Cell Phone Photography Course Teaches Students to Tell Stories with Pictures

By Nicole Gennarelli

Every day people use their smart phones to take pictures and videos that are later uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media accounts. At Kent State University, a course is offered that teaches students how to refine these skills to produce quality photography.

Cell phone photography, taught by JMC Lecturer David LaBelle, aims to teach students about composition and light, how to anticipate action and emotion and to tell stories with pictures. Students must complete a picture story with captions as a final project. This spring is the second semester the class has been offered, and it is proving to be quite popular.

“The course was born out of discussion in a faculty meeting about classes that we would like to offer to those outside of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication,” LaBelle said. “Recognizing how many people had cell phones with cameras, the growing interest in cell phone photography and the increased quality of image files, I felt the time was ripe to offer students the chance to learn the basics of photography without having to invest in a digital Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. It looks like the class is here to stay.”

LaBelle teaches the class like a basic photography course, with discussions of light, timing, color and composition. He focuses on topics like portraiture, landscapes, dealing with motion, ethics of cell phone photography, ways to deal with low light situations, color correction, transmitting images and storage.

“The file sizes on the cell phones and smart phones make it possible to create some amazing images, many comparable to 35mm SLR,” he said. “We also talk about different applications available for different phones. We look at different types of images being created today – art, commercial and photojournalism. The camera phone is no longer a toy or a novelty; it is a very real tool used by beginners and professionals.”

This course is open to all students on campus. Part of the purpose for the class is to introduce non-JMC students to the department and specifically the photojournalism sequence, LaBelle said.

“I learned you don’t need a nice camera to take good pictures, and that a picture is more than an image; it holds value, emotion, tells a story, supports a cause,” said Casey Engelhart, sophomore electronic media major. “Photography is more than images; it is life.”

LaBelle loves seeing students get excited about photography and learning new things.

“Teaching this class also reminds me how much I love photography, without all the expensive, intimidating gear,” he said. “If I could teach a point and shoot film camera class, I would like that even more. I truly believe less is more. Beyond this, I truly love the students.”

Photos by David LaBelle.

Nicole Gennarelli is a senior public relations major and a marketing assistant for the College of Communication and Information.

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