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Photo 155 - Photography I - Syl Arena

Course:Photography I
Professor:Syl Arena
  • Online
Course Length:
  • 8 Week


Canvas course tile. Photography I


About Syl Arena, Your Instructor

Syl rhymes with “Bill.” It’s short for “Sylvester,” which was my dad’s dad’s name. Like my grandfather, I have bright red hair—although mine borders on crazy red hair most days.

I have worked as many different types of photographer: commercial, editorial, event, portrait, real estate, food, catalog... You have to stay versatile if you want to support yourself with a camera.

You can see a wide range of work on my archive site, my artist site, and on Instagram.

I have taught photography for many years around the US and in Brazil, Canada, Cuba, and Dubai. I joined the faculty at College of the Canyons as an Assistant Professor in 2022. The courses I teach include: Cameras & Composition, Photography I, Photography II, Digital Imaging, Color Photography, Studio Fundamentals, Video Capture for Still Photographers, Concept Development, and the Business of Photography.

I am the author of two popular books on photographic lighting: Lighting for Digital Photography and Speedliter’s Handbook.

I am an experienced online instructor. I originated the online photography courses for West Valley College (Saratoga/Silicon Valley) and Cuesta College (San Luis Obispo). I earned both of the certificates offered by the Online Education Initiative: the Certificate in Online Teaching & Design and the Advanced Certificate in Online Teaching Principles. All of this is to say that you will have an amazing online experience in this course.


Course Description


Who Is This Class For?

Please confirm that this course aligns with your academic goals.

This is an introductory course. So there are no prerequisites.

Photo 155 is a gateway course for Photo majors. Many elective courses for the AA degree in Photography and required courses for the Certificate of Achievement in Commercial Photography build upon the skills you will learn in this course.

If you are not a Photo major, you are welcome in the course too! You will find this to be an intense experience that develops skills in digital photography you can use for your own projects. If you want a less intense experience, consider taking Photo 150: Cameras & Composition.


What You Will Learn

This class will teach you—how to see the world with a more informed eye and create photos with a digital camera that express your unique vision in a manner that is personally relevant. You will also learn how to use the exposure settings on your camera in a variety of situations; how to look at and comment on photographs with a more informed perspective; and how to use Adobe Lightroom Classic software to import, process, and present your digital photographs.


What to Expect in this Course


Weekly Time Commitment = 12 to 20 Hours

This course runs on an accelerated 8-week schedule. The normal semester runs 16 weeks. So, you will earn the full 3 units of credit in half the time.

Yes, the pace of this course is more intense than the full-semester version...about twice as intense.

To achieve the expectations of the Course Outline of Record, you should plan on 12–20 hours of work each week. This includes time for online study, using your camera, processing your photos, and posting your work online. Your time requirement will vary based upon your own level of experience with cameras and computers. Students who do not have 12–20 hours each week to invest in this course, find the experience to be very stressful.

Students who do not have 12–20 hours each week to invest in this course, find the experience to be very stressful.


Class Schedule = 100% Asynchronous

This course is taught 100% online via Canvas, COC’s learning management system.

There are no scheduled class meetings. You will engage with the course materials and complete the work according to your schedule—provided that you meet the weekly assignment deadlines. So, if you are a morning person, great! If you are a night owl, that’s great too! Need to do everything on weekends, no problem.

Each week's material will be published in a new module each Saturday. You are encouraged to review the contents of each week's module as soon as you can. Work is typically due on Thursdays and Sundays.


Types of Assessments


Typical Activities

Online readings and videos—Each week you will have new information to study that is presented as online readings or videos.

Class discussions—Most weeks you will have a required online discussion in which you will share your insights and thoughts with your classmates.

Projects—You will complete several projects this semester. They will explore a wide range of approaches to digital photography.

Adobe Lightroom Classic—You will learn to use Adobe Lightroom Classic as the means to manage, process, and present your digital photographs.

Presentation of your photographs—You will present your photographs to your classmates via the discussion forum in Canvas and in online galleries.

Written analysis of exemplary photographs—Throughout the course, you will learn about the lives of master photographers across a wide range of genres. For many of these photographers, you will have an opportunity to write an analysis and/or reflection on selected photographs.


Textbook Information / Link to ZTC Textbook


No Textbook

There is no required textbook for this course. All materials will be presented via Canvas.


Required Digital Camera

For the photography projects, you will need to use a digital camera that has manual exposure control of shutter, aperture, and ISO. COC has a wide range of cameras that may be checked out by students for free. You are welcome to use your own digital camera if it meets the needs of this course. You may not use a mobile phone camera for this course.


Required Software

This course will teach you to use Adobe Lightroom Classic, the leading software for processing digital photographs. You may not process your digital photos in other software—even if you already know how to operate that software. Note: Lightroom Classic is Mac and Windows only. It does not run on Linux or other operating systems. It does not run on tablets or netbooks.

You may use Lightroom Classic for free on computers at COC, but you must have a suitable USB 3 flash drive (typically $10–$20). Computers with Lightroom Classic are available in the ASG Computer Labs.

To run Lightroom Classic on your computer, the best deal is a six-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud for $40 through the special offer on Please note that you must use your COC student email to subscribe. Watch that email account for an email from the CCC Foundation for download and installation details.

Plan ahead. This process can take up to 4 days. For help, see the CollegeBuys support page.


Other Relevant Course Information


My Equitable Grading Philosophy

You and I share the responsibility for your success in Photo 155. Beyond designing the course as a series of guided experiences that prepare you to achieve the objectives and outcomes described above, I am committed to providing individualized support that facilitates learning in the manner(s) most relevant to you. Your responsibilities include making a consistent and sincere effort to be successful in this course and to communicate with me when you face challenges that impact your success. 

Grades are a necessary part of this course. They serve to help you understand how your skills are developing and how much of the information you understand. Grading will not be a mystery and should not be a source of stress. If you get stressed by grades, get in touch. Let’s talk about it.

My criteria for grading will be presented in a rubric for every assignment. Use these rubrics as a step-by-step checklist for what you are to do. I encourage you to review them before starting your work and again before submitting your work. 

I accept that not every student defines academic success as earning an A. For some, earning a C is the threshold of success. Know that I will remain non-judgmental and support your efforts to achieve academic success as you define it.



I'm happy to answer any questions you have. Start the conversation by sending me a message.


Additional Resources


This course can be accessed on the first day of class via Canvas at Log into Canvas using your CanyonsID single sign-on:

  • CanyonsID Username is your COC student email address (Ex:
  • CanyonsID Password is your COC student email password

Please visit the Get to Know Your Online Classroom page for help logging into Canvas and for tips on using Canvas and Zoom. Canvas Chat Support is also available 24/7 for any Canvas related issues.

Online Education

Check out the Online Education website for more information on a variety of topics that can help you be a successful online student such as: exam proctoring, learning styles, computer skills, and tips for student success. If this is your first online course, feel free to take our online learning readiness assessment to assess your skills.

The Learning Center (TLC)

The TLC provides FREE online tutoring resources to COC students!

Academic Accommodation Center (AAC)

College of the Canyons AAC provides educational services and access for eligible students with documented disabilities who intend to pursue coursework at COC. A variety of programs and services are available which afford eligible students with disabilities the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of the college programs and activities through appropriate and reasonable accommodations. For more information on their services visit the Academic Accomodation Center website.

Online Counseling

The Counseling Department offers appointments online. You can schedule an appointment by visiting the Online Counseling website. Counselors can help you map out a plan to reach your educational goals as well as advise you on course selection and registration.

Management of Stress and Mental Health

College of the Canyons cares about your emotional and physical health. Learn more about the broad range of confidential student services, including free counseling and mental health services available during this time by visiting the Student Health & Wellness Center website or by calling them at: 661-362-3259.

The National Suicide Lifeline number is 1-800-273- 8255 (TALK). Please call it if you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in severe distress - it could save someone's life.

You can also use the Crisis Text Line: Just text "Courage" to 741741. It's free, available 24/7, and confidential.

Veterans Resource Center

The College of the Canyons Veterans Resource Center is a department within the Student Services Division at the college, created to help veterans and veteran dependents with applying to College of the Canyons, enrolling in classes, and requesting VA Education or Vocational Benefits. For more information please visit the Veterans Resource Center website, email or phone (661) 362-3469.


The Library provides live online and in-person research help, access to a full range of e-resources and physical materials that support the curriculum, individual and group study areas, and much more!

Last updated: 02/20/2023 Sub#: 1459