Photo Lessons and Activities

This fall, the kids and I finally joined a local homeschool co-op here in Iowa. During the first half of the year I was able to teach a photography class there each week. After finishing the semester I knew that a lot of the things we covered could be used to help people of all ages better understand how to use their camera and the basic principles of photography!

I'm gonna break things down on the blog the same way I did for their weekly classes. I plan to also share some free resources that I find are very helpful to learning!

What I'm Using:

For most of the lessons, everything I shoot will be done will a Canon M50 camera, at our home, in our yard or at a park around town. This Canon is not the camera I use for sessions, but it is the one I use frequently to capture my own family especially when we traveled! 

If you don't have a camera yet, but still want to better understand shooting off of Auto Mode then I highly suggest using this resource to practice!

Let's talk about: Slow Shutter Speed

For our first week, we talked about Shutter Speed, specifically a slow shutter speed! I'll copy the lesson below and link the slides as well.

Things You'll Need for the Light Painting Activity:

  • A camera or app on your phone that allows you to change the shutter speed to 1 second long or more!
  • Flashlight, glow sticks, phone flashlight, or other light source
  • Tripod, stack of books, or table to set your camera on to stabilize it
  • A dark room or area of your house

A Shutter is like a Window

Have you ever heard the sound of a camera click? That's the sound of the shutter!

The shutter can be viewed as the "window of your camera." The more it is open the longer amount of time it has to capture movement. The less it's open the shorter amount of time it has to capture movement. You would use a fast shutter speed to freeze something in motion, and you would use a slow shutter speed to capture the movement.

Using a Fast Shutter Speed vs. Slow Shutter Speed

Can you think of something you might use a fast shutter speed for?

Some ideas are to catch a fast athlete in action, freeze rain falling, a car moving and fast kids!

Can you think of something you might use a slow shutter speed for?

Some ideas are a waterfall or river to capture the flow of movement, fireworks so you see the full burst, light movement such as headlights/taillights on a busy road, and simply your own artistic choice! Examples below:

Shutter Speed vs. Light

The speed of your shutter not only impacts how motion is captured, but also how light is. Think of your shutter as a window again and your photo as the room inside. The longer a shutter is open the more light it will let in and onto your photo. The shorter amount of time it's open the less light it will let in and onto your photo.

Light Painting

If we move a light source while the shutter is open longer (aka a slow shutter speed) the camera will capture that motion! Just like the examples above.

To light paint we need to move outside at night or turn off the lights and move away from the windows. Not only to better see what you "draw", but again because the longer the shutter is open the more light it will let in and allow onto your photo. If we left the lights on with a shutter speed of a few seconds then the photos would likely turn out completely white!

If you don't know how to shoot manual you will want to use a mode that prioritizes the Shutter Speed. This would be the "S" on your dial is you are shooting Nikon, and the "Tv" on your Canon.

Slow Shutter Activity:

  • Think about what you or your child want to draw.
  • Set your camera up on a stable surface so that your camera doesn't capture the motion of your hands moving!
  • Turn the shutter speed down to 1-6 seconds to start.
  • Prep to stand in front of your camera in frame.
  • Click the shutter and draw what you'd like within the time frame of your selected shutter speed.
  • Admire your art and play around with different lengths of shutter speed and lights!

Thanks for reading!

I hope that was helpful for you! As we continue to make Iowa home my hope is to restart several of the classes I had the privilege to teach in North Carolina, like my basic photography class!

Currently, my goal is to host a basic in-person photography workshop in the Des Moines area sometime in 2023! If that's something you're interested in please add your info so I can contact you with details when I have them!