Learn photography the right way

Hello everyone,

Well, the darkroom class is once again in full swing.   Students are busy developing film that they shot either here in the USA or abroad, as is the case of a couple students. Regardless of where they shot their film, now they have to develop it and make sure they develop it correctly. Some students also print some of the negatives using fiber base paper, creating some very good images. So, how did you spend your summer? Shooting hundreds of digital images hoping that they look as good as the ones you see on the internet? If that is what you do and you like doing it, more power to you. But, if one day you get tired of shooting indiscriminately hoping for one good picture, maybe that will be that day that you decide to actually learn photography.

There is nothing wrong if you don’t know anything about photography, long ago I was in the same boat. Then, one day I purchased a film camera, learned how to use it and I end up owning my own photography studio and business for 26 years. But before I could do that I needed to learn what photography is. You and anyone interested can learn photography as well, either with a digital camera or a film camera. But it is important to learn from someone that knows and has been teaching for a long time! Yes, you can look at videos on the internet and do what they tell you to do, but, do the people that uploaded the video know what they are talking about? Or are they just re-posting something they themselves found on the internet?

Photography as we all know it has not changed in the last 200 years, what has changed are the cameras that we use to capture images. Do you know that you can capture a photograph using nothing but a shoe box? Yes! You can. But that is not how we all capture images nowadays  Now we use computerized cameras that come with a 200-page manual so you can learn how to use them.

Film photography is easier and way more rewarding. You finally get to create something with your own two hands and not by trying to find the right app that edits the photos the way you like them. I hope you give yourself a chance to learn photography the way ALL the great masters of photography did.  Become the next Ansel Adams!

Thank you.

Ignacio Alvarez


What’s in a Darkroom Print?

Few people realize the amount of work that goes into getting a darkroom print. During our darkroom photography classes at Truman College in Chicago, we go through it all. After you’ve shot your film, we need to develop it. A contact print normally follows, where the film strip will give you a preview of your images.

Someone once said your worst images are your first 10,000. Imagine shooting 10,000 images in film! That is over 410 rolls of 24 exposure film! Or over 830 rolls if you’re shooting medium format.

Back to the basics: contrary to today’s digital photography mantra of ‘spray and pray’, shooting film, economically speaking, forces you to shoot less. And that’s a good thing. It forces you to be mindful. To pay attention. To be in the moment and use your powers of observation. It isn’t just an image that you want to create, but also the technical journey with your camera that you need to follow in order to make it happen.

This image is one of those observations of mindfulness. Shot in medium format, a cactus was shot first at the Garfield Chicago Botanical Conservatory. It was exposed at half the metered exposure, and then the papaya leaf was shot. The camera used was a Mamiya c220, which allows two exposures shot on the same frame of the film. The film was Ilford HP5 at 400 ISO.

The negative was then developed and printed in the darkroom. This image might not speak to many people, given the bombardment of digital photography images these days. But to those who know film, it speaks of one element that was the result of paying attention by my student. It speaks to mindfulness.

Next time someone asks ‘What’s in a print?’, I can assure you… if it came from the darkroom, SO many things had to go right for it to come to life.  Or perhaps it was a result of many mistakes, and among so many things going wrong, eventually one thing had to go right. And that thing that goes right happens when we practice mindfulness.

Find out more about my darkroom classes by contacting Truman’s Continuing Education adviser Laura Smith at 773-907-4440