SEBRING – Their parents and grandparents would have been concerned about finding the right roll of film and learning how to develop it, aperture settings to adjust for light, shutter speeds and rewind releases.
But instead, these students were more concerned with downloads, apps, Snapseed and photo transferring.
As photography incessantly evolves from bulky film cameras to the world of sleek, thin iPhones hardly any teenagers these days can be seen without, the desire to focus on “iPhoneography” - taking pictures with handheld “smartphones” - is becoming more prevalent.
To help teens maximize their skills taking digital pictures with their iPhones or other smartphones seemingly permanently tethered to anyone under 30, the Highlands Art League is offering “Teen iPhoneography” classes.
Since they began July 14, running until Aug. 18, five teenage girls have and are in the process of learning how to turn “selfie” pictures of themselves and random snapshots of their days into focused, arranged, aligned and a creative series of stylized snapshots.
During their 5 p.m. class Monday in the Highlands Art League’s Clovelly House, instructor Caroline Maxcy, a professional photographer who owns a lifestyle photography business in Sebring, went over the elements of basic composition. At the class in the former house, 1985 Lakeview Dr., students Jalize Reyes, 14, Lexi Maulden, 12, Gracie Duncan, 13, Anna Grace Wheeler, 13 and Zoe Cosgrave, 12, grasped their phones and listened as Maxcy went over five composition “rules.”
Also attending the composition class was Allan Sropa of Avon Park, an adult who was given an exception to be at the one session.
Prior to the class, the students were assigned to take “Flipagrams,” pictures of subjects that would “tell a story.” Among the subjects shot by the “iPhotographers” were the outdoor sculptures in downtown Sebring, chickens and eggs from an egg farm in Lake Placid, a study of acoustic guitars and pictures of dead coral.
“Once you get closer to the subjects, you get a better idea of the forms,” noted Lexi of Lake Placid.
As Maxcy showed pictures of a series of chickens and eggs Gracie took at Lake Placid’s Henscratch Farms, Maxcy noted Gracie’s use of low angles and setting her camera in the grass and of the adaptability of using cell phones to take pictures.
“It really does look different through the angles that you use,” said Lexi.
Getting the students to note ways in which they could maximize their iPhones’ photo capabilities, Maxcy said another part of the classes’ purpose was to teach students the craft and aesthetics of photography, whether using a smartphone, digital camera, 35mm film camera or even a camera obscura. Throughout the six-week course, Maxcy and her students show and critique each other’s snapshots and discuss the craft and aesthetics of photography while enhancing digital-picture taking skills.
Maxcy, who has a master’s in graphic design from North Carolina State University, said by critiquing assignments, the students develop confidence and their works and skills progress. In Monday’s class, she went over basic composition components: “rule of thirds,” “leading lines,” “symmetry,” “depth and background,” “vantage point” and “framing and cropping” and “breaking the rules.” With each one, she showed examples using a laptop computer.
“You can break the rules, absolutely, if it works for you. Just knowing the rules is a good place to start because then you now you’re breaking them,” said Maxcy.”
As for framing and cropping, Maxcy went over six rules such as don’t crop while editing, adjust for straight horizons, use zoom to better frame images and “don’t chop people up.” In upcoming classes, she will cover finding light, the renowned self-portrait, or “selfie,” the story portrait and a final presentation where each student will share her “summertime story.”
Although the class focuses on digital photography, there is a retroactive trend among youth to cling to film building over the past several years, according to Photo Marketing Association. Although sales of film cameras is way behind digital counterparts, digital camera sales are slightly decreasing while sales of analog cameras are increasing.
The Photo Marketing Association reported with camera sales from September 2010, digital camera sales dropped 2 percent. Analog camera sales increased from 30 percent to 40 percent, although a lot of the increase came from disposable camera purchases.
“I have taken film shots and I have friends who have film cameras, they’re kind of coming back as a retro thing,” said Anna Grace. “But I found out about this class through Instagram and joined. I’ve learned about background, symmetry, meeting points. I hope to learn to take better pictures and get better angles.”
Even the sales of traditional digital cameras are dropping with the influx of smartphones with built-in cameras, stated the Photo Marketing Association. Sales of compact digital cameras fell by 30 percent in 2011 and are predicted to keep falling. Research shows that 45 percent of consumers, many of them teens, use their smartphones to shoot photos, while only 40 percent use a digital camera.
Because of the inevitable decline in camera-specific photography and her penchant for film, Maxcy said in this day and age, children and teenagers need to learn the finer points of photography with ever-present smartphones and iPhones.
“They don’t have to fiddle with camera settings; you can just take it out and take a picture in the moment. I hope they learn to take better pictures with their iPhones and get an excitement for the world around them,” said Maxcy.
Maxcy is also offering a six-week adult photography course and is hoping to start an adult smartphone photography course.
For information, see www.highlandsartleague.org or call (863) 385-6682.