As a college lecturer for 10 years, I was always looking for new tools that would help me communicate the technical basics of photography to my students. The truth of the matter is, teaching the ways that aperture, shutter speed, and ISO work together in creating a proper exposure can be tricky without hands-on experience. It also can make for a very dry lecture when all you have is a white board at your disposal. An additional challenge is the weather. In the semesters starting in January – when the weather in Colorado is cold, the light is dismal, and the students are not excited about going outside to shoot together – how do you get them hands-on experience during class time?
The tool that I discovered, and have been using in the classroom for basic film and digital photography, is called CameraSim. It’s a digital SLR simulator that gives access to tools that simulate the function of a DSLR right on your computer screen. There are options for choosing all of the important basic camera features like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. It also has focal length, lighting, and a sample image containing motion both fast and slow. This allows students to experiment with making combinations of choices, shooting the picture, and seeing an instant result. When the picture doesn’t turn out well, it’s easy to make different choices thus getting a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Not only are they able to work with depth of field, but they can also learn how to stop or blur motion with intention.
Having charts like this one is also helpful for students when they go out shooting on their own, so they can remember the effects of aperture and shutter speed settings and helps them use them creatively.

What tools do you use in the classroom that you can share with other photography teachers?