On Learning Guides

A learning guide is a “unit” of work bound together by a common theme or concept. I will give lectures or demonstrations on various aspects of the theme or concept while the learning guides (the chapters of this book) provide a variety of additional tasks for you: reading, shooting, research, etc. The learning guides are introduced and the work for the learning guide is due two or three weeks after. There will be times when we are working on multiple learning guides concurrently.

Baseline Requirements

The baseline requirements for a learning guide vary by the learning guide, but generally will include:

  • being attentive during lectures and demonstrations, including documentation (notes)
  • summarizing the key readings
  • exemplar emulation
  • completion of the shooting assignments
  • three images demonstrating your understanding of the material in the Learning Guide.

You will need to satisfactorily–the satisfactory threshold will be given for each learning guide– complete the baseline requirements for a learning guide before moving on to any enrichment topic.

Enrichment Topics

After completing your baseline requirements, you may choose to work on enrichment topics. Again, these vary by learning guide, but here are a few examples:

  • additional readings, summaries, and demonstrations of understanding
  • additional exemplar (who must be approved) research and emulations


An exemplar is an established or notable artist whose technique is an example of what we are learning. Learning guides will have an exemplar that I have provided, along with a few photographs that I feel are particularly pertinent.

You should use the example photographs, along with any others that you find on your own, as a source of inspiration. You could try to faithfully copy the photograph in every way– composition, tone, subject matter–but that might prove difficult to do exactly for every image. What is more important is that you understand what it is about the exemplar’s work that relates to what we are learning in class and to mimic that in your own work.

Embrace the Remix

You are to include a few photographs of your own that show that you understand the technique (or techniques) the exemplar demonstrates and that you’ve practiced the technique. It doesn’t matter if they are “good” photographs, what matters is that you have attempted the techniques and then tried to improve your work.

To clear up any misunderstandings:

  • You are to create new images
  • Those images are evidence that you are practicing a particular technique
  • These don’t need to be the best possible images
  • You don’t have to exactly copy a given image, but understand the technique(s) used to create the image and copy those.
  • The purpose of this exercise is to practice a particular aspect of photography in a very focused way (by copying what a master has done). It isn’t really useful to put this off until the very end.

When in doubt, remember the mantra:

Copy, Transform, Combine

Key Readings

Key readings are required readings. Sometimes a choice between several key readings may be given, other times key readings will be strictly required. The key readings are good resources to improve your understanding of the big concept for the learning guide. It does not help to do the key readings last.


One thing you will need to do for most learning guides is to summarize the key readings. You can summarize in any way you see fit (paragraph summary, mind map, notes, outline), but the idea is that you are expressing what you have learned and how it might apply to your photography.

Additional Readings

There are many additional readings provided in a learning guide. They are a curated list of articles, essays, chapters, excerpts, or videos that relate to the topics of the learning guide or photography in general. They are provided for edification and enrichment.

Shooting Assignments

You will be given specific, directed shooting assignments in many of your learning guides. The assignments are designed for practice. You are required to do all of the shooting assignments though you are not required to turn in your images for the shooting assignments. You may, of course, turn them in as your final product or for critique.