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Students in George Hartmann's "Advanced Topics in Photography" course (IDT 406, offered through the instructional design and technology department) during a photo shoot of the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity in the Visual Production Center's studio in Tillman Hall. L to R: Allison Clinton (Augusta, IL), Stephanie Peterson (Aledo, IL), Brandon Wayman (Burlington, IA), Josh Davis (Burnside, IL) and Brandon Winters (Chicago, IL).
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Stephanie Peterson, a Western Illinois University junior graphic communication major from Aledo, IL, taking a photo of the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity in Instructor George Hartmann's "Advanced Topics in Photography" (IDT 406) course in the WIU Visual Production Center's studio in Tillman Hall.
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Students in IDT Photo Media Course Apply Learning in Real-World WIU Photo Shoots

December 11, 2012

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MACOMB, IL – Stephanie Peterson, a Western Illinois University junior graphic communication major, spent one of her final classes this semester taking photos of fraternity guys for the fraternity's "professional" group portrait. Trying to corral a group of college kids to get a decent photo can be an intimidating task for even veteran photo pros. But for Peterson—along with her fellow students in "Advanced Topics in Photography" offered through the WIU Department of Instructional Design and Technology (IDT)—working on real-world photo shoots, in and out of the studio, was a big part of the learning offered by veteran photographer and Fall 2012 IDT 406 adjunct instructor George Hartmann.

According to Peterson—who is from Aledo, IL, and who is minoring in photographic media offered through the IDT department—having the opportunity to learn from Hartmann (whose "main" job is taking photos of people and places at campus activities and events for WIU's Visual Production Center) has been an eye-opening experience for her in regard to her understanding and knowledge of the applied field of visual communication.

"Basically, we worked on photo shoots that George does as part of his daily work for Western. The hands-on aspect of it was really helpful, because it was truly learning on the job. You got to experience the atmosphere of an actual job and work with the lighting and subjects," Peterson explained. "George actually being with us on the job—guiding us and giving us feedback—was really nice. I really liked that aspect of it," she added.

According to Hartmann, he designed the instruction of the course around what the students wanted to gain from it.

"It had traditionally been pretty much film and chemistry based, but in discussing the original syllabus with the students, it became clear they wanted to go beyond the darkroom and get into some real-world experiences," he said. "They have actually prepared images for ROTC promotion and University Housing and Dining. They have assisted with photo sessions of mens' and womens' golf and baseball, as well."

Hartmann said during the photo shoots he asked students to apply the knowledge and theories he had covered and discussed in class. He approached each photo shoot as a class group project and offered his students opportunities for input, so each photo shoot would yield a successful conclusion.

"I would like for each of these students to have a working knowledge of digital photography, understand what digital can and cannot do and be able to approach every photographic situation capable of formulating a plan for a successful outcome rather than simply guessing what will and will not work. This applies whether they become professionals or not. I want them to understand color theory and how to control light and color in every situation. They need to know there are standards from which they cannot deviate and that will yield a predictable and repeatable outcome," Hartmann added.

For Brandon Winters (Chicago, IL), a senior network technologies major and photographic media minor, having the opportunity to work on the photo shoots in class and getting feedback from Hartmann has helped him understand how to compose better visual images when he's working on projects for homework, as well as outside of the formal learning experience in the photography concepts course.

"Most of the problems I have had in the past when taking photographs had to do with adjusting my camera's settings properly. I feel I've gotten much better at it, and I haven't mastered it yet, but I can now apply what I've learned. I've also learned a couple of Photoshop techniques, which is always helpful," he said. "With George, he gave us the freedom to take photos of what we are interested in, and I thought that was pretty cool. He let us choose our own projects and then helped us achieve what we hoped and wanted to with the final images."

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Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Relations