6 Photography Projects to Try This Weekend

written by Georgia Schumacher 20 August 2014

Ah, the upcoming weekend -- a time to relax, unwind, and indulge in extracurricular pursuits. For those of you in photography classes (or if you’re just a photography enthusiast), the weekend presents an excellent opportunity to hone those camera skills with some creative photography projects. Here are 6 unique projects to take on this weekend with your camera.

1. Street candid

Carnivals, fairs, and general outdoor activities all provide ample opportunities to snap candid photographs of people in interesting environments. Candid shots are not only unexpected and intriguing, but they also allow the photographer to experiment with creativity, composition, and themes.

Tip: Acclaimed photojournalist Robert Capa said, "If your photos aren't good enough, then you're not close enough." Don't be afraid to get close to your subjects.

2. Abandoned building

Abdandoned building photo At the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes the absence of humans can enhance a photograph. Abandoned buildings make excellent settings for times when you want to capture a spooky or mysterious mood.

Tip: A flashlight makes an excellent accessory for both navigating throughout the building and adding lighting effects. A wide-angle lens is also helpful for capturing larger rooms in their entirety.

3. Silhouette shot

Silhouette photography is a simple, yet stunning way to capture a scene. With this method, the subject of the shot is underexposed to the point of appearing black against a lit background. While silhouettes are often associated with human subjects, don't hesitate to capture flowers, buildings, or animals with this technique.

Tip: Dress your model in sheer clothing for an experiment in textural layers, and make sure to get the exposure right to enhance the silhouette.

Leaves - Macro

4. Macro shot

A macro shot involves taking a detailed, close-up image of an object, such as an insect, flower, or circuitry. Generally, you'll want to get within a foot of your subject to capture its intricacies.

Tip: Make sure to use a lens that's equipped for macro focus. Most digital cameras have macro modes built in, while professional cameras require a separate macro lens.

5. Light writing

Another innovative way to play with lighting is light writing, which involves capturing moving light against a darker background. Use a long exposure and either a self-timer or remote shutter if you're working alone. Move a singular-point light source (such as a laser pointer, flashlight, sparkler, or glow stick) through the space to write words, make a halo, or outline a silhouette.

Tip: Your background doesn't have to be completely black, and it can often help to make the photograph more intricate. Use your creativity to incorporate the background into the overall content of the picture.

6. Astrophotography

Nothing is more beautiful than the night sky, but a heavy concentration of city lights blocks stars from view. In order to photograph the stars, seek out a location with as little light pollution as possible. A long exposure with a fast lens will help to capture the image, and, considering that the planet is constantly moving, a wider field of view is helpful for beginners.

Tip: Follow the "Rule of 600," which says that in order to avoid blurry star trails, you can calculate your exposure time in seconds by dividing 600 by the focal length of the lens used.

Interested in photography? Find out what you could learn and what photography classes you could take as a student in one of our programs!

Discover Career Opportunities in Interior Design

written by Georgia Schumacher 8 August 2014

Interior lighting choicesSo you're interested in crafting and selecting window treatments, lighting fixtures, materials, and room designs? You're in luck: if you pursue a career in interior design and are looking at interior design schools, you're headed for one of the most versatile career paths there is. When you pursue a career in the interior design field, you can choose from all sorts of specialties. What you choose will depend on your passion. Here are a few careers to consider.

Go green

Did you know that over 70% of consumers consider the environment when making a purchasing decision? That may be the reason that careers in sustainable and green interior design are taking off in a big way. As a green designer, you'll translate your appreciation for the Earth into a career, selecting fabrications from more sustainable materials and working with professionals who are passionate about green building techniques.

Stomach appeal

Love the kitchen? Maybe you should pursue a career as an interior designer specializing in kitchens. It is common knowledge that kitchens sell houses, and with interest in cooking and food higher than ever, everyone is looking for a kitchen that warms their heart, fills their bellies, and adds to their home. Why not specialize in this challenging but growing field?

Home away from home

Hospitality is big business—in fact, the global hotel industry is projected to rake in $550 billion by 2016. Hospitality projects are not only about designing gorgeous hotel rooms. Hotels and other tourist attractions need designers with sweeping, grandiose visions and a creative touch to turn common spaces, restaurants, and living spaces into areas worth visiting.

Center stage

As residential real estate recovers and first-time homebuyers prepare to enter the market, home staging is taking center stage in interior design. Buyers and sellers alike are looking for homes that are prepped for sale with attractive designs that play up a home's benefits and minimize its flaws. Best of all, as the market picks up, interior decorators looking to stage will find lots of opportunity and plenty of ways to flex their design muscle.

You decide

Whether your passion lies in commercial spaces, cozy homes, or anything in between, there's an interior design school and career for you. Follow your passion and you're sure to find a career that plays off your personal interests and takes advantage of your design education.

5 Simple Ways Your Site Can Be More User-Friendly

written by Georgia Schumacher 6 August 2014

Nowadays, how your website looks and performs is every bit as important as what it actually says. If your site is easy to navigate, with text that's easy to read and sharp images that load quickly, visitors are much more likely to hang around and partake in whatever it is you offer -- whether it be your art school portfolio, your resume, or a blog for your photography class. Keep reading for ideas on how to make your site as user-friendly as possible.

1. Keep it short and simple

Today's Internet users have an attention span that's one second shorter than that of your average goldfish (no joke!). If you want to get and keep their attention, you're going to have to keep your content short and sweet. There's still room for personality -- just keep in mind that the shorter the text on a given webpage, the more likely it is that somebody will actually read it.

2. Break it up

Internet users love content that's easy to scan -- so ditch the long, continuous blocks of text in favor of short paragraphs, with headings, subheadings and bullet or numbered lists to make the page scannable. Use white space on the page to set off key elements.

3. Keep it speedy

Multimedia is tops -- unless it slows your website's load time so much that your visitors get bored and click away. Remember: shorter attention span than a goldfish. Minimize your multimedia to maximize its impact -- try choosing and showcasing only the best of the best. Once you've selected your showpieces, compress the image and video files for faster loading.

4. Update regularly

Nothing sinks a user experience faster than broken links or out-of-date content. Check your site for broken links at least once a month (more if some links prove problematic), update your FAQs, and refresh seasonal or time-sensitive content in a timely manner.

5. Be mobile-friendly

A site that looks great on a desktop computer might be impossible to read or navigate on a smartphone or tablet. Optimizing your website for both mobile and desktop use is a sure way to drive more traffic your way, and keep the visitors happy once they're there.

There's no denying that an eye for art and design can help you design an attractive, user-friendly webpage (and attending art school can help you improve that already existing talent)-- but if you're stumped for ideas, all you really have to do is log out of your admin panel and browse the site as if you've never seen it before. Ask yourself the questions a first-time user might ask. If the answers aren't readily (and obviously) accessible, you've found a great place to start improving the overall user experience.

How to Choose the Right Typography for Your Next Project

written by Georgia Schumacher 18 July 2014

Typography

Choosing fonts for a project can be an overwhelming task if you don't know what look you're going for. Typography is just as important as a logo, so choose one that echoes your brand's personality. Here are some tips on how to choose the right font for your next project.

Define your style

Are you creating content for fashion, technology, or children? Your style will greatly depend on the subject matter of your content. For instance, if you're doing graphic design for a hip fashion marketing company, you may want to go with something bold and modern.

Choose professional fonts

There are many free resources for fonts on the web. It's very easy to download a few and make choices from there. However, only a few resources offer well-made fonts that are fit for professional use. Some sites that feature high-quality fonts are Fontsquirrel and Myfonts. You can also check out Google's Webfonts and Typekit for fonts intended for web-based projects.

Get opinions

Choose two fonts you are considering to use and create samples using both. Print them out and show them to friends, colleagues and anyone else whose opinion matters to you and ask which one they think looks best. Make sure you provide some basic information of the project you're using them for. Sometimes getting second, third and fourth opinions on a certain design can give you more insight and help you make a final decision.

Research

Look around for similar projects that have great exposure. Billboards, magazine ads and posters are great things to observe when gauging the appropriateness of certain typographical styles. Sticking with the fashion marketing example, find out what type of font what other fashion companies are using. What gets your attention? What fonts make sense when used with similar content?

Use licensed fonts

You may not be aware of it, but certain fonts are protected by copyright. Whether you plan to use a font for personal or commercial use, be sure that you are doing so without infringing on the creator's work. While some fonts may be free to use for personal use, there may be some restrictions on where and how they can be used professionally. To get more details, check out The Law on Fonts and Typefaces from Crowdspring.

Most importantly, choosing a font for your project is a personal journey. The typography you select should make a connection with you, your vision, and what you want to tell the world. While these tips can get you started, only you can decide where your font-hunting quest ends and your project begins.

Quit Procrastinating Today (Not Tomorrow)

written by Georgia Schumacher 16 July 2014

If you have 2 weeks to complete an important project, do you find yourself waiting until the last minute and pulling an all-nighter to finish it? Is your attitude, “Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow?” Sound familiar? You’re probably a procrastinator.

The problem with procrastination is that a rush job probably doesn't result in your best creative or technically sound work. You’ll enjoy your studies — and get much more out of them — if you quit procrastinating once and for all! Here are 4 time-management tips to help you fulfill your potential in any creative field, from game development to fashion marketing to web and graphic design.

1. Make a schedule and stick to it.

Taking courses online is like working from home: Self-discipline is critical to success. When you’re working from home or studying online, you don’t have peer pressure in your favor. Online students must motivate themselves. The easiest way to improve your time management skills is to make a schedule and follow it.

First, make a weekly schedule listing upcoming deadlines and due dates. Break each project into smaller components and commit to completing each by a certain date. Post this list in front of your computer screen so you’ll see it each day.

Next, make a daily schedule. Designate blocks of time during the day to crossing items from your list. Set an alarm. Make a commitment that, regardless of what the alarm interrupts, when you hear it you’ll stop what you’re doing and complete the task you assigned yourself.

2. Set achievable goals.

Failure won’t stop procrastination, it will perpetuate it. It may be overwhelming to read four chapters on game development techniques, but you can probably handle two. Trying to design an entire brochure in one sitting would be daunting, but tackling the cover of a brochure would be reasonable. Set goals you can meet so you can taste success. Success is motivation to continue a good habit.

3. Reward yourself.

Whether it’s working out, playing video games, or watching TV, it’s hard for procrastinators to resist activities they enjoy in favor of work. Instead, use whatever keeps you from school work to motivate you. When you prioritize work over play, you’ll be able to play without the guilt of unfinished projects weighing you down.

4. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Remember why you're taking classes. It’s probably because you to pursue a career—in game development, design, culinary fashion, photography, animation, or one of the many other exciting creative fields--that you love. Snap a picture of something that represents your end goal and tack it to your bulletin board as a reminder of why work should come before play.