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What They Won’t Teach You In Photography Class

You can go to a fancy photography school, do everything as required, and ace your course.

However, being a good photographer is much more than reading concepts and theories.

You need some inspiration, field exposure, and pro tips to ignite the creative spark. We spent time with the CCI photography team to pick their brain. They were generous enough to share some valuable tips and hacks.

Let’s get started:

So what is it they aren’t teaching you in photography class?

Photography classes talk about the technical bits about photography, like how to expose an image, what ISO is and why it’s needed, or what F-stop is. Don’t get us wrong! We love all that technical stuff just as much as the next photography nerd. But photography class doesn’t teach you how to use that particular technique to take great photos.

We are here to tell you exactly what they don’t teach you in photography class. So grab your camera, and let’s go! *snap, snap*

  1. Aperture does not make the image

The aperture is most commonly referred to as the “F-stop” and is labeled with numbers like f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, etc. The F-stop guides you on how wide the aperture (the gap between your lens) is opened when taking a photo. That doesn’t sound like much of an explanation, but it’s not confusing. If you have an f/1.4 lens, the gap is 1.4 times wider than f/2.8.

Why does this matter?

When you are taking a photo, the aperture controls the light. It also regulates focus (yes! we know you studied that in photography class). So, what exactly aren’t photography classes teaching you about aperture? It is not the size of the image. The aperture does not make your image or picture bigger or smaller, even though that’s how it works in photography class.

When people see an f/1.4 lens, they automatically think, “wow! That must be a great portrait lens!” The truth is, you still have to be able to take a great photo with the aperture. An f/1.4 is an amazing portrait lens, but not because it makes your picture look bigger. It’s all about the focus. Focus is easily controlled by aperture and can create some great images.

  1. Depth of Field doesn’t make the image better

Depth of Field (DoF) is most commonly referred to as “blurry background.” Photography class may also go over it along with aperture. The DoF is the distance between where your lens can focus. Photography classes teach you that the smaller aperture (higher number) will give you a blurrier background. But, they don’t often explain how this works or how to use DoF to your advantage.

Why does this matter?

The DoF makes images eye-catching. What photography class doesn’t teach you is that if you use an aperture low enough your background will be in focus. If the background is completely blurry, it can make your subject look like they are floating or not of this world (or maybe even lost in time).

  1. ISO does not adjust light sensitivity

In photography class, you were probably taught that the higher the number, the more sensitive your image sensor is to light and vice versa.

Why does this matter?

If you have a low ISO (200-400) there will be less noise, but it’s also less bright. If you have a higher ISO 800+, the image can be flashy. However, there is more light which makes your final image look grainy. Photography classes usually don’t tell you that ISO does not just adjust your sensitivity to light. It can also make your images more grainy.

  1. The histogram is not optional

Photography classes make it seem like the histogram is only there to check if your picture was exposed correctly. They tell that the histogram is there to show you whether or not the image is underexposed (left) or overexposed (right).

Why does this matter?

What photography class doesn’t teach you, is that the histogram is also an image reading scale. The utility of histogram goes beyond exposure!

  1. Deciding whether to shoot jpeg or raw images can be overwhelming


Photography classes make it seem like you are deciding between the lesser of two evils when choosing what file type to shoot in. Unfortunately, you never learn about the benefits of both file types. Photography class also forgets to mention that you should take advantage of both file types to get the best-looking picture. They don’t get into detail about how a jpeg is a solid option for a quick edit and a small picture size, but raw is better if you want to edit your photos.

Why does this matter?

There is a time and place for both jpeg and raw. Photography classes make it seem like one is better. There usually is no mention of using both file types to get the best-looking photo. Decide on your own which one works best for your style of photography.

  1. White balance settings are not universal

There is not enough emphasis on the importance of knowing the white balance. Photography classes don’t elaborate on how to set a custom white balance. They forget to mention that your camera gives you a ‘daylight’ setting for a reason.

  1. Focusing is not as easy as it seems

Most of the courses tend to make it look like, it is as easy as pointing and shooting. Photography classes only mention the auto-focus setting and don’t tell you about the other settings. If you focus on an object close to your camera, there is a higher chance of getting a blurry photo. If your camera doesn’t have a focusing square, it means you are probably not in the autofocus setting.

  1. Edits are also not as simple as they seem

Photography class only covers the basics of making edits to your pictures. They never delve deep. They mention color balance and may mention some editing, but they never give details about what the heck a LAB color is.

Why does this matter?

Photography classes do not go in-depth about how messing with your LAB colors can make a world of difference to your pictures. Editing photography courses only mention some basic editing options. They never explain why some pictures work better with specific edits. Editing can make or break some pictures. That’s why it’s crazy that photography courses never tell you about the power of adding texture to your photos.

  1. Lighting is the key to photography.

Classes teach you about natural lighting. They never mention that there are many other options. They don’t tell you how to use the position of the light to make better shadows and highlights on your subjects, or explore why strobing might be the best way to get a good photo. Most photography classes forget to mention that you can use different types of light in photography.

  1. Composition is more than just a rule


Photography classes give you a few rules about composition, and sometimes they only mention the rule of thirds. You don’t have to follow all the boring rules of photography.

Rotating your camera an inch in either direction can make a big difference in your picture. Photography classes do not cover that sometimes certain techniques might be more effective than others.

  1. There is less focus on the type of equipment you need.

Photography classes don’t mention that photography lenses have different focal points. By changing your lens can change your perspective. The lenses can affect your photos. They hardly tell your photography lenses matters.

  1. Photography classes never mention how shutter speed can make a big difference.

They forget to mention how photography shutter speed works. Photography courses, in general, shy away from teaching about photography’s more advanced subjects. Shutter speed can make or break your picture.

  1. Photography class should show more than just tutorials on “how to edit photos.”

Classes should go in-depth about the basics of taking good photographs to make it easier on people who are new to photography. Photography classes don’t tell you that you need to edit your pictures, even if they are technically good.

  1. Photography classes should go over photography history.

Photography class does not mention that photography used to be a secret science. Photography is a lot older than many people think. It started as a contribution to society and culture. It wasn’t until photography was nearly one hundred years old that it became available to the mainstream public.

  1. Photography classes should teach about the different types of photography in detail.

They only provide an in-depth analysis of mainstream photography. Take your pick…

  • Nature/Wildlife
  • Macro Street
  • Sports
  • Astrophotography,
  • Portraiture
  • Documentary

What they should teach in Photography Class…

  • Aperture
  • Shutter speed
  • Gear (lenses)
  • Compositions (other than the rule of thirds and golden ratio)
  • Lighting techniques
  • Post-processing
  • Photography history

Photography classes are great, but you need to branch out and find other resources. They won’t teach you everything that a good photographer needs to know to become successful. It is important to seek other sources of knowledge as well. For example, the article titled “How To Shoot Film” by Nathan Birch on A Photo Editor is a helpful resource. It covers basic techniques about shooting film for beginners.

There’s also a wealth of information regarding photography available on YouTube and the C&I Uncreative Blog. If you want live feedback, you can post your work on Flicker and get critiqued by a wide range of professional photographers.

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