The purpose of this area is not to give you a session-by-session map for teaching but to give you an overall outlook on these topics that, we think, will guide your teaching options to greater success; more like guiding stars than a road map.

Teaching Photoshop and Photography
Complimenting and Criticizing student work.
Artistic vs Technical Considerations.
Design Shoot-Out
Motivating the Unmotivated.


Teaching Photoshop and Photography.
In teaching Photoshop and Photography(digital or film) you will find it helpful to think of these topics as employing technology... to create art, (or at least an asthetically pleasing end result). These require both left and right brain functioning.

As a result, it is common to see Photoshop /photography projects that are asthetically attractive...but so technically flawed as to be unusuable or projects that are technically correct, but just plain ugly.

If you want any reasonable success for your students in these fields you have to teach both the technology and the art.

It is our experience that the better way to teach these subjects is not to combine the technology with the art, but to teach the topics separately.

The bad news is students(and teachers) tend to be more comfortable, more inclined to one side of the brain, than the other. Forgive the sexist tone of this remark, but it is common for the male students to feel they can "get" the technology side, but will fail in the "pretty" side of things, and females to believe they can't "get" the tech side.

Early in your class, it will help you to identify in your mind, which students are more "techies" and which are more the "artsy" types so when you are dealing with individuals you can target your teaching to that student's inclination.

In one class session, devote part of the time to a bite-size tech lesson, then part of the time to a equally sized art lesson, then complete the session by giving the student the opportunity to create the art using the just learned technology. This tends to motivate the art people to get the tech and encourages the tech types when they see success with the art.

This principle has been one of our guiding parameters. Chapters as short as possible, and tech subjects are interdispersed with fun stuff. This is also the rational behind the "cheap tricks". After grinding away on resolution and CMYK ink percentages....wake up your students and reengage their interest with a quick, simple, satisfying, artisticaly pleasing trick.

This division of tech/art will sometimes allow you to complement a student's work, prior to making a constructive criticism; "This is an excellent compostion, but the colors are muddy, this comes from an incorrect white balance."

TIP: Complementing and Criticizing students work
. When complementing a student's work refer to the work in possessive terms; Brenda's work, his art, her design. When criticizing refer to the work as if it is a freestanding entity owned by no one; the work, this design.

In evaluating a student's work, the tech aspect has to take priority over the aesthetic. The most beautiful design, that won't print or reproduce correctly can be a catastrophic failure. A weak or even poor design that will print correctly will get the job done, even if it doesn't win any awards.


Understanding exactly when it is OK to use Photoshop is tricky. Photoshop is great as a second-chance for an incorrectly shot photograph, but at the same time, a student using Photoshop as a crutch to avoid learning to shoot correctly isn't making any progress.

The better photographers and designers use Photoshop to extend photography beyond it's original limitations, rather than to bring a photo up to where it should have been to start with.


The tentpole of your photography teaching will be light. Photography is all about light and it is about nothing else. Teach exposure in terms of not enough light, or too much light. Teach lighting ratios in terms of the degree of difference between the brightest light and the darkest shadow. Teach color and white balance in terms of the temperature ofLIGHT. LIght, Light, LIGHT.

We have a slide show available(on CD, not 35mm transparencies) of about 30 images to try to help a student recognize and appreciate the effect light has on an image.


Artistic vs Technical Requirements
Many students in design classes will argue that they are "not very artistic". Try to get them to see that with Photoshop the need to be artistic is not as critical as it was once.

Before Photoshop a designer had to pre-visualize exactly where and how everything was going to fit together before they applied the first dab of paint. But this previously required trait isn't necessary for success in Photoshop-created design work. You no longer have to previsualize; just put stuff up there, then move it around, rearrange, hide, display, flip, rotate, scale or whatever until it looks good. That's less "artistic talent" than it is taste and proportions.

Also remember that in commercial design, artistic creativity isn't the be-all and end-all it is in art. In commercial or graphic design, the main point objective is communicating your client's message. Therefore it is acceptable to use elements, color combinations, fonts, styles, etc you have seen in designs created by others.

I'm not talking about plagerizing; that's not acceptable.

But to see a good design, then learn from it, then modify and incorporate it's design elements into another design is just the way the business works.

This is sort of like the difference between writing prose and writing the great American novel. There are few great novelists, but almost everybody can and should learn to write a decent paragraph. The same holds true for graphic design. There are few artists, but most any student can be taught to create a reasonable, attractive, workable, product-enhancing design. Don't allow a students hide behind their self-proclaimed lack of artistic ability. It's just not an excuse for crummy design work.

TIP: Design Shoot Out. Give students a Photoshop project with a specific parameters and a deadline. As the deadline approaches, count down the last 10 seconds then say STOP.

Have all the students;

  • hit the tab key, (to hide the palettes
  • hit the Ctrl+ 0 (control key plus the zero key) to fill the screen with their creation,
  • hit the F key twice to go to a black background.

With all the students work displayed, have the students stand and gather around the first computer displaying that students work. Critque the work, complementing the student for good stuff, critising the work for the bad. Ask for input (positive or negative) from the other students. Choose a first, second and third place, ask for a round of applause for the winners. This shoot out's winners are critiqued but not considered for placement in the next shoot out.

TIP; Motivating the unmotivated; Motivate disengaged students by giving them an assignment that appeals to their interest. If a student likes music; have him design a CD cover, poster and T-Shirt for a rock band. If he likes animals, politics, cars, sports, skateboards, poetry, computers, sci-fi, dungeons and dragons, chess, whatever that student likes....find something for him to design that will utilize that subject. Remember; everything needs advertising and ads are created using Photoshop and photography.