How to Make Amazing Photos Syllabus

Course Information:

Name:                  How to Take Amazing Photos with Your DSLR
Location:             Online (
Dates:                  Classes are on Tuesdays 3/28/2017 to 6/15/2017

                              Assignments are critiqued on Thursdays online, and one-on-one instruction is provided.

Instructor Contact Information:

Todd Klassy         406-282-1718

Class Description:

If you own an advanced DSLR and wish your photos were better, this online workshop with Todd Klassy will provide a better understanding of your camera and tool and it will help provide you with the skills to make amazing photos.

We will focus on core photographic concepts as well as some advanced techniques, all of which are designed to provide a thorough and practical understanding of your camera and the concepts necessary to make excellent photographs. The course will include demonstrations with the camera and photographic theory and concepts.

We will discuss the work of great photographers along with your own photos for you to better understand the fundamentals of composition and technique necessary to make compelling images. Expect to leave the class with a far better understanding of photography you can be proud of and a working knowledge of your DSLR camera.

Class Goals:

•    Provide you with a fundamental understanding of how your camera works.

•    Provide you with a fundamental understand of your camera’s controls and when to use them.

•    Provide you with a basic understanding of advanced composition techniques to help improve how your photos are composed and how they look.

•    Provide you with a basic understanding of exposure, focus, depth of field, shutter speed, and ISO.

•    Provide you with fundamental knowledge about how to make great portraits and photos of people.

•    Provide you with fundamental knowledge of how to make great landscape photography, action photography, and night and low-light photography.

•    Provide you with the tools and knowledge necessary to tell a story with your camera.

•    Provide you with a very basic understanding of photo editing and post processing skills.

•    Provide you with the knowledge necessary to create photos for use online and in print.


•    A digital SLR camera. It does not matter which kind, though full manual control is helpful. Having RAW capability will also be nice, but not necessary.

•    A tripod is not essential but very helpful. There are many options out there. You really get what you pay for but having any stabilizing device is much better than having nothing.

•    Storage media, such as an external USB or hard drive or online storage. Storing your photos on your memory card is not wise for many reasons.

•    A computer and basic photo editing software. Adobe Photoshop is not necessary. Most DSLR camera come bundled with photo editing software from the manufacturer. If you do not have photo editing software let me know and I can point you to different free options online.

       What Makes a Great Photograph?

- Composition
- Light
- Moment
- Subject
- Distance from subject
- Story telling
- Emotion
- Detail
- Color (or absence of color)
- Technique
- Creativity
- Editing

How I Learned to Shoot
Setting up DropBox for class files

Assignment:  Practice making photos of walls using the Rule of Thirds. This will be a weekly assignment. You will be expected to submit one photograph like this every week throughout the duration of the class.

       Introduction to Composition

- Rule of Thirds
- Golden Ratio
- Golden Triangles
- Background
- Balancing Elements
- Leading Lines
- Diagonals and Triangles
- Vanishing Points and the Rule of Space
- Centered Composition and Symmetry
- Patterns
- Texture
- Rule of Odds
- Viewpoint
- Foreground Interest and Depth
- Framing
- Cropping
- Experimenting
- Distance from Subject
- Isolating Your Subject
- Filling the Frame
- Simplicity and Minimalism
- Negative Space
- Perspective and Changing Your Point of View
- Strong Use of Color and Color Combinations
- Left to Right Rule & Where to Position Subject in Frame
- Juxtaposition

Assignment:  Practice making photos using some of the composition techniques discussed in the class. Submit four photos incorporating a different compositional technique discussed in the class.

       Understanding Your Camera

- Modes (Automatic, Program, Manual, etc.)
- Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority
- What is a stop?
- Sensor Sizes
- Shutter Button
- Focus and Focus Point Selection
- Light Meter Modes
- White Balance
- Setting Up Your Camera
- What’s in my camera bag?

Understanding Lenses

- Focal Lengths
- Speed (i.e. Maximum Aperture)
- Zoom vs. Prime Lenses
- Common Lens Problems

Fundamentals of Operating Your Camera

Assignment:  Practice using and setting up your camera as discussed in the class. Submit photos of the exact same scene (use a tripod if you have one) using Aperture Priority mode with the aperture set at f/2.8 (if available), f/4.0 (if available), f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11, f/16, and f/22. Submit one landscape photo using Aperture Priority mode at f/16. Submit one portrait photo set at the longest focal length you have + the largest aperture AND shortest focal length you have + largest aperture.

       Understanding Exposure

- Definition of Exposure
- What is a Correct Exposure?
- Reading Light and Lighting Types
- How to Measure/Meter Light & Metering Modes
- The Three Legs of Exposure: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO
- Focus Recompose
- Exposure Compensation

Assignment:  Practice using the different metering modes discussed in class. Submit three photos of the same scene (use a tripod if you have one) with the ISO set at 200, 1600, and the largest ISO setting available on your camera. Submit three photos of a different scene (but same scene in each photo) using Matrix Metering (Nikon) or Evaluative Metering (Canon) or equivalent on a different brand of camera, Center-Weighted Metering, and Spot Metering.

       Point of Focus and Depth of Field

- What is Depth of Field?
- Circles of Confusion
- Controlling Depth of Field (Aperture, Distance to Subject, Lens Focal Length)
- Calculating Your Depth of Field
- Hyperfocal Distance
- Using Focus Stacking to Extend Depth of Field
- Creative Use of Depth of Field
- Selecting Point of Focus and Using Focus Points

Assignment:  Practice using the different aperture settings on your camera and lens. Choose or create a scene in which something is 2 feet in front of the camera and something is 10 feet in front of the camera. Leave the camera and the items in the same position for all for photos. Do not change the lens focal length. Change only the focus, f-stop, and shutter speed. Use the widest (lowest number) aperture on your camera, and an f/16 (or higher number). Submit your results.

        Action Photography & Motion

- Using Shutter Priority Mode
- Freezing Action
- Showing Motion
- Telling a Story with or Without Motion
- Positions of Action vs. Positions of Rest
- Timing
- Using High Speed Multiple Exposures to Get the Shot
- Emotion, Exertion, and Reaction
- Using Focus Points to Frame the Subject
- Setting Up Your Camera for Action Photography


Steady Shooting

Assignment:  Practice photographing action and panning using the techniques offered in the class. Submit two photographs action, one where action has been frozen and one where you show motion. Also, photograph an automobile traveling down the highway and find the perfect shutter speed for panning.

05/16/2017       Portrait Photography

- What Makes a Great Portrait?
- The Eyes Have It
- Using High Speed Multiple Exposures to Capture Micro Expressions
- Why Backgrounds are Crucial to Make a Great Portrait
- The Effect of Focal Lengths on Portraits
- The Effect of Aperture on Portraits
- Soft Light and Shadows
- Varying Viewpoint and Perspective and Working Your Subject
- Using Reflectors and Flash for Portraits
- Catch Lights
- Rembrandt Lighting
- Posing Basics
- Photo Editing Portrait Basics

Assignment:  Practice photographing people using the techniques described in the class. Submit three photographs of the same person and same framing using three different backgrounds. Submit two portrait photos using the widest focal length you have and one using the largest focal length you have. And submit one photo trying to make a great portrait using the techniques described in class.

       Landscape Photography

- What Makes a Great Landscape Photograph?
- Planning Your Landscape Photo
- Focal Lengths and Landscape Photography
- Landscape Photography Equipment
- Filters (Polarized and Neutral Density Graduated Filters)
- High Dynamic Range Photography
- Panoramic Photos and Stitching Multiple Photos Together
- The Golden Hours
- How Weather Affects Landscape Photography
- Changing Your Viewpoint and Working Your Subject
- Composition (Depth and Scale)
- Less is More
- Revisit Locations

Assignment:  Practice making landscape photos using the techniques described in class. Submit one photograph of a landscape scene during the Golden Hour. Submit three photos of the same landscape where you changed your viewpoint. Submit one landscape photograph using an object in the scene to demonstrate depth or scale.

       Night and Low Light Photography

- Types of Night and Low Light Photography
- The Gear You Need (And How to Get by Without It)
- Bulb Mode and Time Lapse Photography
- Choosing the Right Exposure
- ISO Boost
- White Balance and the Color of Night
- Photographing Stars and Star Trails
- Time Lapse Photography
- How to Photograph Car Trails
- Painting with Light at Night
- Levels of Twilight

Assignment:  Practice using the different methods, settings, and equipment discussed in the class. Submit two well exposed photographs made at night or in low light conditions using the bulb mode on your camera and time lapse techniques.

       How to Tell a Story with Images

- Fundamentals of Documentary Photography
- Planning (And Knowing Your Subject)
- Emotion and Expressions
- Context and Background
- Structure (Introduction, Plot, Conclusion, etc.)
- Editing

Assignment:  Think about a story you want to tell with your camera. It can be any story you want. Perhaps it is the story of a party, a day in the life of someone you know, a meeting with a friend, a short trip someone, a sporting event, or the story of a pet. Submit five to seven photos that tell a story, including one that is an introductory photo, detail photo, and conclusion photo.

       Basics of Photo Editing & Processing

- Photographing in RAW vs. JPEG
- Cropping Your Shot
- Setting White Balance
- Performing a Levels Adjustment and Improving Exposure
- Tweaking Color
- Using the Spot Healing Brush and Clone Stamp Tool to Remove Distracting Elements
- Frequency Separation
- Improving Skin, Eyes, Teeth, and Hair
- Using Different Blending Modes and Color Treatments
- Converting to Black & White
- Sharpening Your Image and Removing Noise

Assignment:  Practice using the different photo editing techniques described in this class. Submit four photos. Two photos should not be edited at all and should have come straight from your camera without editing. The other two photos should be those same two photos where you used the basic photo editing techniques described in the class.

       Outputting and Saving Your Photos

- File Formats
- Web vs. Print
- Photos for Social Media and Use Online
- Preparing Your Photos for Print
- How and Where to Print
- How to Organize, Save, and Share Digital Photos
- Curating Your Collection

Assignment:  Submit your best possible photo using all the techniques described in the class over the past 12 weeks. Each photo will be critiqued in details. The best photo will receive a coupon for a free online class, the 2nd place photo will receive a coupon for 50% of an online class, and the 3rd place photo will receive a coupon for 25% off an online class.


This is a workshop available for your personal enrichment. Attendance is not necessary, but it will be helpful. Every class will be taught online and recorded so you can watch the video later online if necessary. However, because this is an accelerated course it will be difficult for you to catch up on the techniques if you do not watch the video of the class in the same week it was made. While I can’t re-teach a lesson, I will be available to answer your questions and provide personal instruction if you are having difficulty understanding a concept. I hope you will voice your questions when you would like for me to delve more in-depth on a topic or if there is something that you do not understand.

Photography is learned best by doing. Practice, practice, practice is paramount to making better photos. Be prepared to ask questions often to get the most out of the class.