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Tim has been interested in photography for many years. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a Master's in Environmental Science. Writing nature articles allows him to combine his interest in photography and nature into one medium.

Full Review of Learn and Master Photography DVD Course

 

Introduction

Back in May, I was shipped Legacy Learning System’s new “Learn and Master Photography” course.  I went through several of the lessons, but because of life’s many issues over the summer (don’t we all run into this?), I was not able to complete my review of the course.  So, about a month ago, I started back on Lesson 1 and worked my way to Lesson 24, finishing last night. By the way, I’ve purposely not read any other reviews of this course, so if my review is similar or totally opposite of anyone else, it’s purely coincidental.

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Overview of the”Learn and Master Photography” Course

The “Learn and Master Photography” course is a comprehensive photography course delivered in 24 lessons (on 15 DVD’s).  Also included are a course book (Lessons 1 through 10) and a pdf book (Lessons 11 through 24).  At first, you might think “Wait a minute, what’s the deal about not getting a hard copy book for the second half of the course”.  Well, I believe it works well – the first part of the course is the background and basics of photography, so it’s nice to have the hard copy as a reference guide.  The second half of the course is mainly field and studio work, so isn’t as much of a reference and the pdf book works very well.

Also included are the raw files for a large number of photos taken in the course.  I can’t guarantee that every photo that Vince took during the course is included, but I do believe there is an example of every principle he was describing.  These really come in handy when you want to practice post processing techniques or just to ponder some of the choices that Vince made (who is Vince?  Read on to find out.)

Instructor

The instructor for the course is Vince Wallace, a professional photographer who currently works out of the Nashville, Tennessee area.  For me, the instructor either makes or breaks the course, especially a massive one like this that spans over 15 DVD’s – you spend a lot of time listening to the same person.  Vince has a very likable manner about him and has a kind of “aw shucks” type attitude.  He is upbeat, happy, helpful, and very willing to share his tips and techniques.  At the end of the course, I was actually kind of sad because I felt I was losing a good friend.  One note – Vince’s jokes are typically not the funniest (sorry, Vince), but I tended to overlook that fact and was laughing anyway.  If you want to know more about Vince, check out his website.

Below is video that gives you an introduction to Vince Wallace and the course.



The Lessons

The lessons (they call them “sessions”) cover just about everything you need to know to start out in the hobby of photography or to begin your journey of becoming a professional (with a few exceptions that I’ll explain later).  Before I started the course, I made a list of what I thought needed to be covered for beginners;  Vince discussed  just about everything on my list as well as some topics I hadn’t considered.  Below are the topics of each session along with my synopsis of what they are all about:

  • Session 1:  Your Digital SLR Camera – Vince eases you into the basics of photography.
  • Session 2:  Camera Basics – A discussion of camera mechanisms, such as aperture, exposure, shutter, etc.
  • Session 3:  Digital File Maintenance – The organization of photo files in your computer.
  • Session 4:  All About the Lens – Well, it’s all about the lens, such as focusing systems, drive modes, characteristics of lenses, etc.
  • Session 5:  Framing and Composing Images – Introduction to magnetism, the rule of thirds, leading space, and juxtaposition.
  • Session 6:  Elements of Art with Light Metering – Line, shape, and form are discussed, along with light metering.
  • Session 7:  More Elements of Art – Positive and negative space, value, color, contrast, and texture are the topics of this session.
  • Session 8:  White Balance – The definition of white balance and how to control it in your photography.
  • Session 9:  The Triad and ISO – The relationship of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.
  • Session 10:  Principles of Design and Shutter Speed – Topics covered include balance, rhythm and repetition, proportion, and shutter and shutter speed.
  • Session 11:  Principles of Design and Aperture – Harmony, variety, emphasis, and unity are covered.  Also, aperature and depth of field are covered in more detail.
  • Session 12:  Full Manual Control – And a partridge in a pear tree (sorry, just seeing if you are still with me).  A triad review, lens filters and artificial lighting are the main topics.
  • Session 13:  On Location: Motion – Vince travels to a soccer field to demonstrate the techniques of capturing motion.
  • Session 14:  On Location: Man-Made Motion – You’re off to a playground to photograph children at play.
  • Session 15:  On Location: Motion in Nature – You follow Vince as he photographs the flowing water of a river, cascades, and a waterfall.
  • Session 16:  On Location: Landscapes – Back to the waterfall and river, but this time to capture them as landscapes.
  • Session 17:  On Location: Low-light Scenes – Vince does some low-light and night shooting of the Nashville skyline and in the downtown area.  (By the way, this was my favorite lesson.  Probably because I haven’t done much night photography).
  • Session 18:  On Location: Outdoor Candids – Vince photographs people and a dog named Rick (who names their dog “Rick”) playing Frisbee, football, and paddle ball in the park on a sunny day.
  • Session 19:  On Location: Portraits – Many of the same folks minus Rick the dog (seriously, “Rick”?) with the addition of a guy named “Snakebite” (not his real name) in various poses and lighting situations.
  • Session 20-21:  On Location: Studio Lighting – A topic so big it took up two sessions.  Vince photographs a model named Rachel and goes through one, two, and three point lighting with many variations.  He also discusses each piece of his studio equipment.  (My second favorite session)
  • Session 22:  Color Management –  A discussion on how to set up your equipment and environment to get the most accurate color rendition.
  • Session 23:  Post Production and Image Editing – A very basic introduction to post production using Photoshop and Bridge.
  • Session 24:  Sharing Your Photography – An introduction to on-line sites and other ways to share your photography, such as photography shows and exhibits.  Also includes the conclusion to the course.

For many (although not all) of the sessions above, homework is giving that covers a specific topic.  Make sure to do these exercises.

Below is a sample of one of the sessions.



The Good

Let’s start with the good.  As I mentioned before, Vince is a very engaging presenter and was able to keep my interest throughout the course.  I also really liked the format of the class.  In most of the sessions, Vince will discuss a new concept, then give examples or do a location shoot, followed by an exercise or key points to remember.  It was very consistent, which makes things easier to understand and follow from session to session.

The production value of the course is very high, as with all of the Learn and Master Series.  I currently have every course in their catalog and their production value is high across the board.  Legacy’s “Learn and Master Photography” course is no exception.

The printed and pdf material is very well designed and laid out.  They are great reference documents in case you would like to review a concept taught in the DVD’s.  It might not seem like much, but to have a book and pdf document like this is something that many companies would not include because of cost.

For learning the basics of photography, Sessions 1 though 21 are excellent and cover just about everything you need to know to start out, plus some more advanced concepts.  I’ll discuss the last sessions in the next section.

The inclusion of the “On Location” sessions was great.  It gives the student an opportunity to see a professional in action and will help jump start them into their own photography sessions.  (Just learn some better jokes than Vince.  Sorry again, Vince).

Below is a sample of one of my favorite sessions in the studio.



The Bad

Okay, there’s really nothing “Bad”, I just like old Clint Eastwood movies – what can I say?

However, there are a few things that I think could have been slightly better.  One of these is the distance that they film Vince from in the first few lessons.  I believe it would have been better if they had moved in slightly and had a tighter shot.  I watched many of the sessions on a DVD player and Vince seemed too far away on that device.  On my bigger screen TV, it wasn’t as much of a problem.  In the later sessions, it seemed like they moved in a little closer.

I really like the way the “Triad” was discussed.  However, for beginners, it might be a little confusing.  If you are new and it sounds a little complicated, just watch that section a couple of times and practice with your camera and I think it will make more sense.  I think the “Triad” concept is where beginners have the most trouble, so stick with it and don’t get frustrated.

I didn’t believe that Sessions 22 through 24 were as informative as the previous sessions.  Mainly because these topics would take a course in themselves.  For example, post processing could take a lifetime to learn.  I think they did the best they could with the available time, but it would be great if there were another course just based on post-processing and the other topics in Sessions 22 through 24.

The one thing that I think is missing is an overview of other types of photography, most notable are macro photography and High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.  I wouldn’t have recommended going into any detail, but just make sure the novice photographer knows they exist.

The Ugly

Okay, I’ll admit it again, there really isn’t anything “Ugly” about this course, it’s beautiful.

Wait, I take that back – I have one gripe, and it ain’t pretty.  What’s the deal with the itty bitty table that Vince is forced to work on?  Good grief, he’s got a camera and lens that costs many thousands of dollars, yet it’s all on that little round table that won’t hold a Starbuck’s Grande Chai Latte?  I kept waiting for it all to come crashing to the ground (maybe they edited that part out.  I wonder how many cameras Vince did lose during this course?)  Whew, I’m glad I got that off my chest!

Conclusion

If you are a beginner in photography, I believe that “Learn and Master Photography” is the best and most cost effective way to learn how to use your DSLR camera.  It’s thorough, interesting, and well presented.  You won’t believe the amount of information that it contains.  Just don’t get discouraged if there are concepts that you don’t understand at first.  You can always go to the Legacy Learning forums or to this blog and we’ll help you get through them.

If you are an advanced beginner, I think you’ll also learn a lot from this course, especially on more advanced topics like night photography and studio shoots.  Plus, it will reinforce several concepts that you probably have already learned.

For intermediate and above photographers, it’s not quite as black and white.  I consider myself an intermediate amateur photographer, based on the training and experience I have.  I can’t say that I learned anything new.  However, Vince discussed several topics in ways that are different from how I think of them.  It made me stop and reevaluate some of my work flow and techniques.

Overall, Legacy Learning’s “Learn and Master Photography” course is highly recommended and was an enjoyable experience.  But seriously, a dog named “Rick”?

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