Hello! I am eager to get started on this journey through photography and watch you all grow as photographers!


I would like to start by introducing myself. My name is Laurel Blow. I have a bachelor’s degree with a major concentration in Fine Art and a minor concentration in Digital Technology. My studies covered all aspects of Fine Art including formal instruction in drawing, painting, pottery, graphic design, darkroom photography and digital photography. I owned a portraiture business for 5 years, worked in an art gallery as a docent and graphic designer, and I’ve had my work displayed in two galleries. Currently I am teaching private and group art lessons and this online distance learning photography class in addition to freelance artist and photography work.


Laurel Blow “Faceless Self-Portrait”

The Basics

Manual Setting

For this class you do not need a super fancy camera, but you will need a digital camera that allows you to set it to the manual or “M” setting. This is usually set with a dial on the top of your camera. It will look something like this:

digital camera dial

The dial, in the image above, is set to the green camera symbol “Auto”. This means that the camera will automatically generate the settings that it thinks you will need for the photograph you are taking. When you set your camera to the “M” or manual setting, this means YOU are now in charge.

Through this class we will learn how to manually set your camera to achieve your desired look. When you understand how a camera works, you will begin to use it to your advantage for dynamic looking photographs.

For this week ONLY I will allow you to operate your camera on AUTO, but in the weeks ahead we will be venturing away from that option and AUTO will no longer be allowed.

Camera Manual


Your camera’s manual is going to come in handy for this class. Because every camera is unique, I can tell you what settings you need, but I cannot tell you exactly how to change or access it on your specific camera. You will need to know how to find the settings on your own, however I can answer questions during our monthly meetings.

If you do not have your camera’s manual, the LINKS section of our class has a list of common camera brand manual databases where you can find your camera’s manual.


For this class, if you are using a camera that allows you to focus the camera lens manually, then I would prefer you do so. Do not get in the habit of keeping your camera on AUTO focus. Auto focus is basically telling the camera that you would like it to read your mind. By doing this, it prevents a significant amount of creativity that is easily achievable when you are looking through the lens and focusing the camera yourself.


In this Skittles image above, the photographer knew which skittles he wanted to focus the image on. If had chosen to photograph on auto, there is no guarantee which Skittle would be in focus and which ones would not.


In this image, the photographer focused on the one single bunch of flowers. Had the camera been on auto focus, it would have probably focused on the woman standing in the center of the frame. While that would be nice, I don’t think the message of this piece would have been quite as interesting and mysterious as the photographer had intended.

If you are able to focus your camera manually, please do so for all future assignments!

Painting with Light


Last but not least, light. In photography light is the most important thing. The art of photography, is the process of painting with light. Over the next three weeks you will learn more about how important light is to a photograph and how you can use it to create stunning artwork!

WEEK 1 ASSIGNMENT – Faceless Portrait

For this week’s assignment you will create a self-portrait. A self-portrait is a portrait of an artist, created by the artist. When you think of a portrait you probably think of something like this:

While this may look nice on the wall at home for family portraits, I want you to reach somewhere outside the commercial world, to a place where you can express yourself visually. In fine art photography you will see portraits that share emotions, clues and information, intended to create a conversation between the artist and the viewer. Fine art portraits will look more like this:

This week you will create a self-portrait that does not depict your face. This is why I named it, the “faceless portrait”. You may include your hands, legs, etc… but DO NOT include your face in the photograph.

What I DO want, is for you help us better understand “who you are” not “what you look like”. 

For this photograph, it is OK to attach your camera to a tripod, have a friend or family member push the shutter button, or use the timer option if your camera has one.

For this assignment ONLY you are allowed to set your camera to the AUTO setting. Take several shots of different settings and submit your favorite one. Submit your photograph in the original condition your camera captured it. Do not edit the file in any way after you photograph it.

To submit your assignment, please upload the file below. I will email you my critique of your work. Next Saturday I will l post all the images from this week with the title “Week 1 – Images”.

Feel free to submit any questions or comments below for the group.