Traditional photography, and then digital photography, didn’t magically appear as an art form. It is just one of a long series of human expressions, each of which also required the introduction of specific technologies to make it possible to draw, paint, sculpt and photograph our world. For thousands of years, an untold number of artists had to develop compositional, perspective, spatial and many other techniques, and to study light, so these techniques could be applied to the art of photography once the appropriate technologies had been invented.
Because digital photography is such an obvious extension of the classic art forms, one of the best ways to improve your photography skills is to attend drawing, painting, sculpting, ceramics and the many other classes that are offered in most communities during the summer months. Many of these programs are developed for children (which you should consider adding to your children’s summer schedules), but there are also many adult arts classes. Some programs even include photography courses. You’ll find many of these summer programs at art schools, museums, art leagues and other arts-related organizations in your community. Be prepared to pay a fee, but some may also be free, so check the details carefully.
Attending one or more arts classes this summer could help you become a better digital photography in many ways. Quite likely, the most important is developing your photographer’s, or artist’s eye. In a number of PhotographyTalk interviews with highly regarded professional photographers, they comment that beginners or amateurs’ biggest mistake is including too many elements within the frame. The pros advise that the key to great photography is simplicity of composition. To apply this technique requires that you are able to see, truly see, what you are viewing through the lens.
Summer arts classes in drawing and painting will help you develop the skill of “seeing,” and contemplating what you are seeing before taking quick, thoughtless snapshots of whatever scene or subject matter happens to be in view. You’ll also be “forced” to draw an object or subject in its simplest form and still be recognizable. You’ll develop the ability to see objects and subjects as forms or shapes and understand how to position them, or you and your camera, to create a balanced and attractive image.
Classes in drawing human anatomy are particularly useful for any digital photographer. You’ll find full-body courses and others that concentrate on hands, head and faces. Not only will you learn about the shape of the human body, but also recognizing and controlling the elements of space and value to create better compositions. Many drawing and painting courses will provide you with the opportunity to study the works of old masters as well as contemporary artists, and receive the guidance of instructors about how you can gain inspiration from the great works of art for your digital photography.
Some of the concepts you’ll learn during a painting class apply specifically to digital photography. Painting adds the elements of color and texture that are not necessarily a part of a drawing class. Understanding color is critical to the success of any digital photographer. Again, the key is to see it as another element that must be added to the simplicity equation and kept in balance with all other elements.
A sculpture class will provide you with another perspective on the human body. You will have to observe a life model as a three-dimensional object and transfer what you see into a three-dimensional clay figure. By constructing a human figure, you’ll learn about movement and proportional relationships, which are important when you want to pose someone for a portrait or to capture an image of a moving subject, human or animal.
A ceramics course will have a similar value to a sculpture class in that you must shape a three-dimensional object and apply an outer surface design that is simple, but artistic.
Take advantage of the many arts courses offered in your community to make a significant improvement in your digital photography. Between classes, take what you’ve learned and try to use it with your camera, and then share your photos with your drawing, painting or sculpting instructor. Explain that you are attending the class to become a better photographer and ask him or her to review your images to determine if you are applying what you learned during the last class.
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Photo by Photography Talk member Jan Ekloff