Donated Cameras Enhance Photography Training

Donated CamerasStudents have the opportunity to develop a strong foundation in photography at Southern, thanks in part to generous community members. The School of Journalism and Communication’s Intro to Photography course utilizes 35mm manual film cameras, which can be hard to come by in today’s digital world. Associate Professor Stephen Ruf is grateful for alumni, employees, and community members who donate manual film cameras that he can refurbish and loan to his students.

“These cameras are older than the students, but students are getting a lot of use out of them,” Ruf said. “I think it’s neat that instead of collecting dust on the shelf, the cameras get new lives as tools for the photography classes.”

By using film cameras, students are motivated to quickly learn the devices’ inner workings, because the photographer does not receive immediate feedback after taking a photo. To get a good shot, students must know how to properly change settings like aperture and shutter speed.

Jim Marlowe, an accomplished photographer who graduated from Southern in 1976, has donated multiple manual film cameras to Ruf’s class and fervently agrees with his method.

“In the film days, you had to know in your soul, ‘I nailed it,’ because you only got one shot,” Marlowe said. “That’s why I think Ruf is doing a favor to his students. Film photography teaches them to slow down and evaluate the scene in order to tell a story.”

Although Marlowe now uses digital cameras, he still shoots with a film mentality to guarantee a high-quality photo. He says students who gain film experience will become better photojournalists in the highly competitive field. 

Estefania Sanchez-Mayorquin, senior journalism major, works as a lab assistant in the university’s photo darkroom and had no experience with film cameras prior to enrolling in the class her sophomore year.

“I mostly took pictures with my phone, and I didn’t understand what made a good photo,” Sanchez-Mayorquin said. “But when I got the hang of the manual camera, I really enjoyed it.”

Taking the class inspired her to minor in photography, and she recently purchased a film camera of her own.

“Film photography is a window into the world of digital photography,” Sanchez-Mayorquin said. “It allows us to appreciate the art of what makes a good photo because it’s so much more than just hitting the shutter button.”

Amanda Blake Story by Published: Last Edited:

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