Learning to Capture: The Fundamentals of Photography



Rachel Topham

Examples of her work can be viewed on her website through this link. To see her on Instagram, visit her page @racheltophamphotography.


Course Description

Learning to Capture: The Fundamentals of Photography is a four-week course, designed for individuals aged 15-18, taught by photographer Rachel Topham. Rachel will teach through the video conferencing platform of Zoom to groups of four to five students. Students will learn the technical fundamentals of the camera while increasing their awareness of the aesthetic techniques used in the composing of photographs. Participants will use a smartphone to complete small projects within the home environment. The students’ photographs will be presented and discussed in the subsequent class. Required course materials include access to the internet on a computer capable of running Zoom and a smartphone with a camera.

Please note, this course is designed for students interested in learning the technical aspects of photography.

Course Dates & Times

Each class will be one hour and will occur once a week for four weeks.

Cohort A

Classes will be held at 5 pm on:

Monday, April 27th
Monday, May 4th
Monday, May 11th
Monday, May 18th

Cohort B

Classes will be held at 12:30 pm on:

Saturday, April 25th
Saturday, May 2nd
Saturday, May 9th
Saturday, May 16th

If you would like to register for the course, please email [email protected] with your name, preferred Cohort (A or B) and a valid email address. Parental permission is required to participate.

Course Outline

Class One


Rachel will introduce the three basic elements of the camera: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and discuss how these elements affect aesthetics. Students will also discover different qualities of light within a selection of photographs.


Photograph an object in your home for one week at different times of the day to explore how the quality of light changes. Choose three images to discuss in the following class. Consider why you chose them and how they are similar or different.

Class Two


An introduction to the fundamentals of image-making: image structure, visual weight and balance, the rule of thirds, eye lines, and what it means to animate the eye within or outside of the frame.


Photograph an object or person and explore different compositions to animate the eye, balance the frame, create tension, or movement. Choose three images to explain how you see their ‘structure’.

Class Three


Ask and discuss what is a portrait. Does it have to be a face, or are there other ways to create ‘portrait-style’ images such as a dancer’s feet, the hands of a gardener, or could your favourite notepad and pen be a portrait?


Create 3 portraits of self or other. Explain the process of making the portraits and what you like about the images.

Class Four


Discover the concept of a photo essay. Consider how images can relate to one another to story build or form a sequence. Discuss the curation of social media feeds and question how images may be grouped together to form certain meanings.


Create a photo essay or a series of images that tell a story. Is it your morning ritual? The process of making bread? The people in your house? Think about the relationship between images and how you may communicate that to the viewer. Feedback will be given by email and images will be shown in a private online gallery.

Rachel’s Bio

Rachel Topham specializes in documenting artworks and spaces, as well as preparing digital image files for press. Rachel received her BFA in Photography from Ryerson University in 2004 and an MA in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management from Ryerson University and George Eastman House. Rachel worked at Branksome Hall in Toronto teaching photography to students aged 13-16, and at Ryerson University where she taught The History of Photography for the Continuing Education Photography program. For over a decade, Rachel worked as a photographer for the Vancouver Art Gallery. She created signature images of artworks, with a specialization in installation photography, and completing pre-press for the gallery’s publications. Since 2018, Rachel has been operating as an independent photographer and digital image preparation technician; her work is regularly featured in publications, both in print and online.

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