T189 Digital Photgraphy Course


The Digital Photography Course

I’m not new to the Open university, so I wasn’t shy to sign up for this digital photography course that has run a few times now.

Start date was 1st May 2009 so I have all the material and access to the website already.

Introduction: Well most of the course content is well described on the OU website (click the logo to view), so I’ll not repeat to any depth here. I will say the course is 10 weeks long with differing subject each week. Knowing how to work with an OU course it’s always best to get ahead (and stay ahead) in order to meet computer based exams or any assinments that need to be returned for assessement. This course has both a computer marked assinment (CMA) and an end of course assessment (ECA).

As all things you only get out what you put in so if you’re following this remember things will be different for you, should you decide to take up the course when next run. Incidentally the OU runs the course twice a year September and May and you need to register fairly early as places fill quite quickly.

T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 1)

Week One – Interesting images
o Fundamentals of image composition
o Looking critically at images
o Balancing colour and light
o Choice of subject
o Where should you put your subject
o Perspective and geometry

Session one sets you up with some fundamentals from how to use a camera to minor enhancements and printing more information/help on setting up your digital dark room (what’s that!) to identifying your gear. This session opens up a whole new world of photography and photo-sharing that most don’t know exists. It concentrates on pointing out that improvement only comes about in participation and analysis of other photograhers work. Detailed reading contains all basic stuff really that even your granny would handle. In all honesty if everyone just did this section in school or the like it would most certainly improve ones final photo print and/or even stimulate ones interest in the art form.

You’re set in groups virtual groups (that should change week on week) that idea being that within your group you all comment each others work, by providing advice and help on images uploaded into each ones bucket for that weeks session. The facilities offered by the online site allows students to save off comments received on their work (which is nice) but this is only useful if one receives detailed feedback rather than just “Wow” or “Great!” which very often is that case (basic human behavior). Mind you if the material given (which includes both reading and video presentation) is well read, how to comment on others and critique ones own work is also provided. It’s all about training.


T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 2)

Week Two – Light becomes data
o Your camera
o Lights, cameras and human eyes
o Settings and sensitivity
o Colour
o Seeing far and wide
o Two more things a camera can do that the eyes cannot
o The sensor
o Memorising, compressing and storing
o Finding information about a digital image

This session continues on building on material already presented in the first week to students. Concepts of image composition and appeal are further explored but by introduction of making use use of camera operation and technicalities. How a digital camera works is presented including the production of image format types, compression and storage of data files on computer. The photo assignments for this sections are fairly short and aid ones understanding of the camera and the effect on the image for setting changes of all sorts. Video activities together with well written text explain all the above objectives of the section.

If you’re not a newbie to photgraphy then this section will either be a real refresher for you or a snooze but go in with an open mind and you might just pick up something.


T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 3)

Week Three – Exposure
o How to virtually assess the exposure in an image
o Controlling image exposure before you take the image
o Understanding the image exposure after you’ve taken the image
o Understanding the histogram

Now this session is the fundamentals of what allows the user of a camera to express creativity from the press of the shutter. What does that mean, well up to now the course has been about ensuring that what you have in the frame is correctly positioned and in ‘balance’ with it’s environment so that interest grasps the viewer of the image. This section now discusses methods of altering settings on the camera to allow/control image distortions that add that essence that moves the image to the next level.


Photographs are obviously static mediums (when compared to video, movie or the like) but with some creativity movements can be captured and reflected that changes the dynamics of an image…dramatically!


The assignments set don’t all have to be taken at night, but it’s just that the night seemed to provide the greater oppourtunity  for the display of movements and hence the above examples.

T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 4)

Week Four – Focus and depth of field
o How lenses help gather and focus light
o What do we mean by focus
o Field of view and magnification
o Effective focal length and camera shake
o Optical and digital zoom
o Focal length and perspective
o Controlling depth of field
o Rescuing a poorly focussed image
o Putting it all together – some tips for better images

Session 4 brings in some calculator work for you. Well it’s simple arithmetic so you don’t have to go out and get a calculator. It brings together the relationship between the lens, type of lens and the camera sensor (or film) and types of sensors. A description of what ‘focus’ means is presented in terms of what the lens is doing to light entering in at one end before reaching the other.

One thing it does not tell you is how a camera automatically determines that focus is needed and then adjusts accordingly, which I think is quite important, but that could be another module.

Some rules emerged out of this learning and they are true from all photography and have some value in remembering when creating your images.

Rule 1: Depth of field decreases as focal length increases, and increases as focal length decreases (assuming object distance and aperture are constant)

Rule 2: Depth of field increases as object distance increases, and decreases as object distance decreases (assuming that focal length and aperture remain unchanged)

Rule 3: Depth of field decreases as aperture increases, and increases as aperture decreases (assuming that focal length and object distance remain the same)

How to maximise depth of field
  • Use a wide or ultra wide angle lens (Rule 1).
  • Focus efficiently (an extension of Rule 2 – see below).
  • Use smaller apertures (Rule 3).
How to minimise depth of field
  • Use the longest lens you have available (Rule 1).
  • Get as close to your subject as possible (Rule 2).
  • Use wide apertures (Rule 3)
…or just fake it!
The images below are manuipulations of the same digital photograph to have their DOFs arranged as required.


T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 5)

Week Five – Undertsanding and u sing colour
o Let there be light
o Sensing colour: eye versus camera
o Sensors in the camera
o Colour perception: eye and brain together
o Composing colour photographs
o Colour in digital images
o Composing colour images
o Framing colour images
o Using Elements to adjust colour in digital images
o Exploiting the artist’s colour palette

There’re some odd activities in this session for example …using your camera to take a picture of your TV remote control beam, strange! But more interesting is this section is about the main ingredient to photography, YOU! There’s a colour (blind) test for you to try out. I did it four times before I was considered of  ‘normal’ vision (lol). Then there’s a colour mixing activity where you move sliders to alter the colour on one side of a shape to match the other side, only using RED, BLUE and GREEN. More understanding on how your digital camera determines and records colour is explored and explained. Actually this section loaded with lots of enjoyment, but only if you participate in the activities and have that ability and willingness to learn.


T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 6)

Week Six – Printing and projecting your photos
o Display tecnologies
o Projection
o Printing technologies
o How long will my photos last
o Subtractive colour systems
o More printing
o Colour problems
o Adjusting your monitor
o Colour management

As the list above suggests this sessions was mainly concerned with the output of your work. Not just printing, but also displaying using modern methods we have available at the moment (e.g. display monitors). Getting you colour correct and as intended was the focus of the session that included quite technical detail on ‘gamut’ and ‘gamma’ (wow). This is one of those lessons you need to do than just be told what it’s about.

A superb section if you’re thinking on buying a printer or the likes, you’ll be better informed and you’ll have the ability to really baffle the sales clerk!

At about this time, I’m thinking I should be working towards the final submittal ECA panel. Reading ahead I know there’s a write-up to go with the panel so I think starting early is prudent. These sessions are based on a week at a time (generally) but as each differs it’s all too easy to just leave for the following week.

T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 7)

Week Seven – Innovation in photographic imaging
o Technology and technique
o Composing an image to control its meaning
o Experimental photography
o Genre-established aesthetics
o Pop culture and post-modernism
o Visual culture and digital aesthetics


Acually this section had very litle to do with the instrument called a camera, but rather concentrated on the technicalities and the need to explore the art of photgraphy.

T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 8 )

Week Eight – Critiquing and creativity
o What have you learnt?
o Commenting on and critiquing images
o Creative image making

Week eight was clearly designed to ‘making you see’ after looking at images (both your own and others). There’s a focus on light and the different types of light that fall on objects. This light can alter the feel to an image tremendously and you should be well aware of this. Session 8 tries to give a sense of all the variuos genres of photography and what techniques are normally akin to each. It’s a sample to guide you on to perhaps a field of photography that you’d care to undertake later.

Even before starting the next session I get a feeling that I’ve reached the end of the course, but the beginning of the art of photgraphy.

T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 9)

Week Nine – Sharing a panel of ten images and preparing for the ECA

I spent the week (liar! a couple of days) preparing for the ECA panel submission. This means selecting images and writing them up based on the material that has been studied for the past few weeks. I’m not sure just how proper/correct they expect you to be with the write-up. Reading around at other blogs, they seem to be a little forgiving if you’ve not used the terms in the same way as you’ve studied. 60% of the ECA is based on the photographs submitted, so if you have an attractive submission theres no reason not to believe you won’t pass, but you should submit a write-up anyway. The OU even insist that at the very least you should select and submit the required 10 images.

I’ll submit what I’ve done this week (and post also).  It will be good to be getting on with some home projects that I have in mind as an alternative.

Finally after weeks following submission the result of assessment for the ECA panel has arrived. The student site gives you an update and a score a couple of weeks before you receive a letter with some feedback (very little) on the panel. Mainly words of positive encouragement and praise, but also why you may have lost points. I scored 90 losing points because my written submission exceeded the word limit (I didn’t know there was one).

Overall the course was fine to do through the Spring, but I don’t think you need to do this if you’re well familiar with the art of photagraphy already.

T189 – Digital Photography Course (Week 10 – Final)

Week Ten – Submitting your ECA


Finally after weeks following submission the result of assessment for the ECA panel has arrived. The student site gives you an update and a score a couple of weeks before you receive a letter with some feedback (very little) on the panel. Mainly words of positive encouragement and praise, but also why you may have lost points. I scored 90 losing points because my written submission exceeded the word limit (I didn’t know there was one).

Overall the course was fine to do through the Spring, but I don’t think you need to do this if you’re well familiar with the art of photagraphy already.