Special Topics: Art & Science of Photography

Course Number: 
Cross listed as: 
Semester and Units: 
Intermittent: 9 units
Course Description: 

In the fall of 2018 Google introduced the Pixel 3 phone and camera. This image maker pushed the boundaries of computational photography available to the average consumer. The Pixel 3 makes ‘artistic’ decisions for the photographer. Just one example -- in portrait mode, the camera decides how much to de-focus the background. In low light, the camera combines multiple images seemingly creating light, often resulting in an image that has little resemblance to ‘the way it looked in real life.’ Should photographers care? How does computing in-camera compare to having the photographer totally in control? Does it change the form in a way that the artist themselves is superfluous? Reviewers tout its ability to deliver pleasing results without requiring the photographer to think. What does that mean for all photographers, both professional and amateur? How about casual users taking selfies? Does computational photography level the playing field for everyone? This course combines the technical, artistic, and creative sides of photography, and looks holistically at image making in the digital age. Different sets of tools give us different options, but are they better options? This course mixes software design, optics, user interface design, photochemistry, and art making together to look at the current state of photography. Computational photography topics will be presented conceptually for the non-technical students, with the option for anyone interested to explore the relevant math and algorithms. Students will make photographs using a variety of cameras, including the Pixel 3, traditional film SLRs, medium format, film cameras, and digital SLRs. Images will be examined on screens as well as printed using a professional grade photo printer, and in the end, we’ll be using our own eyes to determine what differences technology brings to bear.

Other instructors: 
Gerard Klug
Scott Stevens