DSLR Photography – Learning from the pros

In my quest to become a better photographer, I jumped on the chance to take a class from a professional photographer at the LivingSocial headquarters – Douglas Sonders.  Douglas shoots a wide variety of clients, from commercial ads and corporate bigwigs to celebrities and entertainers, so I thought this would be an interesting perspective on generating eye-catching compositions.  He was also named one of Washington D.C.’s most influential people under 40 by Washington Life Magazine and one of D.C.’s top 25 creatives of 2010.

Here are some interesting examples of his work from his website:

Of course, you never know what participant experience levels you will get when attending these classes, so the first hour is always spent reviewing the basics of photography and answering questions.  Then in the second hour, Douglas took us outside to put photography principles into action, really hammering home what makes a good shot and how to fix common issues.  He then set us free for 15 minutes with a photographic task to take images that tell a story, rather than just a snapshot, and to artistically break the rules we’ve been taught, if we could (i.e. the rule of thirds).  I was a little tired and inspiration just was not hitting me, so I reverted back to something a photography instructor told me once on a photo safari – when you are not able to come up with a reason for bringing the camera to your face and pushing the shutter button, then just decide on a simple theme: colors or similar objects.  If you looked at the images on my camera right now, you might think I had a foot fettish!  I just sat on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery and took photos of shoes walking by or standing.  Surprisingly, it really tested my photography skills because I had to try to compose the shot while zoomed in on a small moving object.  I can’t say that this was my most successful photography work, but it suppose was better than not shooting at all!

During the last part of the class, Douglas went over tips and tricks for difficult shooting conditions, like backlit subjects sitting in front of a window, positioning subjects for the best use of natural light, and using the shutter drag technique for indoor low light situations.  I find that it’s always great to take a class from a new instructor because photography, ultimately, is an art form; and, as such, everyone has their way of taking the foundational subject-matter knowledge to the next level, through their extensive experience and personal preference.

For more helpful hints, on photography and photo processing, Douglas regularly posts on his blog.  If you’re new to DSLR photography or want to take a course that will give you all the knowledge you need to feel comfortable shooting out of Program mode, I’ve worked with Okello Dunkley several times, and now he’s teaching his affordable workshops all around the country.  Check out the calendar on his website for his Part I, Part II, and Lightroom courses.

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