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Learning photography without a camera

Created on Fri, 13/12/2013 - 16:00 by Jessica Robertson: Video Director/ Producer 

One of the biggest challenges with online learning is how to provide practical experience, which is a pretty important thing when you consider an area that requires practical understanding.

Learning to ski online? That would be a strange course.

Image via Flickr

A camera is a costly thing

Photography course with no cost and no camera
Image via Flickr

When were planning our new course, The Art of Photography, we were stumped as to how we could offer practical experience without requiring students to purchase new equipment or leave their study space. After all, easy-to-access education is what we’re all about.

Virtual photography is almost real

Virtual reality
Image via Flickr

We got together with Smart Sparrow, who built our anthropology and astronomy simulators, to come up with a solution. The result is a realistic, real-time simulator of a DSLR camera offering basic DSLR functions.

The interactive tool allows you to practice the skills covered in the course, as though you were using a real camera. It demonstrates how the technical operations of a camera work, particularly how aperture, shutter speed and ISO can affect exposure and how they impact on each other through priority controls.

Confusing concepts are confusing

Photography simulator minimises confusion
Image via Flickr

One of the trickiest things to explain, without a practical demonstration, is how to read a histogram, to check on your photograph’s exposure. Our new simulator runs you through all of that, before you pick up your camera and leave the house. This way, you can practice the skill while you’re still in the classroom.

I studied art photography at University, so needed to learn enough technique to break the rules deliberately. I wish we had had this sort of tool when I was studying – it would have made understanding the concepts much quicker and a whole lot easier.

For example, when we consider aperture, a smaller number means a wide aperture, which isn’t exactly logical and if not explained or demonstrated properly it can get confusing. Understanding the relationship between aperture and shutter speed is vital to producing more creative images and the simulator allows the student the practice, allowing the concepts to sink in.

Making flexible learning more, well, flexible

Flexible online learning for photography seems impossible
Image via Flickr

Even though digital photography allows us more flexibility in terms of making mistakes, a simulator takes the whole learning process one step further. You can make the mistakes that we all make, starting out, in a safe environment. More importantly, you can understand what those mistakes are straight away.

Who would have though that it would be possible to study photography without a camera.


Thanks, Gaby. We're pretty excited to start the course, and see everyone's photos via the G+ Community. JP

A camera simulator?! Nice!

Sounds very strange, but super cool at the same time!
We`ll have our very own virtual remote camera for this class (awesome!!!)

This mooc deserves something like a mooc-innovation award, imho.

Hi Silvia,
The first round of the course is currently in Week 2. You can enrol and catch up, or wait for the next class to open for enrolments on Monday.

Great delivery. Great arguments. Keep up the great work.|
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Oh, I am really pleased to learn this. My camera broke a couple weeks ago and all I have access to is my cell camera. Hardly the type of camera one would use in a photography course. Technology to the rescue. Thank heavens.

love the simulator camera really lets me see how the key aspects of camera work without the frustration of messing up a great shoot opportunity

I really worried when I signed up for this class if I would need to go out and get a camera. Glad to know that I don't unless I just want to get one to practice in the real world. I've tried the simulator and a very impressed. I am more of a visual learner and using the simulator helps me understand the concept of f-stops, apertures, and shutter speeds better and makes understanding the video lecture much better. Thank you very much.

A photography course sans a camera! Are you for real? It's been the one handicap preventing me from enrolling. I am gonna spread the word like crazy!

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