The Digital Darkroom

JAN 335

David M. Whisnant
Wofford College
Spartanburg, SC

Digital cameras and modern image-processing software have revolutionized photography. It now is cheap and easy to take pictures with digital cameras and almost as easy to creatively modify the images later using a computer. This project will concentrate on both the “picture-taking” and “picture-making” aspects of digital photography. We will discuss how digital cameras work and how they can be used effectively, paying particular attention to techniques that photographers use to take good pictures in the studio or in the field. Students also will learn how to enhance and manipulate digital images using Adobe Photoshop Elements 3. We will begin with basic modifications, such as the correction of problems with lighting, contrast, color, sharpness, and unwanted items in the image, and then move on to more advanced techniques – changing specific parts of photos, creating and managing layers, combining images, shooting panoramas, using images to create graphics, and restoring old photographs. Students will work on lessons designed to help them learn to use the software and on assigned projects that will require them to use the techniques they have learned.  

During the first week of classes, students in the project also will learn how to print pictures using a Canon i9900 photo printer. They will get experience in cropping photos before printing, changing image dimensions and canvas sizes, cutting their own mats, and mounting printed photographs. They will print several display-quality pictures suitable for framing. Part of the fee for the course will cover printing supplies.

The best photographs from the project will be exhibited in the Martha Cloud Chapman Gallery in the Raines Center from February 5 to March 11.

Grading in the project will be based on class attendance and active participation in the out-of-class assignments. I must see evidence of thought and time spent on the photographs submitted. Both quality and quantity matter.

The anticipated cost for the project is $165.

Class Schedule and Assignments

We will meet in the morning (9:30 -  11:30) and sometimes in the afternoon (1:00 - 2:30). Morning classes generally will involve “hands-on” lessons, using digital photographs that I furnish to teach Photoshop Elements techniques. Afternoon classes generally will be lectures that introduce students to ways they can use a camera more effectively, to compositional techniques that will help them take better photographs, and to how digital cameras work. We also will use the morning sessions to introduce the work of several great photographers.

There will be several out-of-class assignments during the Interim.

  1. Aperture, Shutter Speed, and Lens Perspective
  2. Light
  3. Composition
  4. Campus Images
  5. Nature
  6. People and Animals
  7. Buildings and Monuments
  8. Photo Restoration
  9. Photo Exposition

Students will be expected to spend at least three hours a day taking photographs that fit with the theme of the current assignment and improving their photographs using Photoshop Elements. Students also will be required to send at least five images to me by email for each assignment. These images will be viewed on our class pictures web page. The best prints will be included in the Chapman Gallery exhibition.

Class schedule

Photo Assignment Schedule


Here are the current versions of the lessons for the course:

The images needed for the lessons are in this folder.

Equipment and Reading Material

Participants in the project will need a digital camera with a zoom lens (preferably 3 Mpixel or more), access to a networked personal computer, preferably their own, with a USB port. This computer should have a minimum of 4 GB free space on its hard drive. Adobe image files can occupy as much 20 MB each, so modifying one image, which can involve several intermediate versions, may need 100 MB of space.

Students also should have access to a camera tripod for night and panorama shots. Although tripods for serious photographers cost well over $100, you should be able to find cheaper models at discount stores.

 Students must purchase the following two books:

1. Bryan Peterson, Understanding Digital Photography, Amphoto Books, 2005

2. Ron White, How Digital Photography Works, Que, 2006

I also will distribute supplemental handouts to help with a few lessons.


This page was last updated on January 11, 2007