Learning Photography

 

A. The Philosophy
What makes a good photograph? There can never be a right answer to that. But photography, at least great photography, is a synergy between knowledge, practice and exploration. We can turn to the three princes from the Isle of Serendip, two Confucian scholars, and certain a Asian martial arts superstar to explore this nuanced interplay.

I

Theory and knowledge are stepping stones to learning. But rather than being rigid about structure, students of design benefit from a multidisciplinary approach. Photography is no different.

While we now think of serendipity as something like dumb luck, its original meaning was very different. In 1754, a belle-lettrist named Horace Walpole was entranced by a fairy tale about three princes from the Isle of Serendip who possessed superpowers of observation. He proposed a new word — 'serendipity' — to describe the prowess of the princes. At its birth, serendipity meant a skill that could be acquired rather than a random stroke of good fortune. As something that people can actively achieve, it can transform a mistake into a breakthrough. Ideas evolve when we work on unrelated projects. Or when we aren’t even trying to invent anything. 

We create our own serendipity, or fail to do so. A mere knowledge of camera, or lighting is not enough to grasp the scope of photography. One must study aspects of design and communication as well. After all we can find treasures in the oddest places only when we look.

II

Song dynasty Confucian scholar Zhu Xi (1130-1200) postulated how mere knowledge of something is insufficient for mastering it. "Having legs doesn't allow a person to see, nor does having eyes allow one to walk," he noted. 

One of Xi's descendants, Wang Yang Ming (1472-1529), took the idea further. “To know and not to act is not yet to know,” Ming wrote. Knowing and not being able to actualise that knowledge into action is proof that one does not know at all.

If we narrow this down to the realm of photography, we see that having an intellectual grasp of say the principles of design is one thing. Being able to interpret that knowledge in a still or moving image competently, of course, is quite another.

In the context of martial arts training, one often hears the expression karada de oboeru. It’s Japanese for learning with the body. When you've done something — an action or technique — a few times, you'll have some understanding of it. Only when you've put your body through it a few thousand times, you'll have a real understanding. 

III

Exploration can be the most esoteric of ideas to wrap one's head around. The zen philosophy of mushin no shin is perhaps useful in this regard. Mushin is a mental state into which trained martial artists are said to enter during combat. Translated 'mind without mind,' it’s when a person's mind is free from anger, fear, or ego. At this point, that person relies not on what they think should be the next move, but what is felt intuitively. In this state a master finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move. In fact, they no longer consider themselves as fighters. They are merely living beings moving through space. In photography, change and a continuity with tradition appear to be at loggerheads. Yet ironically, preservation of certain things and constant innovation in others is what keeps traditions alive. When nothing stands still, tradition itself is bound to change.

Summing up the element of exploration, in the wise words of Bruce Lee, “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.


B. Course Overview

As a newsroom dogsbody, one of the best advice that I ever received was that being a photographer had very little to do with photography itself. Having conducted workshops with participants across the globe, and after teaching communication design students for five semesters, that adage still rings true. Learning how to operate a camera and mastering aperture or that odd shutter speed is still easy. But it is the before and after that makes a difference.

I developed my photography course when I was asked to join the Fashion Communication department at the prestigious National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kolkata as a guest faculty in July 2014. The course was unique beacuse photography was one of the subjects being taught to future designers. As such, a lot of stress had to be given on the interdisciplinary aspects of photography vis-a-vis other branches of communication design like graphic design or visual merchandising and even styling. It is something that is often missing from courses at a photography school. This difference affected me as well. Before I started teaching, photography for me was sacrosanct. It was not to be cropped, or teased. Photography was the final outcome, A holy grail of sorts. To my students, photography was just a starting point. One of the raw materials in the design process whose final aim was to communicate an idea efficiently. They didn't care about the medium. They were irreverent.

With this in mind, over the duration of next four semesters, I added and refined the existing syllabus to include several modules like visual literacy, critical thinking, showcasing and marketing strategies, as well as the business and legal aspects of being a photographer. I have tried to inculcate in them a strong sense of research. And my syllabus focused primarily on encouraging them to break the so called rules of photography, go beyond the cliches and colour outside the box. I tried to support this idea of exploration by giving them a sound knowledge base and lot of practise to help them imbibe the theory. For assessing the students I focussed heavily on the process. Leaving it upto the external jury to mark them on the final project.

Course Weightage (%)

Internal Assessment Weightage (%)

Hover on the pie charts to see the mix


C. Syllabus

Module 1 : Genesis

1A. Introduction
1B. History of Photography
1C. Photography in Colour




 

Module 2 : The Art of Seeing

2A. Visual Literacy Basics
2B. Advanced Visual Literacy
2C. Art History for Photographers
2D. Killing Darlings [Editing]
2E. Building Narratives
2F. Critical Thinking and Ethics
2G. Film Theory

Module 3 : Light and Camera

3A. Fundamentals of Light
3B. Placing Shadows
3C. Controlling Exposure
3D. Lens and it’s Features
3E. Flash Photography
3F. Basics of Motion Picture Photography
3G. Audio Recording
 

Module 4 : Exploring Genres

4A. People
4B. Spaces
4C. Things
4D. Fashion

Module 5 : After Photography

5A. File Management and Basic Workflow
5B. Advanced Retouching
5C. Showcasing Strategies
5D. Video and Audio Editing
5E. Colour Grading
5F. 3D Modelling and Motion Graphics
5G. Coding for Designers : HTML, CSS, Processing
5H. Building Websites with CMS

Module 6 : The Business

6A. IP Rights, Copyright Law and Contract
6B. Marketing Strategies
6C. Accounts and Invoicing
6D. Costing and Taxation
6E.Applying for Grants and Fellowships


D. Module Distribution

Sem III

1A. Introduction
1B. History of Photography
1C. Photography in Colour
2A. Visual Literacy Basics
2B. Advanced Visual Literacy
2C. Art History for Photographers
2D. Killing Darlings [Editing]
2E. Building Narratives
3A. Fundamentals of Light
3B. Placing Shadows
3C. Controlling Exposure
3D. Lens and it’s Features
5A. File Management and Basic Workflow

Sem IV

2F. Critical Thinking and Ethics
2G. Film Theory
3E. Flash Photography
3F. Basics of Motion Picture Photography
3G. Audio Recording
4A. People
5B. Advanced Retouching
5C. Showcasing Strategies
5D. Video and Audio Editing
6A. IP Rights, Copyright Law and Contract

Sem V

4B. Spaces
4C. Things
5E. Colour Grading
6B. Marketing Strategies
 

Sem VI

4D. Fashion
5F. 3D Modelling and Motion Graphics
5G. Coding for Designers : HTML, CSS, Processing
5H. Building Websites with CMS
6C. Accounts and Invoicing
6D. Costing and Taxation
6E.Applying for Grants and Fellowships


E. Student's Gallery

Baishali, Rajshree,Tanisha, Shivangi, Aditi, Baibhav, Hansika, Siddharth, Debangshi, Ankita

Marion, Clare de Wise

NB : Copyright of photos displayed in this section remains with the respective photographers.


F. Testimonials

Marion Schade / Anasuya Sengupta / Clare Di Wise Wet / Pedro Ultreras


G. Workshops

Light and Lighting
$550.00

Duration : 2 weekend classes // 8 hour sessions

Topics covered-
Colour of Light (Color Temperature, White Balance) / Quality of Light (Contrast, Hard light and soft light, Factors affecting the hardness or softness of light) / Direction of Light (Placement of light around subject, Types of light: Key, Fill light, Kicker, Hair-light, Background light, Backlight) / Intensity of Light & Effect of distance on light (Inverse Square Law) / Single Source Lighting

**Studio & model expenses included in the price.


After Photography
$300.00

Duration : 2 weekend classes // 3 hour sessions

Topics covered-
Workflow /  File Management / Softwares / Showcasing Strategies / Introduction to HTML, CSS, and CMS / IP Rights and Contract / Accounts and Invoicing / Taxation / Marketing Strategies


Studio Fashion Basics
$800.00

Duration : 3 weekend classes // 8 hour sessions

Topics covered-
Fundamentals of Light / Lighting (Reflection Management, Split, Rembrandt, Loop, Broad, Short and Butterfly Lighting) / Controlling Exposure / Lens and it’s Features / Flash Photography /  Workflow and File Management Basics / Advanced Workflow and Softwares / Colour Management and Post Production / Introduction to Fashion History, Styling and Make Up

**Studio & model expenses included in the price.


Understanding Visual Literacy
$400.00

Duration : 4 weekend classes // 2 hour sessions

Topics covered-
History of Photography / Colour in Photography / Art History and Photography / Visual Literacy Basics / Advanced Visual Literacy / Critical Thinking and Ethics


NB : 1. Some of the courses can be conducted online // 2. For details of the topics covered, get in touch at- info@chhandakpradhan.com // 3. The courses are not certified & are meant to enhance your knowledge and portfolio // 4. The option of designing a customised course also exists. For pricing and more, get in touch.