Aperture As Teacher

by Steve Simon

The more I play and use Aperture, the more I love what it does for me. I keep coming up with new and improved ways to use it.

This spring and summer, I will be leading a few workshops and I plan on taking Aperture along as my teaching assistant. Though I've yet to try it in this way, I'm thinking that all the features that I love Aperture for can be put to great use by teachers using Aperture to show off good work and to project images by students and others for critique in the classroom.

I will likely dedicate a specific library for this task, and I can plan my classes in advance using albums, slideshows, web galleries, light tables and even books to quickly access them for specific class plans.

Aperture is second to no program when it comes to editing. With students, it's very easy to go into stack mode and compare the subtle differences between images, discussing which works best and why. And with auto-stack, we can see how an assignment was approached and develops, in real time. Was it "worked" enough with the student trying a variety of compositions, moving closer and further from the subject, experimenting with new angles? A time-related stack is better than a contact sheet for insight into just how a photographer worked a particular shoot.

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If the class is interesting and you're using Aperture for visual aid, students should stay awake, unlike this girl, caught through the window of her school. ©Steve Simon

For building a narrative, by throwing some of the best images from an edit onto a light table, you can play around to see how best to tell a story. Photographs destined for publication can be finessed, and questions like which is the signature image? Which photographs contribute best to further a story and layout? Which photographs with important small detail need to be big and which can still communicate effectively at a smaller size? Because you can move things around and make images bigger or smaller, the light table is a great way to figure all this out.

After an edit has been done, I might put all the photographs into a class album for that assignment. They can be run as a slide show at first, and then talked about one by one. I will probably choose a song from iTunes for the slideshow, just because I like the powerful combination of well chosen music and visuals.

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Recess. ©Steve Simon

Since web galleries are so easy and fast to create, I will probably give students a URL of a gallery I make and ask them specific questions about the work, be it my work, their work or photographs from another photographer who we are discussing. I would consider asking students themselves to post a gallery from an assignment, maybe their 10 best in the order they think is strongest to weakest. Hard copies can be made of single images as well as contact sheets using Aperture's printing features. It's also a one-button task to send an image along via email if that's the way I want a particular assignment handled.

Web galleries can be made quickly by each student and by maintaining these galleries throughout the course, I think it can visually help a teacher to map progress and see improvement over time.

Long term projects and assignments can be kept in albums or even smart albums with the right criteria or rating systems assigned. Be it in albums or web galleries, we can look at student work together for critique, at any time throwing the loupe on an area or zooming in with the Z key, or pressing the C key and cropping an image to see and discuss if it is improved by cropping. Adjustments can be made, color converted to black and white, all quickly and on the fly. At any time we can quickly get back to the unaltered Master Raw image by pressing the M key.

If it's a longer workshop or course, I might make students create a book, which in consultation with the teacher could ultimately become a nice portfolio piece.

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Never a dull moment in Sex-Ed class. ©Steve Simon

Many different programs together can accomplish these things, but Aperture is the all in one program that allows the flexibility and speed to create entertaining and interesting class experiences. I think it has the potential to maximize and speed up the learning process. I'm looking forward to hooking up my Macbook Pro to a digital projector. Let the bell ring and class begin.