ST. PETERSBURG — The Commercial Photography Technology program at Pinellas Technical College (PTC) gives shutterbugs the opportunity to explore the world of commercial and creative photography. The course, available at the St. Pete campus, is 1600 course hours and is divided into two parts.
“We start with the basics, the exposure triangle, how to learn the camera manually,” said instructor Michael Landes. “We don’t want to use automatic. Our mantra is to get it right in the camera.”
Students are required to have their own cameras so they can work off campus, and although Nikon or Canon are the industry standards, they could have another type if they so desire, Landes explained.
Though computer programs are part of the course, Landes, who also has a film background, said that the issue he sees with photographers today is that they spend too much time in post-production and behind the computer, so he tries to limit that.
“We do introduce students to Photoshop and Lightroom,” he said, “and they’re very necessary. Lightroom is the preferred editing program, and then we take the choice, refined images into Photoshop. But this is not a Photoshop or a Lightroom class.”
Also in the first half of the course students will get a feel for composition and learn to recognize line, shape and form. They’ll develop a sense of a direction of light and learn about processing images and presentation, with various borders and strokes.
In the second part of the course students learn the art of portrait photography.
“We have a nice portrait facility,” Landes said. “One thing I see that’s escaping now is people don’t have studios anymore, so they don’t know about proper studio portrait concepts like facial angles and lighting patterns.”
The program includes commercial photography, where students learn how to photograph ovals, rectangles, architecture and glass, Landes explained. In addition, students discover their creative sides by delving into the world of artistic photography. Often, fellow PTC students will pose as models in conceptual, artistic photographs.
Landes, an award-winning photographer himself, encourages his students to enter their creative photos in contests. His students’ high showings speak to his ability as an instructor.
“One of my greatest joys is when I get beaten by my own students!” he admitted, laughing.
Many local organizations like the Tampa Area Professional Photographers Association (TAPPA) hold such competitions. Landes, a life member of the Florida Professional Photographers, said he is a big believer in professional associations.
“In Florida we have a great state association,” he said, “and there are local associations under that state umbrella.”
As an essential part of the course, students will learn the business of photography, which includes pricing for their work and business plans.
“I’m a firm believer that photographers should be paid like doctors and attorneys!” Landes exclaimed. “Unfortunately, technology has hurt us. People think that if I have a digital camera and have Photoshop at home, then why should I hire a photographer?”
Nonetheless, he asserted that the program at PTC is a first rate way for students to learn the art and business of photography.
“One of the main benefits of our program is that we teach everything if not more than the art institutes do at a fraction of the price,” he said. “It’s very economical for the student.”
Landes said that advisors will relate potential job openings, but did concede that it can be a “tough niche” and that students are better off going out on their own and building their business. If nothing else, students can learn a craft that can often earn them money.
“With photography you can always supplement your income,” he said. “Some of the greatest photographers in this area are PTC graduates—Carol Walker at Thomas Bruce Studio, Rob Moorman at Moorman Photographics and Aaron Lockwood at Lockwood Photography in St Pete. So we have had graduates move on, and some will supplement their income and some students are here for life enrichment and self-improvement.”
Landes had his studio in Bartow for 27 years, where he taught professionals before coming to PTC five years ago. He said students ranging from high school kids to senior citizens comprise his class, and he always draws inspiration from his students—and vice versa.
“I had no clue how students can inspire the instructor and in turn the instructor turns it right back around and inspires them!” he said enthusiastically. “There are probably many benefits to this program that aren’t even photography related. Just being involved in the creative atmosphere with different age groups and different backgrounds, cultures, and that type of thing. I’m a big believer of group learning.”
Part of the course is available online for those who may have busy schedules, and PTC has an articulation agreement with St. Pete College, where students can even earn college credit through the photography course.
Landes would like to encourage everyone to come out and see what’s happening not only with the photography program but with PTC in general.
“The world does not seem to know about us,” he stated. “We are very proud of our photography department and I would love for the community to take advantage of the opportunity.”
If you’re interested in exploring this career path, please visit myptec.org or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available. See ad below.