Digital Photography

Course Description

In this course, students learn to take artistic digital photos. A good digital photography or image demonstrates competence in art and artistic expression. It is the result of the use of technical skill and a purposeful, creative mind. We all have lots of experience with “point and shoot” pictures. Often we can create pleasing images with this “technique” or at least document important events in our lives. In this course you are invited to plan your shots ahead. You will make conscious choices about what elements you want to have in your picture and which you want to exclude. You may decide what light sources to use, what shadows to create, what angle would be the most appropriate, et cetera. I would call this technique plan and shoot.

We will analyze photos we have taken prior to the course and discuss if they fulfill criteria to be seen as art. Several theories of artistic expression will be discussed. You are invited to share your own thoughts, but in addition to that you may consult appropriate literature like books about art, scholarly articles, journals about art, et cetera. Your opinion is very important but you have to sustain it with relevant literature. You must put your own thoughts into a bigger context. This way we can establish a framework with which we will evaluate if our images are artistic or not.

We will discuss the lighting of our photos. You may remember many of your own shots in which you used a direct flash. These photos often have a bright light spot in the center and get darker to the sides and corners. The conscious use of light can create shadows where we want them. Rules of composition, light, exposure, colors, etc. will be reflected on.

In a second step students will develop the competence to alter their digital photos with a program like Photoshop Elements. They will be able to change the expression of their photos, combine different shots, creating their personal piece of art.

As a final product students will create a portfolio with about 5 photos including detailed descriptions of their work. We will learn to see everyday objects with different eyes, and create the extraordinary out of the ordinary. We will establish an interaction between you, the objects and your camera.

Course Learning Goals

Depending on the competences you are signed up for, after completing this course, you will be able to:

Course Competencies

In this course, you will develop the following competencies:

A5: Can define and analyze a creative process. REQUIRED

Creativity is often associated with forms of human expression in the literary, fine, and applied arts. Because it involves the development of innovative ideas and fresh approaches to problems, however, the practice of creativity is no less integral a component of the social, physical, and technological sciences. In any field of human endeavor, the creative process requires ability to question accepted and “acceptable” ways of perceiving and thinking, as well as a willingness to forge connections and refine knowledge through doubt, curiosity, and imagination. Through engagement, reflection, and analysis, this competence invites the student to understand how a creative process is born, how it functions, and how it changes our perception and experience of the world. Such insights may develop, for example, by analyzing the creative process in the writing of a poem, the production of a visual narrative, the planning of a city, the design of a web site, or the development of an innovative way of perceiving and explaining a natural phenomenon.

A1X: Can analyze digital photos in terms of their artistic style and expression.

A2D: Can create an original work of art using an electronic medium and can discuss the creative process.

Students demonstrate this competence by combining both technical ability and the expression of ideas through an audio or visual medium, augmenting this demonstration with a discussion of the choices made, and the reasons for making those choices. Digital video, digital photography, digital mixing and recording, and computer animation are suited to this competence.

A2X: Can create artistic digital photos and reflect on the elements necessary to consider a photo a form of artistic expression.

Specific assignments can be related to specific competencies, although students have to elaborate more assignments than the ones that relate directly to their competence:

Assessment Criteria for your Final Paper or Project by Competence

Your final project consists of a portfolio of 5 images (3 if you are signed up for one competence only) with a detailed description of what they show, what they should express, and how they attend to the quality criteria of art and digital photography. The images are:

  1. A retaken best shot from Module 6
  2. A cropped and improved image from Module 7
  3. An artistic alteration of an image from Module 8
  4. A combination of different photos from Module 9
  5. A Student Masterpiece that the student considers his or her "best work" in this course.

The project will be assessed according to your competence:

The student demonstrates in the portfolio that he or she is able to define and analyze a creative process. The description of the photos and the write-up contain a definition of the concept of creativity, an analysis and description of the components of a creative process in the field of digital photography or imaging, and an explanation of how engaging in a creative process affected his or her perception of the world.

The student demonstrates in the portfolio that he or she is able to analyze digital photos in terms of their artistic style and expression. The student defines indicators of artistic expression to evaluate a digital photo efficiently and describes the artistic expression of each digital photo.

The student demonstrates that he or she is able to create an original work of art using a digital camera and specific software while discussing the process of creation. The student will demonstrate technical ability with digital photography, discuss the concepts, themes, or ideas expressed through this medium, and discuss the limits and possibilities of this technology.

The student demonstrates that he or she is able to create artistic digital photos and reflect on the elements necessary to consider a photo a form of artistic expression. This includes the electronic alteration of a digital photograph using computer software. The portfolio should contain an explanation of how the final product matches the criteria of artistic expression.

Course Resources

To buy your books, go to

If you do not have such a camera and if your budget does not allow you to purchase one, please contact me. We will find a solution.

A word of caution concerning the purchase of a camera on the Internet: If the price is too good to be true, you most likely will never get the camera. There are some stores on the Internet that only send you the cheap camera you bought if you purchase several other overpriced items. If you deny buying more than the cheap camera, they never send you anything.

One of the first assignments in the course will be that you present yourself together with "your best shot" (a picture you took which you think is the best you ever took). If you want to take some pictures before the course starts, you will have some more to select from.

Course Grading Scale

A = 95 to 100

A- = 91 to 94

B+ = 88 to 90

B = 85 to 87

B- = 81 to 84

C+ = 77 to 80

C = 73 to 76

C- = 69 to 72

D+ = 65 to 68

D = 61 to 64

F = 60 or below


Please note: Grades lower than a C- do not earn credit or competence in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Course Structure

This course consists of ten modules. The estimated time to complete each module is one week.

Week,  Module # and Title



Week 1, Module 1:










Course Syllabus

One or two modules of your interest

1.1 Introductions Discussion

1.2 Best Shot Discussion

Week 2, Module 2:

Creativity and the Act of Creation



Read Two Suggested Articles:

Arnheim, R. (1993). The two authenticities of the photographic media. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 51 (Fall), 537-540.

Astore, M. (January 01, 2006). When the Artwork Takes the Pictures. Law Text Culture, 10, 239-258.

Chong, A. (July 11, 2009). The Photograph as a Receptacle of Memory. Small Axe, 13, 2, 128-134.

Diffey, T. J. (2004). On steering clear of creativity. Journal of Visual Art Practice, 3(2), 91-102.

Feldhusen, J. F., & Goh, B. E. (1995). Assessing and accessing creativity: an integrative review of theory, research, and development. Creativity Research Journal, 8(3), 231-247.

Glück, J., Ernst, R., & Unger, F. (2002). How creatives define creativity: Definitions reflect different types of creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 14(1), 55-67.

Grivett, B. (2006). Photography's dualistic controversies. PSA Journal, 72(3), 38-39.

Jones, E. (1997). The Case Against Objectifying Art. Creativity Research Journal, 10(2 & 3), 207-214.

Savedoff, B. E. (1997). Escaping reality: digital imagery and the resources of photography. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 55(Spring), 201-214.

Smith, G. J. W. (2005). How should creativity be defined?

Warburton, N. (April 01, 1997). Authentic photographs. The British Journal of Aesthetics, 37, 129-37.


2.1 Website Analysis

2.2 Internet and Library Articles Summary

2.3 List of 5-7 Indicators

2.4 Art and Creativity Discussion

2.5 Photo Equipment Discussion

2.6 Dictionary of Photography Terms Discussion

Week 3, Module 3:

...and There Was Light



Read pp. 128 to 141 of the textbook about lighting and discuss the conscious use of different light sources.

Search for and read on the Internet sources about the conscious use of light in photography.

3.1 White Balances

3.2 Light Scenario

3.3 The Perfect Illumination Discussion

Week 4, Module 4:

Photo Shooting with Attention to Detail



Read pp. 46–127 of the textbook about indicators of good photography (Rules of composition, use of lines, shape, form, patterns, color, frame, contrast, focus, angle, etc.).

Research at least two articles dealing with professional photography.

4.1 Indicators of good artistic photography

4.2 The Perfect Shot Discussion

Week 5, Module 5:

Discussing the Best Shots




5.1 Photo Feedback Discussion

5.2 Expert Photo Discussion

Week 6, Module 6:

Retaking the Best Shots with Rigorous Attention to Detail


Read Textbook pp. 46 to 127

6.1 Improve Shoots Discussion

Week 7, Module 7:

Putting it all together

Download and read Adobe Photoshop Elements User Guide pp. 231-244

Note: download may take a few minutes depending on your connection speed. The different versions of the Adobe Photoshop Elements User Guide frequently change their internet location. We cannot download them to a DePaul server, because this is violating the copyright regulations. If you have difficulties accessing a specific user guide, please contact your instructor.

7.1 Photo Improvement Discussion

Week 8, Module 8:

Extreme Alteration


Adobe Photoshop Elements User Guide pp. 260 to 299.

8.1 Altering Photo Assignments

8.2 Alterations Discussion

Week 9, Module 9:

Combining Different Pictures




Adobe Photoshop Elements User Guide pp. 151 to 174.

9.1 Image Parts

9.2 Photo Combination

9.3 Combining Images Discussion

Week 10, Module 10:

Course Wrap Up




10.1 Portfolio (A1X)

10.1 Portfolio (A2D)

10.1 Portfolio (A2X)

10.1 Portfolio (A5)

10.2 Wrapping Up Discussion

10.3 Work of Art Portfolio Discussion



To see course due dates, click on the Checklist link on the top navigation bar.  This page contains module-specific checklists and due dates for the work due in the course.

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Percentage distribution of Assessments

Every student will receive a grade in this course based on his or her effort put forward, on the quality of the assignments handed in, and according to the demonstrated development of competence. This learning experience is considered adult education and the percentage distribution of assessments is handled in a flexible manner according to the general performance of each student. If you disagree with an assessment you can either defend your viewpoint or improve your work.

Grading Policies and Practices

To complete the course, you must complete each of the assignments as described in the course and submit them to your instructor by the assigned deadline.  In addition, you must participate in the course discussion forum by responding to all instructor requests and by interacting with fellow classmates as necessary.

Points are deducted for late work.

All students who put forward a reasonable effort in this course and hand in quality assignments in a timely manner will achieve a passing grade (either a letter grade (A to C-) or a pass). We all start at a different competence level. For this reason you are evaluated if you demonstrate and gain competence. If you are a complete novice in the area of digital photography, you will be evaluated on the competence you gained, not on the "expert level" of your assignments. On the other hand, assignments of poor quality constantly handed in late or lack of participation in the Forums may cause that a student to fail this course.

Assessment of Learning

If you are signed up for two competences, you may elaborate all assignments and participate in all modules.

If you are studying this course for one competence only and if you are signed up for the A2D, A2X or A5 competence you may, to develop the specific competence, elaborate the assignments of week:

This is an option you have; you may elaborate all assignments if you wish to do so.

If you are signed up for the A1X competence only you may, to develop this competence, elaborate the assignments of week:

This is an option you have; you may elaborate all assignments if you wish to do so.

For the assessment of your competence development, specific importance is given to the assignments which relate to your competence. Please elaborate these assignments with special attention to quality and detail. Nevertheless you may elaborate all assignments (participate in all Discussions) as the assignments build on each other.

As stated before: All photographs and images submitted have to provide evidence of careful planning, staging and arrangement of elements, thoughtful lighting and purposeful use of camera settings. Images should reflect intentional creative decision-making and artistic intervention and choice. As opposed to that “point and shoot” pictures will not be accepted as coursework.

In general we will assess competence development in this course, not so much writing skills or presentation skills. The evaluation of artistic work is a very subjective matter. It is important that the students develop skills to assess artwork and pay attention to quality indicators. Students should develop courage to try something new, to step over the boundaries imposed by themselves and others. Learning in this sense includes emotional and social processes. Evidence which students provide for the development of competence in this course includes but is not limited to:

It is very difficult to put points or grades to these issues. The sum of all course contributions should result in the final grade.

Digital Photography and Taste

Art is often a question of taste. You will show pictures in this course that you consider creative and artistic. Please keep in mind that we all have our own convictions what art is and what it is not. You may carefully evaluate which topics or themes are appropriate for this course. Please also consider the University Guidelines in your judgment. In general it is not the instructor who will make the final judgment if a photo is appropriate or not. This judgment will be made by the community of learners in this course.

If you plan to post pictures which display nudity, violence, sexual content, or content which may arouse disgust or aversion, please be aware that the appropriateness of these photos may be the topic of a discussion by the learning community.

Only photos that violate United States laws or University guidelines will be immediately removed from display.

Not a Step-By-Step Instruction But a Personal Learning Process

This course is not a step-by-step instruction to take digital photos. Furthermore, this course does not guide students through the detailed use of the Adobe Photoshop software. These functions are fulfilled by the textbook and user manuals.

In this course you will learn to reflect on artistic photography and develop competence in evaluating photos with a critical eye. After this course a digital photograph —from you or from others— will never look the same.

Learning in this course is not a linear process. Different people may learn different things from the same situation. Your learning in this course will depend on your prior knowledge and experience with digital photography and the required software.

Event Photography

Taking photos at an event is very difficult, especially when people are not expecting that their photo will be taken. At a wedding you might get people to stand still for a moment, not so at a party in reduced space. Almost always there are items in the picture that should not be there. Very often the illumination is poor or the composition is deficient. For this course you may opt for easier settings to take pictures and leave the "event photography" for later in your "career as a photographer."

General Assessment Criteria for All Writing Assignments

All writing assignments are expected to conform to basic college-level standards of mechanics and presentation.

Consider visiting the Writing Center to discuss your assignments for this course or any others. You may schedule appointments (30 or 50 minutes) on an as–needed or weekly basis, scheduling up to 3 hours worth of appointments per week. Online services include Feedback–by–Email and IM conferencing (with or without a webcam). All writing center services are free.

Writing Center tutors are specially selected and trained graduate and undergraduate students who can help you at almost any stage of your writing. They will not do your work for you, but they can help you focus and develop your ideas, review your drafts, and polish your writing. They can answer questions about grammar, mechanics, different kinds of writing styles, and documentation formats. They also can answer questions and provide feedback online, through IM/webcam chats and email.

Obviously, the tutors won’t necessarily be familiar with every class or subject, but they are able to provide valuable help from the perspective of an interested and careful reader as well as a serious and experienced student-writer.

Schedule your appointments with enough time to think about and use the feedback you’ll receive. To schedule a Face-to-Face, Written Feedback by Email, or Online Appointment, visit

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Discussion Forums

Discussion Forums are an important component of your online experience. This course contains discussion forums related to the topics you are studying each week. For requirements on your participation in the Discussion Forums, please see "Course Expectations" in the syllabus.

A Course Q & A discussion forum has also been established to manage necessary, ongoing social and administrative activities. This is where the management and administrative tasks of the course are conducted, and where you can ask 'process' questions and receive answers throughout the course. Please feel free to answer any question if you feel you know the answer; this sharing of information is valuable to other students.

Assessment Criteria for Online Discussion Participation

In general there are two types of postings: Your initial postings in which you present your content to your peers (introduction, your "best shot", your critique of an expert photo, etc.) and your replies to your peers. In your initial postings you demonstrate that you read the suggested texts and that you did your own research on the subject. If photos are requested, you post them with a detailed description of what they show and how they attend to the criteria of artistic digital photography. The other postings are replies to your peers. In these you may comment in a kind and supportive manner on the photos, ideas, analysis and conclusions of your fellow students. Your postings will be evaluated on how much they contribute to the discussion in content and number.

Discussions will be assessed Pass/Fail. We will be using the following rubric to evaluate discussion posts, where 3 or 2 is Pass, and 1 or 0 is Fail.

3 = The postings to the discussion reflect that the assignments of the specific module are elaborated with close attention to detail. If photos are part of the assignments, they show careful planning, including the background and the light setting. The depicted elements are well arranged. The student contributes new content to the discussion like books, journal articles and websites and cites them correctly. Most postings add new ideas to the discussion. Feedback to other students is extensive, contains suggestions and pays attention to the quality indicators of Digital Photography/Digital Imaging developed in the course. Reasons for agreement or disagreement are provided.

2 = The postings to the discussion reflect that the assignments of the specific module are elaborated. If photos are part of the assignment, they show basic planning of the photo and at least some attention to the light setting and background. The student contributes at least one new source like books, articles or websites. The postings reflect at least basic research on the topic. The student got involved into the discussion, although the postings could have been more extensive and/or feedback to other students could have addressed more quality indicators of Digital Photography / Digital Imaging developed in this course.

1 = The postings to the discussion reflect that the assignments of the specific module are elaborated without attention to detail. If photos are part of the assignments, they appear to be more like "everyday snapshots" with unintentional arrangement of elements, poor planning of the light setting, and little attention to the background. Alterations of Digital Images show very basic use of the Photoshop Software. The postings to the discussion do not reflect research on the topic and/or the student did not get involved into the discussion after posting an initial posting. Feedback is too short to help other students to improve their images.

0 = The postings to the discussion reflect that the assignments are elaborated with little or no effort. Responses to other students are short and do not add new ideas to the discussion.

In general the discussions are graded together with the corresponding assignments they discuss. Students will receive only one (1) “percentage grade” for elaborating the assignment AND discussing it. The following is the distribution of % which I think is appropriate.

Online Participation Guidelines

We all want to create a pleasant and harmonic online learning environment. To do this, we must consider each other. Please write in a language that does not sound offensive; start your messages with a greeting and sign them with your name or nickname (no initials). Praise the work of others, giving critical feedback, including the following three points:

Abstain from using offensive language, do not make fun of anybody, and treat everybody kindly. If you receive critical feedback you may want to thank the person who posted it and either defend your viewpoints or improve your work. The learning environment is the responsibility of all learners, including the instructor.

Course Policies

College and University Policies

This course includes and adheres to the college and university policies described in the links below:

Academic Integrity Policy (UGRAD)

Academic Integrity Policy (GRAD)

Incomplete Policy

Course Withdrawal Timelines and Grade/Fee Consequences

Accommodations Based on the Impact of a Disability

Protection of Human Research Participants

APA citation format (GRAD)

Additional Course Resources

University Center for Writing-based Learning

SNL Writing Guide

Dean of Students Office

Changes to Syllabus

This syllabus is subject to change as necessary. If a change occurs, it will be clearly communicated to students.


This course was designed and produced by Hartwig Stein and staff at SCPS, School of Continuing and Professional Studies of DePaul University.

©2013 School of Continuing and Professional Studies, DePaul University. All Rights Reserved by SCPS during contractual interval with the Author.