Digital Photography Inspires Students

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Digital Photography Inspires Students

By Serinna Joseph

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Walking into a dimly lit classroom lined with Mac computers, posters of digital art on the wall, and students fixed to their screens working, there is no doubt that the class is occupied with digital photography assignments. Passing by each student’s screen, there is always something different and unique. An extra splash of color marks the background of a canvas, or a model poses in black and white filter on another. Recognizing the renowned program Photoshop, one would know the skilled potential each student has in taking this elective. Niles West offers various art classes, but Digital Photography, in particular, has inspired students to express their talent as a semi-professional technical artist.

Senior Sharon Pasia said she was able to carry on her love for photography by taking this class.

“This class made me realize that there are different styles of photography,” Pasia said. “The one that I really liked doing this year was street photography, and I found a huge passion in taking pictures of people on the street because it’s cool that you can take an honest picture instead of people posing for you. I found myself wanting to do that more as a hobby, and I also opened up my own blog.”

Sophomore Anna Heins, another student from Digital Photography, described her experience working with photography in the class.

“I did interesting photo shoots, and I was able to use ideas creatively,” Heins said. “We used photoshop, and we had a lot more freedom to do what we wanted to with our photos.”

While these students have worked hard to produce professional quality artwork, their teachers are the ones who are behind their motivation and skills they’ve been taught. One of the main digital art teachers, Deanna Sortino, specified the skills students learn as beginners of digital photography.

“In Digital Photography 1, students are taught how to use the basic parts of the camera,” Sortino said. “They learn about shutter, ISO, and focus. We start with easy steps. Once they learn how to use the camera, they learn how to use Photoshop. We do a lot of work in Adobe Photoshop. Students- I like to call them quasi-experts by the end of the class. I’ve had a lot of students get internships right after Photo 1 from professional companies downtown because they have that many skills from class.”

Digital Photography requires the knowledge and use of a DSLR Nikon camera and Adobe Photoshop. These two aspects of Digital Photography are very complex and it takes time to familiarize with these materials. Luckily, Sortino has a well-planned guide to aid students who don’t know how to use either the camera or the art program. So even if students have absolutely no experience in the materials provided, Sortino is there to help them out along with practice.

“I break everything down for the students,” Sortino said. “We do one little thing at a time. I check for understanding to make sure they understand how all the components of the camera work together. There are tons of handouts I give to the students as well. We do a lot if in class practice before they take the cameras home.”

Patti Anne Ford, director of fine arts, stated that the teachers and their professional background as artists themselves is what makes the digital art program different from the other electives, impacting students to become professional artists as well.

“What’s also unique are the teachers,” Ford said. “They are specializing in what they’re teaching, and they’re not just teaching it to the students-they are professional artists publishing their photos and having their photography in museums. This pushes them to show their world to their students so that their work is put up in art museums. If you come to Niles West to take Digital Photography, you are embarking on a journey that definitely fulfills you for the four years here and beyond. A lot of our art students make side cash becoming semi-professional photographers because of the training here is so extensive. It really prepares them for the real world.”

A message Sortino wanted to send to students, who are interested in digital photography, is that this class is very beneficial. It can help students in financial ways and they can gain skills that they will have for the rest of your life.

“The great thing about this class is that these skills are what you have for the rest of your life,” Sortino said. “I always think back to my high school career and think ‘what did I learn in science, I don’t remember anything’. However, for my art classes, those are skills that require creative problem solving that I still use to this day. With everyone taking pictures on their cellphones everyday, if I teach students how to compose them a little better, then I’ve taught something that will stick with them for the rest of their life. Multiple kids win $60,000 scholarships. People are throwing scholarships at our kids, that’s how talented they are. If you can’t figure out how to get into college, signing up for art classes is a great way to pay for your college.”