Looking for a Photography Class

This post is sponsored by Bing.

I took a 2-hour video class by Matt and Julie Walker of Tiger in a Jar when I was at Alt Summit last month, and I was inspired to learn more about lighting. I feel like I understand my camera and natural light, but I could still use some improvement and I have absolutely no experience with lighting equipment. I’m working with Bing, to help take my inspiration and ‘Bing it to Life,’ so I’m going to take a photography class to learn more.

Sometimes I can pull off a good shot, like the one below from the day I took August’s last monthly photo, but it’s hit or miss, and I’d like a little more understanding and control of the outcome.

Eleanor and August

I searched on Bing for photography classes in Chicago and came up with a bunch to check out. I visited each site and read Yelp reviews, narrowing it down to a couple of top contenders. I could see a few of my friends’ Facebook posts in the search results too, mentioning photography classes they’d taken, but I also used Bing to ask for some direct feedback on my Facebook page.

I’ve heard good things about Clickin’ Moms, which was recommended, and I think I might join. A sample issue of their new magazine, Click, randomly arrived a few weeks ago and I liked it a lot. In fact, I cashed out all of my credit card rewards points to get a Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens because I noticed so many of the shots I loved were using it. I am looking for an actual class here in Chicago to go to though. A couple of people recommended Chicago Photography Center — one that I was already considering — so that helped me make my choice.

Now I’m just trying to figure out which class will be most beneficial. I want to learn more about lighting, and there are specific classes for Fundamentals of Studio Portrait Lighting and Flash Photography. I think I might want to start with Intermediate Digital Photography though, which includes “detailed review of light; a deeper understanding of exposure and white balance use and techniques; introduction to flash modifiers including flash lab and an introduction to portrait lighting.” It might be good to increase my overall photo skills before moving on to specifics, right?

Whichever class I take, I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot. They’re each three hours long, for seven weeks, and there are homework assignments to be done that will be critiqued. I’m looking forward to it.

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  • Val
    February 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve taken four classes at Chicago Photography Center (beginner, intermediate, fundamentals of lighting, and location lighting). I loved taking classes there and they were all super helpful. Intermediate would be a good start if you want a better grasp of utilizing natural light before moving on to studio lighting or on-camera flash.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      Good! That’s what I was thinking.

  • Kim @ Yellow Brick Home
    February 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Ooh, so fun! Have a great time. I wonder if any classes teach dark room skills anymore… (the place I spent all my waking hours in college!) Now THAT would be a blast!

    • Making it Lovely
      February 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      I’m sure there is! I haven’t stepped in a darkroom since my high school photo 101 class, but I remember loving the developing process.

  • Rebecca Portsmouth
    February 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    As an alternative, have you thought about one or two one-on-one lessons with someone who you can show your current photographs, the kind you would like to take and help you narrow the gap? It might be a similar cost and far speedier.

    By the way, I LOVE a 35mm prime lens – you can get really, really close to people for shots and it can help tell a great story.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      I would like that, but I need the structure of assignments, I think. Maybe as I progress, if I have more specific questions or trouble with certain setups, a mentorship might be more appropriate.

      • Rebecca Portsmouth
        February 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm

        Ah, that makes perfect sense. Sometimes assignments can also teach us things we didn’t know we wanted to find out. And meeting others in the class can be fun :)

  • Angie
    February 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I highly, highly recommend Clickin Moms! I’ve taken a bunch of their workshops and my skills have improved dramatically over the last year since I joined. They have a free trial week I think. Let me see if I can dig up the code.

  • Anissa
    February 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    I have so many good things to say about clickin moms! I took the shooting 101: best darn beginners course as a study along and what I learned made a HUGE difference in my photography. It was $150 well spent. I’m looking forward to taking another course in march that focuses on natural light. Also, my 35mm lens has changed my life!

    • Making it Lovely
      February 20, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      I’ve barely taken the new lens off since I got it. I liked my 50mm, but I love the 35mm.

    February 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    CRIT HAPPENS! hahaha. That’s what we say in Architecture school. We HATE crit day but it’s actually very useful. We just got a Sony a65. I know NOTHING about photography but I would love to learn! Good luck finding a class.

  • Jen W
    February 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Check out – they have a ton of really great workshops. If you catch them live, they’re free. Good luck! :)

    • Making it Lovely
      February 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      I’m watching one now, and I just learned about “back button focusing.” Nice!

  • Lilly
    February 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    How about Lillstreet?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      I did think about taking this studio lighting class. Have you taken photography classes there?

      • Lilly
        February 21, 2013 at 2:03 pm

        I went to an open house there and I heard Christopher Schneberger give a talk and I would really like to take a class with him.

  • Melanie
    February 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    This is a great photo book:

    • Making it Lovely
      February 20, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      Thanks, I hadn’t seen that one before.

  • Alison
    February 20, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Another huge plug for Clickin Moms. The forum is a huge source of information, even if you never take a workshop through them you can learn a ton just by perusing the forum. That said, I’ve also taken several CM workshops, some as study-along and some as full participation. Each workshop has been excellent! Some of my favorites have been Mastering Natural Light Indoors, Photoshop 201, and Lightroom 101. RIght now I’m thinking of signing up for the Speedlight class starting in March, looks great. There’s a studio lighting class offered from time to time.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 20, 2013 at 11:41 pm

      I think I need a Lightroom 101. I’m sure I can figure it out on my own, since it’s Adobe and they’re all similar, but for some reason I’m intimidated. Every time I’m frustrated by iPhoto (which freezes up, is slow, and I don’t use the editing tools), I shake my fist and wonder why I haven’t switched yet!

      • Alison
        February 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm

        Make the switch to LR and you will NEVER look back! It’s also awesome for basic editing, especially if you shoot RAW. These days I do more and more editing in LR, can’t beat it for speed and simplicity. Sometimes I polish off an edit in PS, but often I call it a day in LR. A very good resource for LR 101-type info is Kelby Training, which offers a pretty comprehensive series of videos at a low price. I watched those long before taking the CM workshop, and they were just what I needed to get started (especially with the initial catalogue set-up, which can be a little quirky).

  • Patrice
    February 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I’ m just starting a blog, I haven’t dared to put any of my photos up yet, the lighting is all wrong and there is only so much I can do photoshop. I’m looking at videos and how to’s for now, I have to crawl before I can walk. Thanks for sharing the links. I love your photos already so I can’t wait to see what the classes will bring. Good luck.

  • Sara
    February 20, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I would also suggest the Evanston Art Center. In the past, they taught excellent photography classes by professionals artists who have degrees. (Maybe degrees don’t matter, but I’m big believer in supporting folks who spend the money to earn a degree– in my mind it’s like purchasing a book from local bookshop as opposed to Target)

  • Lianne
    February 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Not a replacement for a good class – but this pinterest board(s) may be worth exploring:

  • corrin
    February 21, 2013 at 6:39 am

    You’ll love it. A few years ago I took both basic and intermediate classes at the art center in Austin and had a blast. Same setup — weekly three hour classes for 7 week with homework and a exhibition at the end.

  • Meggan
    February 21, 2013 at 9:37 am

    And to round out the online links for further investigation, Digital Photography Review has been my go-to for answers to equipment tech questions and gleaning pointers from the forums. It wouldn’t be a substitute for a class, but there’s a wealth of knowledge there.

  • Noni
    February 21, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Have you looked at yet? They are an amazing crew with tons of talent. It’s a forum, but it has assignments, and you can find people (pro photogs) near you that would be happy to mentor you.

    Good luck on your photography journey!

  • Maria G.
    February 22, 2013 at 6:24 am

    I think the very first I have attended about photography was when I was in college but it wasn’t as detailed because it lasted only for 2 months or the whole summer. Like you, sometimes I can take a good shot and sometimes, can’t. And I agree that it would be better to learn the fundamentals of photography from real professionals. If you ask me, I’d start with the basics as there may be something I only think I know but not really from an expert point of view.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      “I’d start with the basics as there may be something I only think I know but not really from an expert point of view.” That’s how I feel, too.

  • Hillary
    February 22, 2013 at 8:36 am

    My friend Eric used to be affiliated somehow with the Chicago Photography Center – I’ve heard good things.

    I’ve taken a couple of classes at Lillstreet. It was super convenient to my last apt, the classes were fun and the whole act of taking a class was novel…but…I don’t know, it didn’t blow my mind or anything. I’d consider it for classes that aren’t taught elsewhere (like metalsmithing or something), but I’d probably go CPC over Lill for photo.

  • Jessica
    February 22, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I’m a CMPro over on ClickinMoms and really, really love that community. But also wanted to say that I’m local to Chicago (remember me? the creeper from Land of Nod?! hahaha) and I’d be more than happy to meet up with you some time if you ever want to chat about photography questions. Just let me know!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Ha! Thank you. I think the class is going to give me a good foundation to work off of. I don’t know exactly what questions to ask — I just know that I want to improve my skills and better understand histograms and all that.

  • Jackie
    February 23, 2013 at 12:16 am

    Hey Nicole! I’ve taken the Beginner, Intermediate, and Flash Lighting courses at CPC (on facebook I mentioned the studio lighting but when I looked at the descriptions realized I misspoke – sorry about that!)

    The intermediate class, though still good, was actually my least favorite of the three. The teacher is an IT guy who really likes equipment and tech stuff so I felt like we were often going over a lot of things or being referred to different resources but not going into as much depth on any of the topics. Those general classes also tend to have more students. So, none of those are bad things and I’m still really glad I took the class, but I was probably far enough along from my own practice that I didn’t get as much out of it as the other two courses.

    The flash photography class was my favorite. I think we only had 5 students so there was lots of hands on time and practice. The teacher (Phil) is a very fun and interesting guy who did a great job explaining the technical stuff in a way people can understand. And, even though the focus is on flash, we did still use softboxes in at least one class so he could fully demonstrate traditional portraiture lighting. That said, I’m still no flash expert since I prefer natural light and can’t seem to get my eyes/brain/camera/flash to fully comprehend all the moving pieces. :)

    Have lots of fun with whatever you choose!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Thank you! I signed up for the intermediate class, but I’m a little worried that it might not be challenging enough. Still, I want to be sure that I have a good foundation before moving on. I do still want to progress into more specific lighting classes. If I like my experience, I’ll sign up for either flash or portrait lighting next.

  • Karen
    February 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Another pro Clickin Moms here! I knew nothing about photography, have taken a number of their courses, and my skills and knowledge have improved immensely. The Lightroom class teaches you all you would ever want to know about LR and more.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      I got an email with a 40% off code, so I joined! I’m going to look into the Lightroom class.

  • Henna
    March 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I’m REALLY curious to hear what you decided to to and how things are going. I’m completely self taught and my “class” is sorta broken into Pinterest boards of tutorials that I will work on whenever I have the chance. I’ve improved SO much since my sons birth (18 months ago)….but what’s great about a class is that you also get critique and a trained eye can see what you in particular need to focus on.

    We’re also in Chicago so that’s why I’m especially keen to hear your results! :)

    • Making it Lovely
      March 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      I signed up for the Intermediate class at The Chicago Photography Center. I’ve only had one class so far, and there was a sub (and we only talked about custom white balance), so I’m not sure how it’s going to go. I’ll write a follow-up post at the end of the course in late April.

      • Henna
        March 12, 2013 at 1:17 pm

        thanks, Nicole! I’ll look out for that in April.

  • Photography Classes in Chicago | Making it Lovely
    July 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    […] Earlier this year, I wrote that I wanted to take a photography class, and that Bing was working with me to help ‘Bing it to Life.’ I searched for and found a few photography courses in Chicago, and then chose one with help in part from Bing’s social search function and the comments on this post. […]