Taking My First Photo Class in New York City

There is something about holding printed pictures in your hands. Something tangible and less virtual than simply flipping from one image to another when staring into a screen. This is how I felt after printing out my first batch of pictures for SXM 200.

I have been a busy bee on the weekends recently. Every Saturday morning, for the past three weekends already. Right after the Montauk Weekend Getaway (read more here) I started my first photo course ever. I guess for everyone comes the time when you really want to improve your passion. When you want to take your hobby to another level. This time was for me then and it still is now. And even though I had missed out on the first class because it had been my birthday weekend and all, the teacher still let me take part in the following four weekends. So I became a student at the FIT in New York. Yeah, go figure! I’ve walked past it so many times, even tried myself as a model once, but never imagined to be a part of a non-for-credit course there once. Well, now I was. And the excitement hasn’t ceased!

The introductory course has taken place every Saturday from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Within the past three Saturdays I’ve learned how to set the exposure right, how to monitor depth of field and motion, what to look out for in composition and, and, and.

This might sound easy and clear cut, but it really is not. See, I got my first DSLR less than a year ago, in August of 2011. At first I was too overwhelmed to look much further into the manual setting and simply wanted to play around with the focus and see how the pictures turned out.

Then I slowly worked my way up to figuring out how to change the ISO and what the shutter speed could possibly stand for. With a little help of my passionate and patient photography friend, I finally started using the manual mode in December. Which was the right time, with all those Christmas lights going on and even better so, as he gave me my very first tripod (to date a luxury). A purchase of another lens followed and I was finally starting to feel more comfortable with the opportunities at hand. But somehow, there was always something missing. I didn’t know how to shoot motion well or how to make that picture less blurry. I was still missing out on the real depth of photography, is how I felt. Especially after having taken pictures of my friends’ wedding. I thought I could do much better if only someone could provide me a bit more training and understanding of this field.

(framing a picture/rooftop view from the Gansevoort/Meatpacking)

These are the main reasons why I started taking the current course. And it turned out to be a gold mine for exactly what I had in mind. Concepts such as light painting or still river flows at night – completely left out of my head for the past 10 months. As the classes followed, one concept after another was revealed and I began to realize how much more there is to learn and how much else is out there. Fortunately!

I also happen to not be alone with this opinion. Our class is small, with only 7 students in total (at some point it used to be more but they were swallowed by the summer hole). The size offers a great advantage: More supervised hands-on experience and training whenever you ask for it. Our teacher always makes sure that we get enough practice before he lets us go for the weekly assignments. The first 1 1/2 hours have so far always been calculated for a theoretical lesson while the last hour or so includes taking us outside and having us shoot pictures of random things. The macro lens pictures, for example, were taken on a random street corner in the midst of Manhattan! Unbelievable, huh? Another proof of how important the right lens is.

(100mm macro lens, 2.8 f/stop)

From flash photography over panned motion to depth of field – we learned a lot in those few hours we had this month. Tomorrow I will be trotting the aisles of the FIT for the last time this summer and then I hope to grow on my very own photo assignments I will be giving myself throughout the following months.

For any aspiring photographer, I can only recommend taking an introductory course. Even though you think you might know it all, every teacher has a different perspective of showing you and emphasizing things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. We had a girl in our class who took a six-months-long photo seminar in Africa. After taking this class she still didn’t think it was a waste of her money but instead she was glad to have been a part of it. Just like I feel after those last few productive Saturdays! It was great to try out camera gear I would have otherwise had to rent out from a big vendor. Or to meet people who are equally passionate about shots and who have the least clue of how to go about. And having the chance to express myself in a different way than work and write!

(panned motion)

And to show us aspiring (amateur) photographers a light at the end of the tunnel: There is only so and so much another photographer can teach you. The rest is up to your imagination and creativity. Even though you could have the best camera gear and the best teacher, you can still be a lousy artist unless you let your heart speak. So let your intuition and thoughts go loose in an area as imaginative as photography!

See A Picture Every Day for What I’ve learned in SXM 200 so far:

Life Through the Eyes of a Macro Lens

Experimenting with Light Painting

Panning Motion

Rooftop View (framing pictures, lines, night photography)

Final Photo Essay: Brunch at Mulane’s

Shots with a 50 – 200mm Sigma lens(F 4.0 – 5.6): Prospect Park One Summer Evening

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7 thoughts on “Taking My First Photo Class in New York City

  1. I think that’s very cool you took that class. I think I’m decent with photography but the only ‘formal’ training I had was years and years ago when I learned some things about taking photos and how to develop them in a dark room (which isn’t really necessary now that I use digital cameras). I could definitely stand to learn more. But I’m about to be taking graduate psychology classes so I’ll have to do with what I know for now lol.

    • That’s great, I would love to have some more insight on how to develop in a dark room. Even though most people don’t have time and space for this nowadays anymore. It’s just so much more convenient to drop the prints off at a store. Did you take a professional photo class?
      What psych field are you aiming towards? I have a BA in psych…

      • I don’t remember most of it except that the room has to be able to be completely dark and ventilated, although at a certain point one can use a darkroom light (red if I recall correctly) that doesn’t damage the photos. Photos are moved from bin to bin of different solutions using plastic coated tongs to not damage the photos. They go into a bin of developer solution first, stop solution next, fix solution third, then into a water wash bin last and then are hung to dry. While it was pretty fun at the time, I take far too many photos for it to be worth doing on a regular basis and i definitely don’t have the space to devote for something I do only occasionally. I still have rolls and rolls of film that I never got around to developing which yes if I were going to would be more convenient to do at a store. I rarely print off photos but when I do I have a Canon photo printer and get some photo paper that does a pretty good job.

        It wasn’t a class per se. I used to go to Girl Scout camp a couple times a summer and each one had different themes. One I did was photography where we learned how to develop film using their dark room and various different types of photography like using a pinhole camera and making prints onto photo paper using objects like leaves & twigs and the sun and probably a lot more I don’t remember. As for the psychology, I’ll be going for a Master’s in Counseling Psychology.

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