Digital photography gives us powerful tools to reveal not just what our eye saw through the viewfinder but what our heart saw as well.
I want my students to experience the excitement and satisfaction of creating engaging, beautifully rendered photographs that reconnect them to the moment of taking and reveal their thoughts and feelings to viewers.
My classes give students hands-on practice working with photos from their camera, phone or scanner to push their photography in new directions. Students learn how to use light, color and texture to emphasize what is important – the story in the image.
I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop in my teaching because they are the most capable tools for editing and organizing digital photos, whether captured by camera, phone or scanner. They are popular with both amateurs and professionals.
Lightroom stands above other editing software because its tools go beyond global adjustments to the whole photograph and enable localized selection and editing of a sky, object or person, including details like the eyes or teeth.
Even the best camera captures only a shadow of what we saw in the scene. In my teaching, the goal of editing is to find the idea (feeling, story) latent in the capture and bring it to life with adjustments that are unobtrusive and operate at a sub-conscious level in the viewer.
Lightroom is also an excellent tool for organizing photographs. I have helped many students make sense of their photo collections spread across many folders and disks. Lightroom allows collections (like playlists) that cross many folders so a single photo can be organized in multiple ways without creating duplicates. Adding keywords to photos allows them to be added to collections automatically.
Lightroom's power to organize accelerated my growth as a photographer and I enjoy sharing the techniques I've developed.
Before / After
When I'm working with students on their photos, I always like to have them use Lightroom's Before/After comparison so they can see how far they've come.
Click the video on the right to see some examples with my photos.
Photoshop is also an important tool for photographers and is often the focus of my work with advanced students. While Photoshop is well-known for retouching away light pools and telephone wires, it also has sophisticated tools for adjusting and enhancing tone color.
With advanced capabilities comes complexity, however, so I recommend students begin with Lightroom and integrate Photoshop later as their needs grow.
My courses are offered through Glen Echo Photoworks and HILL CENTER at the Old Naval Hospital. I also privately offer 1-on-1 instruction and host a small group of advanced students.
At present, all my classes are held via Zoom because Lightroom and Photoshop are entirely screen-based. I can easily switch between my computer and each student’s computer and there's no commute. Students can participate from anywhere. Zoom also lets me record each session that I publish on Youtube.
I have developed an extensive library of documentation in Google Docs to supplement what I demonstrate in class. Students have permanent access to this library which I update frequently.
Alec's Introduction to Lightroom course has opened up a whole new world of photography and photo post-processing for me. His relaxed teaching style and his comprehensive set of related instructional materials open seemingly endless options for whatever direction you want to take your photographic interests. – Dick Riegel
I participated in Alec's Introduction to Lightroom course in the autumn of 2019. He presented the course material in a thorough and easily-digestible manner. He was tremendously well-prepared for each class, and prepared many reference materials himself, sharing them before each class so that we could ask questions in person if necessary. He encouraged participation and gave many opportunities for students to bring in and edit their own photos with his help. He was patient, supportive and encouraging. I very much enjoyed the course and would highly recommend Alec to any student of photography. I hope to take more of his more specialized courses in future. – Kim Nicole
Alec is a patient and knowledgeable instructor. He has helped me to progress from being intimidated by Lightroom and Photoshop to being a confident user. More than that, he has inspired my curiosity to try new techniques that push me to learn and improve my images. – Susan Brown
I grew up in a family of makers who were painters, potters and woodworkers. I didn’t find my own way to make art until I discovered photography.
From childhood, I felt a strong spiritual connection to natural settings. Photography gave me a way to connect with the natural world and something concrete came out of the process, an image that could precipitate a new experience on its own.
I first studied photography at Cornell University and then with Murray Riss at the Memphis Academy of Arts. From there I went to Rochester where I received an MFA in Photography at Visual Studies Workshop (part of SUNY Buffalo). My focus at VSW was book arts and offset lithographic printmaking (photographic mezzotints).
I’ve continued my education at Glen Echo Photoworks, where I now teach, at the Smithsonian with Eliot Cohen and with JP Caponigro in his Printing and Creativity workshops.
In my personal work, I’m indebted to Edward Weston, Walter Anderson and my teachers, Murray Riss, Mark Power and JP Caponigro.
You can see my photography in Projects.
© Alec Dann 2023