PHTO 391 - 001 - Photography Is Magic:

Digital Photographic Literacy in the age of limitless images.


John Freyer - Associate Professor, Photography + Film at VCUarts (He/Him/His)

Tom Woodward - Associate Director, Learning Innovation, VCU ALT Lab (He/Him/His)

Course Website:


In an age where every 60 seconds 140,000 images are uploaded to Facebook, image production and literacy are more important than ever. Learn how to use the photographic tools we already have with us everyday, to create compelling images, stories and videos that will cut through the digital clutter of our daily image feeds. This hybrid course will take place both online and offline and will feature in person photographic demo sessions with Associate Professor John Freyer from the Department of Photography + Film at VCUarts and Tom Woodward the Associate Director of Learning Innovation at the VCU ALT Lab. No specific camera is required. DSLR, Point & Shoot and Camera Phones can be used for this course.


Using open source imaging software, app based editing tools and a host of image capture technologies, students will learn about basic photographic principles, composition, editing and distribution. Students will learn to channel their natural image production tendencies into a series of guided daily practice photographic exercises. Students will also learn about contemporary artists working in the medium of photography and related media.


We will maintain regular office hours in the Alt Lab at the Academic Learning Commons. Email is always a good way to get in contact with us. We generally return emails within 24 hours during the school week. Email sent at 5 pm on Friday will likely be answered on Monday.


Your grade will be lowered after two absences and four absences will result in a failing grade for the class. Arriving after the start time of class is considered late, with three tardies counting as an absence. Notify your professor of any extenuating circumstances.


If we are in the middle of a class discussion, lecture or a critique, it’s like you’re on an airplane taking off: cell phones, computers, tablets off, no texting.


This class in an online/offline hybrid, you are required to turn in digital files to the instructor via assignment specific google photos albums on the day a specific project is due.


This class will consist of 8 Daily Practice Exercised worth 5 points each and five unique assignments Units worth 10 points each. Additional readings and written responses will be evaluated within participation grade 10 pts. You will be given a number grade upon the completion of each assignment. Final grades will be submitted as letter grades.

A= amazing

B=really good

C=you did the assignment

D=you did not fail

F=you failed


Knowing and applying the names and pronouns that students use is a crucial part of developing a productive learning environment that fosters safety, inclusion, personal dignity, and a sense of belonging across campus. Please let us know your preferred name and pronoun anytime throughout the semester.


As a faculty member who cares deeply about my students’ health and well-being, I have taken the Recovery Ally Training provided by Rams in Recovery. While this does not make me an expert in substance use, treatment or recovery, it does indicate my desire to listen to my students empathetically and to help connect them to resources. Please feel free to approach me, so I can help you connect to resources for you or for a loved one.


Students should visit and review all syllabus statement information. The full university syllabus statement includes information on safety, registration, the VCU Honor Code, student conduct, withdrawal and more.


WEEK 1 - 01/16        Welcome, Introductions, Daily Practice Assignment
                        Photography Scavenger Hunt (#phomag_hunt)

WEEK 2 - 01/23         Shooting Demo - Visiting Artist - Jill Ware
                        Daily Practice Assignment: You Are What You Eat (#phomag_eat)

WEEK 3 - 01/30        Lighting Demo - Field Trip to Univ Relations
                        Daily Practice: You Are Here! (#PhoMag_Mirror)


WEEK 4 - 02/06        Image Editing Demo
                        Assignment 1 - True to Life - Portraits & Self Portraits (#PhoMag_Portrait)

WEEK 5 - 02/13        Field Trip to “The Workshop”

                        Daily Practice Assignment - Alphabet Soup (#phomag_abc)

WEEK 6 - 02/20         Field Trip tp ICA

Assignment 2 - The Shape of Light - 10 Images - (#phomag_form)        

WEEK 7 - 02/27        Field Trip to Go Lab
                        Daily Practice - Landscapes - Time and Place (#PhoMag_Land)

WEEK 8 - 03/06         (Spring Break)

WEEK 9 - 03/13        Field Trip to Video Shooting Studio in VCUarts Depot

Daily Practice - Time Squared (#Phomag_Time)

WEEK 10 - 03/20        Assignment 3 - High Def/Low Def / 1k Squares  (#PhoMag_Square)

WEEK 11 - 03/27        Cabell Screen - Screening
                        Daily Practice Assignment - RVA Top 10 (#phomag_10)

WEEK 12 - 04/03        Field Trip to Candela Gallery in the Arts District

                        Daily Practice: Analog/Analogue (#phomag_analog)

WEEK 13 - 04/10        Assignment 4 - Make It Real (#phomag_prints)


WEEK 14 - 04/17        Field Trip - Hollywood Cemetery

Daily Practice - Winogrand Project (#phomag_garry)

WEEK 15 - 04/24        Daily Practice - Be Your Own Boss (#phomag_boss)

WEEK 16 - 05/01        Final Project - On the Map (#phomag_map)