Russell Huffman (seated) shows the workshop participants different versions of an image, asking them which one they like better and why. From left, standing, are Julee Sullivan, Rose Sullivan, Becca Sullivan, Jason Malone, and Aurelia Mazan-Adkins.
Jay Ann Cox | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Last week, when the young patrons entered the Socorro library’s second floor meeting room, they were greeted by a table full of big cameras and even bigger lenses. The “digital photography workshop” was going to get serious really fast.

Or was it? El Defensor Chieftain photographer and assistant editor Russell Huffman began the workshop by putting an image up on the screen, and asking the participants, “Which of these cameras do you think made that photo?” They hemmed and hawed. Someone pointed to the largest, with battery pack and very long lens.

“Nope. I took that image with this.” And he picked up his iPhone. “You can make fantastic photos with just a cell phone.”

The purpose of the workshop was to familiarize the kids with some of the rules of photography, without getting hung up on the equipment. Using a cell phone meant that most of them had already taken hundreds of photos with Mom or Dad’s phone, or with their own.

Huffman said, “Let’s learn some rules and then you can break them!” He had their attention at that point.

At the Socorro Public Library photography workshop, Aurelia Mazan-Adkins, right, showed no fear in handling the big professional camera to experiment with different angles, lighting and orientation to take shots of instructor Russell Huffman.

After cell phone practice and some rules, second grader Aurelia Mazan-Adkins was thrilled when Huffman invited her to take photos with his large SLR. She was fearless in trying different angles while familiarizing herself with the viewfinder and shutter release. She took Huffman’s advice to take lots of frame seriously, snapping away while the others asked questions.

Teenager Becca Sullivan raised her hand when Huffman showed two similar images and asked the group, “which one do you like better?” Becca said she preferred the one with strong angles because it was “more dynamic.”  This was an opportunity to discuss line and composition.

Even as the workshop was winding down, the participants had many questions, and it was decided that another session would be in order sometime in the fall.

Photography tips

The following “rules” will help a novice take a snapchat and turn it into a keeper.

Shoot a lot of frames

With digital media, there is no need to take just one image. You can always delete all the extras, but it might take you 30 or 50 tries to get one fantastic image.

Rule of Odds

This easy trick for better composition is to tap into the brain’s urge to group things in pairs. If there is an “odd one out,” the human brain will take more time to process the image, making one area more dominant. This trick draws the eye to linger on the image and makes the brain work a little harder.

Rule of Thirds

With “Gridlines Enabled,” the phone photo app will show four lines, two across and two up and down. These lines divide the screen into thirds, or nine squares. A photographer does this in their mind too. The rule is to put the main subject not directly in the middle square. The eye and the brain are more drawn into or around the frame when the subject has been placed along the gridlines.

Try different angles

Pay attention to the lines formed by the subjects in your frame. If there are straight lines across or down, move the camera or your body and see if you can get a more interesting angle to the subject. Attention to line is one of the fundamentals of art.