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RayKo Photo Center - Digital 1 Photography Class

Last Wednesday marked the end of my five week digital photography course with RayKo Photo Center. It was such a wonderful Christmas gift. I'm not sure I would have splurged and signed up for the class myself so I am SO thankful that Andrew thought to do that for me as a gift.

I was so sad leaving class last week knowing it was over. I've really enjoyed going each week, working on the homework assignments in my spare time, and getting familiar with my camera. I'm shocked how much I was able to learn in just a few short weeks. I do spend a lot of time taking pictures on my own, so maybe that time playing with camera settings and doing the homework assignments really paid off. Because it is something I really enjoy, I had no trouble putting in at least four hours each week behind the camera. Best of all, it didn't feel like a chore. I'm always snapping pictures for the blog anyway, so it was nice to finally feel like I was beginning to know what I was doing.

Things really begin to "click" on week three when we learned more about depth of field. Partially because that was the technique I was most excited to learn. Taking time to learn the basics in the first few weeks, gave me the base for the following weeks curriculum.

I wanted to go through my assignments, so I have a reminder of what we studied, and something to look back on, and gauge where I started. If you would have told me in only five weeks I'd be shooting all my photos in manual mode, and feel confident about it, I wouldn't have believed you. I've learned so much about my camera and it's capabilities.

Week #1

The first week of class we went over the basics of our camera, getting to know the various settings and functions. We discussed how light travels in the camera, exposure and histograms.

Our assignment the first week was to purposely under and over expose an image to start understanding how ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed work together. We were to set up a scene that was back-lit, with our subject in shadows and the background in full sun.

This was the weekend we were camping on the central coast, so I decided to set up my scene along our drive on Highway 1. Andrew sat on a tree branch in the shade overlooking the ocean, which was in bright sun.

We took a series of photos with our aperture set at f8 and ISO at 200. We started with a fast shutter speed of 1/2000 and went down a full stop for each image, all the way to 1 second. I was pretty happy with how my assignment turned out. I found it interesting the way the exposure changed for objects within my scene, and learning what the proper setting would be to get the desired look.

Week #2

Our assignment for the second week was to work with shutter speed to capture movement. We used a tripod to take images of something with consistent movement. Andrew was my subject again, and he rode his skateboard in front of me at the same speed, and I changed my shutter speed and aperture down a full stop for each image. We started with a low f-stop, ISO at 200 and then moved our aperture and shutter speed down one stop each time. By moving both shutter speed and aperture, we were able to maintain proper exposure.

We also discussed digital noise on the second week of class. We were instructed to take a picture with the same subject and composition and adjust the ISO each time to see the effects of digital noise that can be caused by using a high ISO. It is hard to tell with my images, and our teacher said with the improvement to digital camera's, noise is becoming less and less of an issue. Some of my classmates' cameras have higher ISO settings, and on their comparisons you could start to see some noise. 

Week #3

This was my favorite week. As I've mentioned, I love playing with depth of field and I was excited how to achieve that effect with my camera. Our assignment was to take a picture of the same subject and composition, and using the lowest f-stop possible (for my lens this is 55mm and f5.6), take a series of three pictures. In the first, focus on the foreground. The second, focus on the background. And third, focus in the center. After learning this technique, I've been playing with it a lot! I'm excited because when I was home last weekend my Dad let me borrow one of his fixed lens' to use before I invest in my own.

Week #4

The fourth week, our assignment was to take photos of a subject that we could control, and use the various techniques we learned in class so far. Johnna wanted us to take at least 100 photos, then share 10-20 with the class. I probably took 200, I never have trouble taking a ton, sometimes I get carried away ;-) 

I was in Tahoe that weekend, so I walked down to the lake one morning to take some photos. I used my sunglasses as my subject and really liked the way some photos turned out. I continued to work on the assignment when we stopped at Jack Russell Brewery, and got some fun ones there as well! This assignment really helped me get comfortable with my camera, adjusting settings as I went along and conditions/lighting changed. Feeling confident changing the settings in manual mode on the fly as I take photos feels like a big accomplishment! 

During class on our 4th week, we walked to Yerba Buena as a class to learn more about shooting with a tripod at night. It had been raining all day, so we almost didn't go, but thankfully the rain stopped about half way through class. It was so fun being able to capture the city at night, I especially loved how the clouds look in the first picture. I'm really looking forward to bringing my tripod with us to Yosemite and on camping trips to take landscape pictures at night. And hopefully learn to capture movement with the stars using a long exposure. 

Week #5

After we shared our photos from the fourth week's assignment, we ended our class with a review of the things we learned. Everyone was able to ask questions and get further instruction on camera settings. We also discussed White Balance, Exposure Compensation and bracketing, and semi-automatic modes. 

After we were finally feeling comfortable in Manual mode, Johnna re-introduced us to the semi-automatic modes and explained the differences between them. I think that Aperture Priority will be something I'll use when I don't want to take the time to change my settings while shooting. I probably should have used that for Phillips party last weekend! 


I really enjoyed this class. If you're in the area and looking for a photography course, I highly recommend RayKo Photography, specifically Johnna as a teacher. She was very knowledgeable and had a wonderful style of teaching. I am already planning to sign up for both Digital 2 photography and a Photoshop/Lightroom course in the future.

I hope you will start to notice an improvement in the pictures on this blog, if you haven't already! I can see why being a photographer is such an appealing profession, it's so much fun!

Here are a few of my favorite photos I've taken over the past few weeks while learning to shoot in manual.


  1. Glad you had such a good time!! Cant wait to see you tm!

  2. I still have no idea how to shoot in manual. It's the shutter speed that throws me for a loop, I am always shooting in Av mode with my 50mm lens. Far and away my favorite - perhaps one day I will invest a little more for the lens that goes to 1.4 (mine only goes to 1.8). I really wish I had taken this class with you. I have gotten a little better at Lightroom (that is not saying much) haha so maybe I will do that class with you instead. You can give me tips and pointers on the side!

  3. This is awesome! You have totally encouraged me to sing up for a class this summer !

  4. WOW! You can really tell in your photos that you learned a lot with these classes. I really need to do something like this!

  5. I love how you laid everything out in this post! So cool to see the different techniques and how they change based on your settings. I am new to photography myself and was hoping to take a class soon. This is really encouraging and it looks like you had a lot of fun!


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