Digital Photographic Imaging

a syllabus

Fall 2014
PHOT 3190.01
© Bill Barrett 2014

Feedback (general opinions, problems, suggestions, etc.) on this hypersyllabus is encouraged! Bookmark this, but don't rely on printing it out. It is very likely that this page will be updated in the course of the semester.

Class description: Students learn the theoretical and practical aspects of photographic digital imaging. Students develop a theoretical understanding of this technology and learn to apply these principles using Adobe Photoshop. Students learn to control, modify, and manipulate digital photographic images for both corrective and creative purposes. Prerequisite: Photo II (PHOT 2000) for photo majors, or Desktop Publishing (COAP 2020) for non-majors.

Learning Outcomes:

We will be using the Macintosh computer platform in class, but students with Windows familiarity are welcome. Cross-platform questions are encouraged, and issues are addressed.

Class attendance is very important this course. Your participation and attendance are a large part of your grade -- make sure both are exceptional. If you miss more than one class, your grade will be affected. If you miss eight class sessions, you cannot pass the course. Written assignments and class presentations must be completed on schedule. 

How you're graded: Your final grade is based on your performance throughout the semester. Your attendance and active participation count for 30%; your final projects count for 60% (see note at week nine for details); two exams count for 20%. Doing more than required can earn you extra credit; talk to me outside class if you're interested. This is what the grades mean....


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Scott Kelby, The Adobe Photoshop Book for digital photographers for Versions CS6 and CC

VERY USEFUL: Robin Williams, The Little Mac Book Lion Edition (We're actually using OS 10.9.4 Mavericks, but you'll find lots of useful Mac tips here.)

Both are in paperback.

What we're doing and when:

Week 1 (8/25 & 27). Introductions; The digital world we are entering; the hardware and the software. Some of the vocabulary in digital imaging might be new to you, though much of it is the same or similar to that in "traditional" silver-based photography. Participating in the Photoshop listserv. (If you are new to on-line discussion groups, read the "rules of the road" before you jump in!). Here's an interesting way to think about all those storage terms.

Disk size and storage, continued. Moore's Law (and a graphical representation of it).The Webster Connections "portal," and how we will use it in this class. Color spaces for different purposes (and what you need to remember for this class). Image file formats.

Week 2 (9/3). Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop and why both are good ideas. Introduction to the Lightroom Library module (and why we won't be primarily using Lightroom in this course). The Lightroom 5 Develop module. How to begin work on a digital image. Photoshop CC 2014, is the primary software we will use for this course. (NB: Adobe has moved to a subscription model for their software. CS6 is still available, but they are now marketing Photoshop as part of their "Creative Cloud" suite. You can download a trial version, but first be sure your computer meets the system requirements to run it.)

Week 3 (9/8 & 10).

Intro to digital cameras; if you have a good digital camera of your own, bring it to class on Monday. If not, various Nikon dSLR cameras are available through the Media Center; please check one out before class (you might want to reserve it ahead of time).

What to consider when purchasing a digital camera.


Week 4 (9/15 & 17). Camera RAW and EXIF data. What's a Bridge and why can it be my friend? RAW conversion to DNG via the Bridge. The DNG file format (the free DNG converters for Mac and Windows are a bit down on the page under Downloads). Creating and saving metadata templates in Bridge. Troubleshooting problems with the Photoshop program.

Week 5 (9/22 & 24). Why non-destructive editing is so important. Some basic keyboard commands that you need to know. Navigating around the image. The toolbar and the palettes. Selection tools and quick masks.

The clone stamp tool and healing tools, and ways to work non-destructuvely with them.

Introduction to channels and layers. Exploring how the program works. Basic methods of correcting digital files: adjustment layers

The transform command, levels adjustment layers. Layer masks by painting and by selections. Further adjustments in camera raw.

When you finish a learning project, send your work via FTP. In room SV 204, the best way to use FTP is with Fetch. What your Class Presentations are about.

Week 6 (9/29/ & 10/1). Scanning; using the Epson Expression 10000 XL flatbed scanner. Pay careful attention to scan resolution, and when you have the file in Photoshop, verify that you have a big enough file size at 300 ppi. Send the original scan exactly as it came in before you begin work on it.

First, send me the original scan exactly as it came in. Then, convert to .dng on import, and once you open your file in Photoshop, be sure to change image size to 300 ppi without resampling. This DNG version is the one you should use if you're going to work on this image.

Scanning continued; using the Nikon Super CoolScan 9000 ED film scanner using VueScan software; first class presentations. Here's information on the glass-mount carrier for the Nikon Coolscan.

Week 7 (10/6 & 8). Monday: Meet in the digital printing area of the darkroom (SV 143) for the beginning of class today.

Week 8 (10/13/ & 15). Monday: Content aware tools, including scale, fill, patch and move.

Wednesday: Midterm exam. Assignment of individual projects (when your proposal is ready, post it in the Projects topic in Connections). Some details of how to save your projects.

Some critically important considerations as you work on your projects:

Save all original components of your projects, and label them clearly

  • Save as <YOURNAME_projectname_orig.psd>
  • Multiple file components can be distinguished with a number, e.g. <YOURNAME_projectname_orig1.psd>, YOURNAME_projectname_orig2.psd>, etc.
  • If an original component was in another format, send it that way with the original extension.

Save projects in uncompressed Photoshop or TIFF format only. (*.psd or *.tif)

  • Save as <YOURNAME_projectname_working.psd>
  • When you are finished, save the file with "final" in place of "working." That's the one that will be evaluated.

Do not flatten layers.

Your grade for each of the three projects is worth 20% of your final grade for the class, for a total of 60% of the grade.

Fall Break

Week 9 (10/27 & 29). How to create and use actions. Photoshop workspaces, saving and reloading preferences (and where they are saved). Why non-destructive editing is so important. We will introduce additional features each week, such as the path tool as a means to define vector information and convert it to selections.

Original file for first project due; send by FTP as instructed. (Note box at Week 12 below for important reminders.) Student presentations of personal project proposals; initial work on first project.

What you should send for your projects

Send original files (10% project grade)

  • If film scan, original scanned file (at original resolution)
  • If flatbed scan, .psd or .tif file (at original scan resolution)
  • If from a digital camera, the original file
  • if from web, the original file (pay attention to size!)

Send final projects (90% project grade)

  • .psd or .tif file, with all layers (any other format will reduce the project grade by 20%)
  • 300 ppi, 8x10 print size or larger (smaller by half will reduce the project grade by 10%; if it is even smaller than that , the project grade will be reduced by 25%)

Be sure to label each file appropriately, as noted above.

Week 10 (11/3 & 5). Photoshop and body image (it isn't pretty).

The magic formula for fooling people; the liquify filter. Class presentations; work on projects; use the text as reference as needed. Photoshop workspaces, saving and reloading your preferences.

Week 11 (11/10 & 12). By now you must start your second project; original files due. Class presentations; work on projects; use the text as reference as needed. Dynamic tools such as Bird's Eye View (old down h key while zoomed into a file, then click in the picture for a momentary full-screen view; change brush size and hardness (CTRL+OPTION and CTRL+OPTION+CMD respectively).

Week 12 (10/17 & 19). Completed first project due; send by FTP as instructed. Work on projects; use the text as reference as needed.

Week 13 (10/24 & 26). By now you must be working on your third project; original files due. Class presentations; work on projects; use the text as reference as needed. Review of image size, canvas size, and transformations of file and layers.

Week 14. (12/1 & 3). Completed second project due; send by FTP as instructed. Class presentations; work on projects; use the text as reference as needed. The Output module of the Bridge.

Week 15. (12/8 & 10). Class presentations; work on projects; use the text as reference as needed.

Week 16. Final Exam Wednesday, 12/17, 1-3 pm. In this period, you will describe your three final projects. Briefly explain why each fulfills the category expectations. Mention the input sources you used (e.g. Nikon CoolScan scan from color negative, flatbed scan from magazine page, digital camera, etc.), and the primary Photoshop tools you used to achieve your results. If you used any other program to a significant extent, be sure to mention it. (Plan ahead and do this at your leisure, and bring it to class.)

There is a brief written final exam, and you will show us all your projects.

Completed third project due; send by FTP as instructed.