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CO 305 Photography Fundamentals Fall 2024

CO 305 Photography Fundamentals spring '24


Peter Smith 
Master Lecturer

Class meets: Wednesday:  8:00am – 10:45am
Office hours:
Tuesday: 11 – 2 pm, or by appt.
Wednesday: 11 – 12 pm, or by appt.

Peter Smith, Master Lecturer, Journalism
Office B33
Cell:  617 548 0109

This course welcomes all students from the College of Communication and those throughout Boston University. This course teaches students traditional shooting and editing skills using a DSLR. CO 305 Photography Fundamentals covers camera operation, image processing, tagging, caption writing, and publishing. Assignments will be processed in black and white during the first half of the semester; color is introduced later in the course. We will cover the basics of file management and creating a photo portfolio.

Teamwork will help create a productive environment; partners will act as peer editors and support. We will focus on aesthetics, light, and moment and complete ten assignments to strengthen photo technique and editing skills in preparation for documentary challenges.

The ten shooting assignments in CO305 Photography Fundamentals cover portraiture and basic lighting, panning and stop action, controlling depth-of-field, advanced lighting (with and without flash), color, night photography, photographing an environmental portrait and a selfie, producing a ten-picture photo essay and creating an Adobe Portfolio.

CO 305 Photography Fundamentals covers the basics of Adobe Lightroom Classic and Adobe Portfolio during class workshops. We will learn about digital hygiene, nondestructive editing, color correction, image toning, sharpening, tagging, caption writing, and understanding resolution.

Photoshop tools may not be used in this class to alter the meaning of an image. Cropping is not allowed, but students must straighten the horizon’s image. Students will upload assignments to the class Smugmug account.

We will use a DSLR camera, which will require a storage card (minimum 32 gig).  A 50mm prime lens or a zoom lens can be set to a 50mm focal length. Students are required to have a suitable laptop computer and an external hard drive.  A camera will be needed for the second class.  Handouts are available for all assignments.

Handouts designed for this class will cover shooting and editing technique
Daily read – pick one from below,
or substitute any large city paper/news site.
New York Times 
Washington Post

REQUIRED SOFTWARE provided by Boston University
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Adobe Portfolio


Week One:  Jan. 24

Meet and Greet. Why did you elect to take this class?  Tell us about your gear: camera, flash, tripod, computer, external hard drive.

Review the syllabus and basic camera settings of aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, ISO, and lens speed. View gallery of past student work
To reserve camera equipment, click here.

Bring a camera and SD media card to class next week.
Learn about the exposure triangle.
Review Canon camera settings, Keynote Presentation.
You can reserve photo equipment from FPS in the basement of COM for up to one week per reservation.

Week Two:  Jan. 31
Review camera operation.

We will cover camera operation for DSLR cameras, including menu settings, exposure, filing system, color management, and digital hygiene. 
View Portraits gallery:
Portraits handout

Photograph the face of an individual (a) in bright sunlight, (b) on a cloudy day. Bring an SD card and camera to class to review camera settings and make exposure decisions using the camera’s light meter.
Portraits: 10pts (exercise: lighting, aesthetics)

Week Three:  Feb. 7
Review editing workflow

Bring an SD card and an external hard drive to class with assignment one to download files to your Smugmug gallery. We will discuss tagging, converting files to black and white, and exporting high-resolution JPEGs.  We’ll review the Adobe Lightroom Classic browser and its functions.

Week Four:  Feb. 14
Images from assignment 1, Portraits, are DUE and must be uploaded by the end of class. 

Learn depth-of-field

Focus gallery
Focus  handout:
Choose a general scene with infinite distance apparent in the background with a person 6 feet from the camera. Shoot (a) with a wide aperture and (b) with a small aperture.  Use your camera’s meter to establish correct exposure by adjusting your shutter (no slower than 1/50). You can use ISO for further adjustment. 
DoF: 10 pts.  (exercise: aesthetics)

Week Five:  Feb. 21
Substitute Monday’s Schedule, Presidents’ Day

Week six:  Feb. 28
Images are DUE from assignment 2, DoF  

Creative Shutter

Creative Shutter gallery
Creative Shutter handout

Photograph Stop Action and Panning
Use fast and slow shutter speeds to freeze and pan action
 (a) someone walking down steps (b) a bicycle in motion (c) car traveling on Storrow Drive
Creative shutter: 10pts (exercise: documentary, aesthetics)

Week Seven: March 6
Images from assignment 3, Creative Shutter, are DUE. Upload to Smugmug. 

Understand lighting
flash gallery!
Creative Flash handout

Turn in 3 examples of flash technique: (a) two heads using direct or bounce light, (b) fill-flash with direct flash (in front of a backlit background, (c) interior bounce flash portrait. Use a hotshoe flash for DSLR.

Week Eight:  March 13

Week Nine: March 20
Images from assignment 4, Flash, are DUE. 

Night Photography

Night Photography Gallery
Night handout

Shoot night scenes of (a) incident light and (b) reflected light night scenes (tripod essential).
Night: 5pts (documentary: lighting, aesthetics)

Week Ten: March 27

Images from assignment 5, Night, are DUE. Upload to Smugmug. 
Create an ‘about me’ page for Adobe Portfolio.
Silhouette gallery
Silhouette handout

Photograph silhouette, a backlit subject – expose meter for the bright background.
Silhouette: 5pts (exercise: lighting, aesthetics)

 Week Eleven:  April 3

Images from assignment six, Silhouette, are DUE.
Upload to Smugmug.

Color gallery
Color handout

Shoot a color photograph with strong color contrast and process that image in three ways. Second, use a daylight setting for your white balance, shoot photos with heavy overcast for blue light, or shoot with warm light from sunset.  Use color to enhance the mood of the image.
Color: 5pts (documentary: lighting, aesthetics)

Week Twelve: April 10
Images from assignment 7, Color are DUE. Upload. 
Create a ‘best of’ gallery.

Self Portrait
Self Portrait Gallery
Self Portrait handout

Self-portrait (taken inside without a flash).
Self: 5pts (exercise: lighting, branding)

Week Thirteen:  April 17

Images from assignment eight, Self-Portrait, are DUE. Upload.
Environmental Portraits
Environmental Portrait Gallery
Environmental Portrait Handout

Photograph an environmental portrait of someone you do not know and who does not work for BU.
Environmental portrait: 10pts (documentary)

Week Fourteen: April 24

Review the online Portfolio requirement and add the ‘photo essay’ page.
Assignment nine, Environmental Portrait, due.
The Photo Essay
Photo Essay handout

Finish shooting narrative photo essay.   
The images should be uploaded to Smugmug and presented as a gallery on Adobe Portfolio.
Final photo story: 20pts (documentary)

 Week Fifteen:  May 1

Assignment 10, Photo Essay Due
Upload ten captioned photos to Smugmug and Portfolio
Review Adobe Portfolio: 10pts (publishing)
Review Photo essay


There are a total of 11 projects due during the semester. They are weighted as follows:

  1. Portraits:10pts (exercise: lighting, aesthetics)
  2. Focus:10pts (exercise: aesthetics)
  3. Creative shutter:10pts (documentary: aesthetics)
  4. Night:10pts (documentary: sense of place)
  5. Flash:5pts (exercise: lighting: aesthetics)
  6. Silhouette:5pts (exercise: lighting, aesthetics)
  7. Color:5pts (documentary: lighting, aesthetics)
  8. Self:5pts (exercise: lighting, branding)
  9. Environmental Portrait:10pts (documentary)
  10. Final photo essay:20pts (documentary)
  11. Adobe Portfolio:10pts (publishing)


  • Grades are based on quality, content and punctuality of work submitted.  Late assignments lose one grade point (A to B) for each week they are late.
  • Assignments that are not turned in receive an F.  
  • The final grade is an average of all weighted grades received during the semester.
  • Assignments are DUE at the end of class.

GPA conversion
A:  4.0
A-: 3.7
B : 3.0
B-: 2.7
C : 2.0
C-: 1.7
D : 1.0
F : 0.0

Percentage based Scale
A : 93-100
A-: 90-92.99
B: 83-86.99
B-: 80-82.99
C+: 77-79.99
C: 73-76.99
C-: 70-72.99
D: 60-69.99
F: 0-59.99


Each assignment is graded on the following:
•        Technical (40%):  Camera (exposure) settings and focus. Toning adjustments and sharpening.
•        Demonstration of assignment concept (40%)
•        Captioning and other metadata (20%)

  • For the final photo essay – technical, concept, and text/metadata will be weighted equally.
  • Adobe Portfolio will be graded on two galleries (best work and photo essay); about me page.


LEARNING OUTCOMES: After shooting 10 assignments, students will be able to:

  • Shoot portraits, freeze action, create motion through panning, photograph incident and reflective light at night with a tripod, and use a flash.
  • Produce well-toned, tagged images and publish them online.
  • Produce well-framed, strongly composed images that are properly exposed with good use of lighting, all to industry standard.
  • Communicate with strong black and white photographs and be capable of producing a color image that is color-corrected and has thoughtful use of color.
  • Understand the broader concepts of photography.
  • Gain photographic visual literacy, with the ability to deconstruct how an image was created and to better understand a photograph’s manipulations, biases, and narrative.
  • Develop a strong visual awareness and strong observational skills.


HUB Learning Outcomes
Communication: Digital/Multimedia Expression (one unit)

 Throughout this course, students will learn the fundamentals of visual communication through digital photography. Students will use a scaffold approach to build visual storytelling skills using a digital toolkit they will work with throughout the course. They will learn to produce and manage digital assets and to shoot and edit digital photographs. Students will produce digital images and sequences to publish in an online portfolio.

Students will develop skills and concepts to produce photo stories in the area of their interest. Students’ creative skills will progress during the semester through class exercises, assignments, and in-depth visual projects.

  • Learn Digital workflow: assignments one, two, and three.
  • Learn Visual Storytelling: assignments ten and eleven.


Intellectual Toolkit: Creativity/Innovation (one unit)

Students will learn to step out of their comfort zone and communicate with people of different backgrounds to complete their assignments. They will build visual communication skills throughout the course and must use a creative approach to connect with their subjects.  Students will also acquire creative skills as they learn to compose a photograph, understand the properties of color and light, create a visual story, and edit/produce a final creative product that will connect to their audience.

 Creativity and innovation involve risk-taking and the consideration of multiple strategies. By following composition, framing, and lighting rules, students’ work will begin to take professional form and improve in aesthetic value. While students are encouraged to view online examples and follow assignment criteria and concepts laid out during class lectures, there will still be a need for some trial and error when shooting photo assignment work.  Students should allow time to shoot multiple situations of each assignment to improve outcomes and to make the editing process more valuable.

 When documenting people in various situations, creative results will sometimes depend on your ability to communicate with your subject to connect with them, create a comfortable working relationship, and capture decisive moments. So, taking the time needed to communicate with your subject and shoot multiple situations is important.

Through the iterative process, when students might re-conceive/revise/reshoot in response to feedback, here is the methodology used in CO 305 to learn and continue to improve skills and concept understanding:

 As each assignment takes a scaffold approach, the weekly evaluation comments that students receive allow them to re-conceive their approach on the next assignment. With each assignment, students continue to build their skill sets to improve the quality of their work. Students are encouraged to attend office hours if there is any confusion about assignment expectations and may also come to office hours to have work reviewed. This will allow you to reshoot or re-edit work before the assignment is due. Students are also encouraged to drop in during office hours to say hello. My office door is always open during office hours, posted at the top of your syllabus.

During class lectures, students will see examples of successful work shot in prior classes. A link on the syllabus will take you to assignment examples. In many cases, we will workshop key concepts, allowing you to receive immediate feedback on your work. After each workshop, we meet back in the class to answer follow-up questions on camera settings, color and lighting, framing, and assignment concepts. Class workshops are provided for portraiture, depth-of-field, stop-action and panning, flash, color, environmental portraits, photo essay, and online portfolio building. The workshops are held in the classroom, on the BU campus, or throughout Boston’s neighborhoods, such as the North End, Chinatown, Fort Point Channel, and the Boston Common. Students receive immediate feedback on their work during the workshops, and all workshops are preparation for assignment work.

In addition, students will post the best assignment work to their online portfolio, due at the end of the semester. While the portfolio assignment is only worth 10 points, if you take the time to redo any assignments for your portfolio, students will see an improvement in their work and final grade.

If a student has difficulty in shooting, editing, or submitting assignment work due to illness, equipment failure, or any reasonable issue they have had with the assignment, a re-do may be possible.

 Further, students are encouraged to text or send an email if they have any follow-up questions.

  • Creativity outcome with compositional concepts: assignment one, portrait.
  • Innovation outcome in connection with the subject: assignments nine, environmental portrait; assignment 10, photo essay.
  • Creative aesthetics outcome, including lighting: Assignment Four, night; Assignment Five, flash; Assignment Six, silhouette.



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*Note: Your department may have additional language that they require or recommend you include. Please follow those instructions when appropriate.

-At your discretion, please alert me to anything related to preferred pronouns, preferred name or nickname, or any extenuating circumstances or trigger warnings (personal, medical, etc.) that might impact your classroom experience. I want to make sure you have the most positive experience in the classroom as possible. If work that gets shown in this class, professional or student-generated, offends you in anyway, please mention it in class or talk to us privately about it so that we can all learn from each other. This is not to say we will ever restrict freedom of speech or water down an aggressive or edgy idea, but we want to discuss anything that someone deems troublesome or offensive. 

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