Category: Tips & Tricks

Seeing through photographs – Review

Seeing through photographs – Review

I am a big fan of learning new things, so every once in a while I take some classes to broaden my horizon. This time I enrolled in a class called “Seeing through photographs” that I found on the online platform Coursera

“Seeing through photographs” was created by The Museum of Modern Art, better known as MoMA and taught by curator Sarah Meister. Being a photographer myself I was interested in getting some historic background about photography and changing role of it over time. I decided to go for the certificate to get access to the complete learning material. It takes six weeks to finish all the modules in the class. Each module focusses on a different aspect with the goal to make the learner a more critically viewer of photographs. This is achieved by looking at different time periods to see how photography was used and why. The learning material is provided in form of videos (each just a few minutes long) with interviews with curators and photographers that provide inside into their work.  In addition there is a reading list each week with articles and extracts of books as well as references to websites related to the subject. Sometimes it is a lot to read, but you only have to read the marked material to succeed in the  graded quiz at the end of each week. But it does not hurt to look at the other stuff, too. You are allowed to retake the quiz three times every eight hours. If you have done your reading and video watching, you will be fine.

In the end the learner has to write a peer-graded essay to reflect on the course content and to describe how his/ her understanding of photography has changed. He/ she also has to grade the essay of other learners.

Summary: The learning material is diverse, the videos are professionally done and very informative, the reading list is extensive. I have understood the content well enough for my purposes. I even look at my own photographs more critically now to see if I am transporting the content I want to. I enjoyed this class but I would not take the certificate class again. I think the free material would have provided me with the same insights.

More on Coursera: Coursera provides all kinds of classes of various topics including Arts, Personal development, Science, Management, Languages and more. If you are not keen on receiving a certificate in the end you get limited access to the learning material for free. This way you can try it out and see if the subject is something you would be interested in and you will learn something new even without the certificate.

Toy model photography

Toy model photography

How to do toy model photography by getting creative without a lot of fancy equipment. 

First thing was to create a proper setting. I needed a surface to put my model on and some kind of background. I tried my kitchen table first but I had difficulties with the background. I looked around and found one of my brown leather kitchen chairs the better choice and placed it in front of the window with the light coming from the left. I put the model on the chair and I was off to a good start. But I still was not happy with the surface. I wanted something more special.

Click on the images to enlarge

None of the options had the result I was hoping for. And then I had an idea, why not try using water to make it appear as if the motorcycle is parked on a wet street. Hopefully the water would also provide some reflections. Very eager I dribbled some water on my chair, completely forgetting the slanted seating area. So the first effect I produced was a wet floor. After some mild cursing and cleaning I tried it again, this time with less water and a cloth to prevent a mess. I tried different water patterns until I found one I liked and I even used some water on the back of the chair. Then I had to place the model quickly since the water kept running down the chair and drying up in the front. That was the tricky part, because the thing kept falling because of the tiny stand that was holding it.

With the camera mounted on a tripod I took my first picture. The lighting needed some improving, so I went for my flash and faced it above the chair on a low setting. That still turned out to be to much, so I turned the flash towards the ceiling and turned the camera in self timer mode (10sec). That way I could use a reflector to redirect the light from the flash the way I wanted. It took a long time to get it right, I had to reapply the water a couple of times and get the model in the right position again. In the last step I transformed the photograph into a monochrome with a sepia tone to make the motorcycle appear even less like a toy.

  Here is a list of all the materials I used for the final shot:

  • my brown leather kitchen chair as surface and background

  • the model of a Ducati Motorcycle as my subject

  • camera (ISO 200, 1 sec, ƒ5.6, 104 mm)

  • a tripod 

  • a reflector

  • shoe mount flash

The final Image