Taking a picture is more than just pressing a camera button. 

At least that’s what Sorel Olsen, a junior at Eno River Academy says. 

To him, photography is about a combination of technical and creative expression – Hollywood-style black and white, high contrast portraits or long exposure shots to capture stars in the night sky. 

“I got my first camera eight years ago and from there, it’s been a process of building on and growing into how to use a camera, not just snapping pictures,” he said. 

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Last Friday evening, August 31, Eno River Academy students gathered at Coldwell Banker downtown, which showcased student photography along the walls.

Parents and friends came along too, walking through to see the various levels and styles of photography: portraits, landscape, commercial, and more .

Before entering their first photography course, it’s likely that most of these students had used a camera and were already in tune with different styles of photo editing, software, and online photography businesses.

Being students in a technological age, many enter the course thinking they have a good understanding of photography, Nikki Balderas, Eno River Academy Photography Teacher, said.But when students begin to learn subject placement or the strategic process behind what seems like a simple photo, they realized they still have quite a bit to learn.

The four-semester photography program at Eno River Academy is essentially the stages of a developing photographer.

The first level course, Photo 1, covers the basic principles of design and composition, preparing a student to take a “solid picture” by the end of the course.

In Photo 2, students move beyond the basics and into technical camera work. This includes learning to adjust settings – lighting, exposure, shutter speed – while taking a photograph. As Balderas put it, “How to feel the camera and take a picture and have them work together.”

This program becomes more challenging with each level and is a rigorous process; students must apply to be accepted into the next course level.

After learning to smoothly take an image in various situations, students are able to hone in on their specific style of photography. This third course is focused on the creative and internal process of the photographer. 

Olsen, who is in the third level photo course offered at Eno River Academy, is still trying to figure out what type of photography fits him best.

“As you move up it’s very much work-oriented instead of just, ‘Oh, I like this class,’” he said.

Right now, he draws inspiration from Platon, a photographer who has taken award-winning photos for high-profile magazines such as Time, Vogue, and The New Yorker. Most notably, his photo of Vladimir Putin was on the cover of Time Magazine in 2007.

All along the way, students edit photos with Adobe Photoshop and have an online website and portfolio for their work, much like the photographers they look up to. 

This online portfolio is one part of Balderas’s push to get her students working in this field before they graduate.

Some students recently did commission work, taking photographs through Hillsborough and Mebane for a local company producing postcards.

“It’s really important for them to work in the field they are going to be in and it gives them a lot of confidence too,” Balderas said. “I went to art school – art school is difficult and it’s very challenging. This gives them the opportunity to gain confidence so when they do go there, when they do get feedback and critiqued, they can make it through and be very successful.”

One student, Julia Vaughan, a junior and Photo 3 student, plans to go into the photography field after she graduates next year. 

She recently had the opportunity to take photos for a restaurant catering menu and for their grand opening: her mother’s business, Core Catering in Durham. Her featured picture at the exhibit on Friday was from that photoshoot. As she continues to sharpen her craft, she hopes to continue with this type of photography. 

“I have really committed and talented kids,” Balderas said. “I want them to have the opportunity to get out there and share their greatness with everyone.”