A Question for Photographers & Educators

A Question for Photographers & Educators


by Alex Murchison, professional instructor and image-maker at the Holland College Photography & Digital Imaging program in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

During 2007, I began to think about how digital video would impact my program and my graduates. Video had existed as part of Holland College Photography when I took it over in 1994 but I soon dropped it. I found the quality of both stills and video suffered in a two-year program. Now it was back again in the digital era. Could we include it in the already crowded curriculum? Should we include it? Would we again make poor video and weak stills? How could we include it in a meaningful way for the students? Yes, there was Vincent Laforet with the MarkII and a number of other photographers and filmmakers making big impressions with DSLR video but where did we fit? Lots of questions and not a lot of answers that came to mind.

I think the insight for me was as I reviewed our self-promotional projects: competition entries, business cards and postcards, portfolios and related marketing. We don’t do much web site work in the program for the same reasons I dropped the previous video courses, yet we obviously advocate for strong web presence. What I envisioned for them was a self-promotional video project, shot in teams of two/three, each shooting as directed by the other. The student (subject) of the promo video has to edit, select and source music (copyright in mind) and one of the most challenging aspects for students, “the voice over.” Could it work? Part of my own education includes three full-term studio courses in video and I have always maintained a moderate level of interest and practice.

This is our second year actually producing the assignment and for 2013 we will add a full day workshop with a filmmaker on top of my sessions. We have fairly basic gear and no major “rigging” for the cameras. Basically: several 5DMIIs, 60Ds, assorted lenses, dolly, Glidetrack HD base kit, some microphones, Photoshop, iphoto and imovie. We have some hot lights and I am thinking of adding several LED panels in the near future.

Written out briefly, it does not seem like that much of a eureka moment but I believe the results are speaking for themselves. Not only do the students gain a basic level of DSLR video experience (about 100 hours of work per student) above the “ambient” student video so often seen, they have a promotional piece. The sessions go beyond how the “video controls” work on the camera and delve into film technique helping to create a multi-level assignment. As a colleague said to me recently “the videos are the product of the product.” They fill out the dimension and personality of these emerging professionals and in an age where everyone is a photographer, this is one more thing to set them apart from the crowd. The videos have already helped students to secure quality work-term placements from Toronto, Canada to New York City.

YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/hollandcollege1234

Alex Murchison is a professional instructor and image-maker at the Holland College Photography & Digital Imaging program in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Alex has managed successful careers in both Halifax and Toronto, Canada and has been teaching full-time since 1994. Favorite imaging options include: B&W film, Polaroid transfers (including shooting at the NY Polaroid 20X24 studio for a day), digital composites and digital video. For further information, feel free to email Alex at: amurchison@hollandcollege.com