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By Samara Iodice | Friday, January 14, 2011

Behind the scenes: Producing the Foundations of Photography series

Foundations of Photography: Exposurewith Ben Long was released on December 23, and was the newest launch in the lynda.com Online Training Library® for several days into the new year. The holiday season could have been a very hectic and distracting time for members to find this new series, and yet, they turned out in droves—sending in comment after positive comment in record numbers, both through the course feedback link on the course page, and here on the blog. The comments suggest many things, of which two are recurrent themes. One, that members are hungry for photography skills courses such as the Foundations of Photography series. And, two, that members thoroughly enjoy Ben Long’s training style, wit, enthusiasm, and comprehensive knowledge.

As lynda.com training producer for this course, it’s hard to maintain complete neutrality on the subject, but I’ll try to look at this from the point-of-view of a member. If I did not have experience working directly with Ben Long, and being very intimate with his scripts and outlines during the production of this course, what would my reaction be after watching this course for the first time, sight unseen? To be honest, I’d be completely blown away, and for the same reasons stated by members. Yet, even while I say this, I know something that keeps me from being completely impartial. It’s this small, largely unknown, factoid that makes me watch each and every frame of Foundations of Photography: Exposure with utter disbelief and an immense feeling of achievement for Ben Long and the production team at lynda.com—myself included.

So, what is this piece of insider information? Well, simply that, at the time of its publication, Foundations of Photography: Exposure contained more live action video footage than any other lynda.com training course ever to be published in the Online Training Library. Out of 64 total movies in the course, 61 of those are live action video, shot both in the studio and out on location. Could the live action component be another reason why this course has been so popular in its relatively short time in the library? Many viewer comments have espoused the virtues of the live action video in this course, and the production value has been highly praised, and is what users are coming to expect from online training, in general. So, there’s no doubt that this figures into the equation somewhere, but just how prominently, remains to be seen.

This does not mean that live action is superior to screen capture content. In the case of photography hard skills instruction, it is arguably a more effective approach to teaching this type of content, but for software training, screen capture is still the gold standard. What it does mean, however, is that the number of production hours and effort that went into making this training is five to eight times that of a standard screen capture course. And quite honestly, when I watch the videos, I find myself going over and over in my head the things we had to do to get things to look or work a certain way, and I’m constantly reminded of the incredible dedication of each and every member of the production team.  I also think of all the unique moments and funny occurrences that happened behind-the-scenes, and how so much of that never gets shared with our members.

With that in mind, I’ve included a video of my production photos to invite subscribers in for a closer look at lynda.com live action shooting. Please note that while you will meet many of the key production team members in this video, you will not be meeting the post-production staff responsible for creating the beautiful graphics and additional photographs, and artfully splicing all the hours of footage together into the many individual instructional videos that make up this course. Special thanks goes out to those individuals, including Andy Ta, Bryce Poole, Fatima Anes, Angelica Chong, Paul Roper, and Lucas Deming. And, thanks also to Jim Heid, for his uncanny ability to find incredible authors.

Take a look at the accompanying behind-the-scenes video, and if you’ve already watched Foundations of Photography: Exposure, or if you’re planning on watching it soon, you might just see it in a whole new light.

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