including film and video. Topics include quality of light, exposure control, depth of field, aesthetics, composition and patterns, perspective, color science, the human visual system, spatial and color perception, exposure, metering, digital sensors, optics, analogies to biological systems, color filter arrays, file formats, sensor linearity, color spaces and profiles, optical and computational image artifacts, and software tools and techniques for modification and enhancement. Through lectures, hands-on assignments, and critiques, students expand their understanding of digital photography while exploring their creativity to broaden the possibilities and improve the quality of their photographs. Upon successful completion of the course, students can expect to take photographs with an intuition of the camera's behavior, and its limitations, and an ability to think critically about light and the resulting appearance of a photograph.

Students should have access to a camera with a manual mode and an option for RAW for the duration of the course.

Grading Criteria (with approximate weightings)

Here is the percentage break-down of what will be covered in this course. More details will be posted as the class gets underway. As always, we may make adjustments to this scale if necessary.

Problem Sets: 20% (five assignments at 4% each)
Projects: 40% (four projects at 10% each)
Final project: 25%
Critique Participation: 15%
Total: 100%

Staff

Schedule

Office Hours

Online and in-person office hours are scheduled by appointment; we encourage you to contact us if you would like to schedule a meeting or if you would like to chat!

Tentative Lectures and Due Dates

All assignments (except the final project) are due at 11:59 PM on the listed due date.

Date Lecture Watch Slides Assignment due
September 3 Welcome! EDP TV or YouTube PDF
10 Software Tools & Light EDP TV or YouTube PDF
17 Exposure EDP TV or YouTube PDF
Aperture and F-number handout
Problem Set 1
24 Exposure (continued) EDP TV or YouTube PDF Project 1
October 1 Optics Live Stream PDF Problem Set 2
8 Histogram Project 2
15 Software Tools (continued) Problem Set 3
22 Digital Cameras Project 3
29 Digital Cameras (continued) Problem Set 4
November 5 Color and Artifacts Project 4
12 From Stills to Video Problem Set 5
19 Expanding Your Photography Final project proposal
26 No lecture (Thanksgiving)
December 3 Movie night
10 No lecture (final project work)
17 Final Project Exhibition Final project (due at 12:00 PM, noon)

Note: all listed dates subject to change.

Sections

We offer both in-person sections for local students and online sections for those at a distance. Our section schedule is as follows:

Online

Both of the following online sections are led by John. Add us on Skype with username "expodigiphoto" and be online during section time to participate!

In-person

Shelley leads in-person sections in 125 Mt Auburn St, 3rd floor, in the CS50 R&D Office. The entrance is behind the Post Office. If you are local and plan on attending, please send the staff an email with your HUID so that we can enable swipe access for you to the building. Alternatively, when you arrive you may call (617) BUG-CS50 (and use option 0) to be let in.

Recommended Books

Projects

Four projects and a final project based on creating photographs will be assigned. Each project is due by 11:59 PM on the Wednesday listed and, unless otherwise noted, each will be released two lectures prior to its due date.

"Keep an I[SO] Out" due September 24 Download (PDF)
"Great (Focal) Lengths" due October 8 Download (PDF)
"Frames of Mind" due October 22
"Raw Material" due November 5

Final Project

A larger final project will be due at the end of the semester in addition to the four projects above. The project requires a proposal to be submitted after the specifications are released, and you should be sure to get approval on your proposal before working on the project. The final project will not be accepted if a proposal for it is not approved.

Specifications released November 5
Proposals due 11:59 PM November 19
Final project due 12:00 PM (noon) on December 17

Though every assignment is normally due at 11:59 PM on its due date, the final project itself is due at 12:00 PM (noon)!

Note: all listed dates subject to change.

Problem Sets

Five problem sets comprising theory-based questions will be assigned during the semester. Each problem set is due at 11:59 PM on the Wednesday listed and, unless otherwise noted, each will be released two lectures prior to its due date.

Problem Set 1 due September 17 Download (PDF)
Problem Set 2 due October 1 Download (PDF)
Problem Set 3 due October 15 Download (PDF)
Problem Set 4 due October 29
Problem Set 5 due November 12

Note: all listed dates subject to change.

Critiques

This course includes in-class critiques. These critiques offer opportunity to showcase ongoing work and receive constructive feedback while exchanging ideas and foster conversation among everyone in the course. The critique participation portion of the grade primarily involves two components: submitting photos for critique and critiquing others' submissions.

Submission

The first critique photo is due by 11:59PM on September 17 and new photos will be due at the same time every Wednesday after until December 3. That is a total of 12 critique images; in the event that a week has no lecture, a critique image is still due. You may skip one week without any grade penalty. Please submit to the Course Blog (You will gain access to the blog upon successful completion of Problem Set 1).

Please also plan to display a small number of your critique photos in section or lecture. We will have limited time during lecture, so please be sure you volunteer early to secure a spot! Although sections are optional, you will need to display your work in either section or lecture at least once in the course of the semester to receive full participation points. The goal of this is to allow you the opportunity to receive feedback outside of the limitations of text on a blog. In other words, you will get to hear the feedback and all of its nuances! Beginning September 17, we will begin to solicit volunteers to demonstrate their work to the class. If you cannot watch the live lecture stream or participate in any section due to timezone (or other) issues, we'll ask you to send us a brief 30-60 second video (recorded by webcam or digital camera) to introduce the photograph that we will display and then discuss.

In all cases (both during class and on the blog), the staff will offer several pieces of work for critique to demonstrate the process and also lay the foundation for discussion.

Feedback and Discussion

The course blog contains the ability to comment on posts. Please use this to provide meaningful, constructive, and useful feedback to your peers! It is always nice to hear that someone else enjoys an image, but it is much more helpful to understand why that image is enjoyable. Use the opportunity to explore and discuss the meaning, symbolism, artistic merits, technical achievements, and uniqueness of someone's photograph. It is just as useful to hear what aspects of the photograph need work, but please do so in a constructive and supportive way.

The staff will also be participating and moderating the discussion. However, if you come across offensive, inappropriate, or disparaging remarks before we do, please flag it so we are sure to review it. Repeat infringements will result in the loss of all participation points for the offender and exclusion from the blog and its discussion.

Ultimately, we want this to be a location where everyone with all experience and comfort levels feel supported. We hope you'll find it a comfortable enough space to place work-in-progress photos and receive useful feedback on your efforts. To that end, the staff will begin by posting some work of our own to seed the discussion.

We understand that sometimes you may not have anything to add to an ongoing conversation, so this portion of the grade is less rigid. Please plan to contribute to at least 2 discussions every week, but you will not be penalized for skipping a week or two or having a couple of weeks of slow participation followed by a few weeks of heavy participation. Use your judgement and don't wait to participate until the end of the semester. We may also use a form of peer review at the end of the term to determine participation. In other words, we will ask each of you whom among your peers contributed most to your work.

Frequently Asked Questions

I'm new to photography. Is this class for me?

Yes! This course attracts students with a wide range of experience and expertise in photography. No matter your prior experience you will be surrounded by others with the same comfort level.

I'm very serious about photography. Is this class for me?

Probably, yes! The first few weeks of the class are devoted to the fundamental photographic exposure concepts. If you are a film photographer but haven't yet moved into the realm of digital, this will ease the transition. If you are an existing digital photographer, this will be review at worst but, more likely, might fill some gaps or clear up some misconceptions. In either case, we quickly move into topics specific to digital photography and the elements required to understand the technology, terminology, and processes behind the art and the science.

What kind of camera should I buy?

Nominally we do not require you to purchase a camera for this class. However, we recognize that some students enter this course with the intention of improving their photography and were therefore planning on purchasing a camera anyway. Of course, given the wide range of cameras available, it is difficult to recommend any single particular camera that might fit everyone's needs!

For this class, you will need access to a camera with full manual control and the capability to store images in a RAW file format. If you are local, there are some cameras that meet these requirements available for loan from Harvard Extension's Church Street Lab. If you are at a distance, you may have a friend or family member that is serious about photography and might lend you their camera for some assignments.

In the end, if you are able to delay a camera purchase for even a few weeks, you may find that you have a better understanding of your own style of photography and which features you may want in a camera.

I am unable to attend any lectures in person. Can I still submit assignments and participate?

or

I will be traveling for a week or two during the semester. Can I still submit assignments and participate?

All aspects of the course will be online such that we hope to match, as best as possible, the online experience to the in-person one. In particular: lectures will be live streamed and available on-demand afterward, projects and problem sets can only be submitted online, and any participatory and collaborative aspects of the course are designed with distance learning in mind. In order to complete the course, you will need access to a camera that meets the requirements of the course (see "What kind of camera should I buy?", above) and reliable Internet access on a weekly basis.

If you are traveling, please be sure that you afford yourself enough time to complete and submit assignments on time. Please be aware that we cannot provide extensions to assignment due dates except in cases of emergency. However, due to the online nature of the course, you may certainly submit from afar!

Also note that all times listed on this syllabus are in Eastern time.