Wes Hardaker's
Photography Challenges Course

Ready to take your photography skills to new heights?

Overview

Welcome to my Challenge Accepted course series. Join me in an adventure to push your photography skills forward through a super-in-depth, one concept at a time series of experiments. Each month(ish), I’ll be taking a small group of photographers through a challenging set of experiments designed to push your knowledge of a photography sub-topic further than you thought possible. If you think you knew a subject even as simple as “focal-length” or exposure well before, prepare to learn how much deeper the rabbit hole can go.

My goal in designing these lessons was to produce a series of experiments to learn from that I wish someone had given me. You and a small team of other motivated photographers will tackle a series of experiments as a group, share your results and hold an online group discussion where I'll lead the group in a deep dive discussion into the course results.

What you get when you enroll in a subject

  • Detailed instructions for the photography experiments you’re to conduct.
  • An invitation to a group of other 6-10 participants that wish to work together to study the same subject.
  • slack account to use for group communication for all participating group members. (Slack is an easy-to-use, popular online, group-based social-media/communication platform that is perfect for group-based projects like this.)
  • An invitation to the final, recorded, 2-hour group video conference call where results will be discussed and analyzed in depth that will include:
    • A review of the experiment's images taken by the group that show the most important concepts of the topic.
      • Detailed discussions of “what’s really happening” in the images, and why they work (and don’t work!)
    • A detailed critique of every participant's favorite image taken during the experiment.
    • A private URL to the recorded video for watching later.

What’s required of you

  • You’ll get a month to perform the tasks in the challenge topic; this will typically involve
    • Shooting multiple images “in the field” with specific goals in mind.
    • Processing some of those images to produce examples that demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the skill.
    • Discuss the results of all experiments in your private peer group.
    • Create one “Final Report” image showcasing what you’ve learned over the month
  • An administration fee of USD $45/session paid via paypal (which accepts credit cards). I offer a money-back guarantee if you're unhappy with the session. Note: this fee is for the initial test run(s) and may be increased slightly in future sessions.

Initial Topics

Starting topics that I'm likely to focus on — each item below will be an entire month’s study. Every challenge will push your knowledge to the limit and in opposite directions at the same time. For example, in the Exposure, one of the tasks will have you taking shots at -4, -2 and +2, and +4 exposure compensation of the same subject and then processing it back to zero and comparing the results to see where exposure damage comes into play. Every topic will have multiple experiments to conduct to greatly increase your knowledge. E.G., What is clipping in the histogram exactly and how does it damage my results (easy)? How does exposure affect saturation (less easy)? How does exposure compensation affect hue (even harder)?

  • Experiments of Exposure (see the example task below)
  • Focal Length
  • Shutter speed
  • Colors
  • Shapes and Patterns

Schedule of upcoming sessions

The following table shows the list of planned upcoming sessions at this point. Click on the "Registration Open" link if you wish to register for one (or more).
Starting DateTopicStatus
December 2018Experiments of ExposureRegistration Open

How to join the fun

If you wish to be included in the announcement about the next upcoming challenge lesson with subscription, contact me immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much photography experience should I have to join?

In general, most of these courses are designed for Intermediate to Advanced level photographers. If you're unsure whether or not the course is for you, please review the Example Task section below and contact me to help you assess if the course is right for you.

Do I need to know how to use photoshop?

No! Most of the experiments are designed to be fairly simple to execute without requiring extensive post-processing knowledge. You will need to have some piece of software that has basic adjustment tools (exposure, light/shadow sliders) and a histogram display.
LightRoom, Adobe Bridge, Luminar, Capture One, The Gimp, DarkTable, etc, should all work. There may be a task or two at times that would be beneficial if you know how to use Photoshop, but if no one in the group is able to perform the needed steps, I’ll be happy to help the group complete that task. Most tasks, however, should not require any knowledge of photoshop.

Do I have to complete all the tasks?

It’s your time and your commitment, so the choice is up to you as to how many you complete. The experiment list per topic will likely be longer than most people can easily complete. Pick the experiments that interest you the most and work with your group to ensure at least someone takes every task. A potentially best way forward is to start with the experiments that intimidate you the most, since that’s where you’ll learn the most.

What if I fail to get any of the work done?

I can’t return the fee, but you’ll still have the instructions, the ability to participate in the results video discussion, the link to the discussion video and the conversations with your peers to learn from.

This all sounds really sciency and techy. Is it?

Those that know me well know that I approach photography and art from a technical perspective a lot of the time. These courses do have a fair amonut of technical depth to them, but the experiments and group discussions are designed to bring about new enlightenment regardless of your level of scientific or technical background. We won't, however, be concentrating on producing fantastic art during most of the sessions, but will instead be concentrating on exploring the deeper depths of how photography itself works in order to produce better art in the future. As always, reach out to your peer group and to me on slack at any point you feel stuck.

What interaction will I get with you during the month?

The experiments will be designed to be group-oriented and I highly encourage groups to solve problems on their own, experiment together and reach out to me when there is a question or further clarification is needed. I'll follow the progress of the group over the course of the session, answering questions as people have them, and at the end of the month I’ll do deep dive reviews of all results and hold an informative discussion during the final group video call.

Is there a limit to the number of people that can join a group starting up?

Yes. The exact number of people may change over time, and per subject. It is expected to average around 6-10 people per group. The signups will be first-come first-served. Announcements about the next topic will go out to previous participants first.

What is the required time commitment?

You should be prepared to spend 10-20 hours during the month you sign up to dive into the experiments and participate in the group discussions and the concluding group video conference with me.

There is no requirement to enroll in more than a single month's sessions. All fees are one-time fees with no continuing enrollment fees. Pay for and partipate in only the sessions and topics you are interested in.

Can I take the same session more than once?

Yes, you may. Some people may find that there is so much information in a given session that they'd like to repeat it. Specifically, there is more work in one session than a single person can typically perform (hence the need for a group to work with). Retaking it, when offered again, may allow you to work on some of the exercises you could not finish the first time through. I expect most people will not need to repeat a course, however.

What if I'm not satisified with the course?

I offer a money-back guarantee; if you're unhappy at any point, let me know and I'll refund your money.

Example Task

To see if these lessons are right for you, consider the following set of instructions which is one task from the Experiments of Exposure session.

3.3 Studying the effects of exposure compensation

Exposure compensation is the seemingly simple art of pushing the exposure one direction or another. But how far is correct, or worse how far is too far?

3.3.1 Tasks

  • Take a series of shots varying your exposure compensation (i.e. -3 to +3 or whatever your camera can handle) of a highly dynamically lit scene. Don't include the sun, but do shoot on a brightly lit day. Ideally, include some objects that do reflect highlights (bright spots) easily. Even blades of grass and leaves typically can be fairly reflective in bright sunlight. Vary the exposure by the smallest amount your camera will do (e.g. 1/3 stop exposures is common). You don't have to go all the way to full black and full bright (in fact, I wouldn't go full bright because some sensors may not handle it well). DO NOT SHOOT INTO THE SUN!!! It may damage your camera.

3.3.2 Results

  • You should have a series of shots with multiple exposure results. Turn them into an animation if possible, or ask me to help if needed.

3.3.3 Things to think about and discuss in your group

  • Which exposure looked the best? Was it right at +0? If not, why not?
  • How did the scene change? Can you predict how the scene may change next time so you can use the results?
  • Using Lightroom (or anything with a histogram), how did the histograms change over exposure? In particular, look at the bumps in the exposure and note what happens to them as they shift left and right as the exposure varies.
  • In the darkest of the images, can you still see the highlights? Do any of the darker images look interesting because of the highlight patterns? (hint: it's very scene dependent).
  • How do the colors change as you head toward the brighter and darker exposures?
  • How does the detail change in the light and dark parts of the image? If you had a primary subject in shadow or sunlight, how should you adjust your exposure to account for this?