NIGHT LIGHTS: “Photography has a universal way of connecting people. Photography opens up your world,” believe Alan Kesselhaut and Barbara Cuneo, owners of Princeton Photo Workshop. They are shown in a night shot at Sydney Harbor in Australia. (Photo by Alex Kesselaar)

By Jean Stratton

“Everyone may have a camera, but not everyone knows how to see,” explains Alan Kesselhaut. “A famous photographer once said, ‘The pictures are out there. We have to learn how to see them.’”

Adds Barbara Cuneo, “A good photographer has to notice.”

They should know!

Owners of Princeton Photo Workshop, Kesselhaut and Cuneo opened their firm in 2013, after a successful career in the construction business.

Change was in the air, and photography had long been an interest, they explain. “We wanted to make a change, and we decided to open a photo workshop with instruction, classes, and field trips.”

Design Photography

Kesselhaut, who has a degree in design photography, is in charge of classes in photo editing as well as many of the field trips. Cuneo handles the business and marketing end, and six other instructors teach classes and also oversee the field trips and summer camp.

“Photography can be solitary, even lonely,” points out Kesselhaut. “It’s nice for people to get together, with photography as the focus.”

Classes are available for beginning through advanced students and cover many areas. Photo field trips, photo day camps, private and group instruction, and group and corporate workshops are all offered.

Getting to Know Your Digital Camera is an introduction to digital photography, basically for beginners, and is offered several times a year. This can include the basics and provide the technical and visual foundation for creating outstanding pictures. Camera settings, rules of composition, how to see and use color, light, and gesture in the images are all covered.

“Once they have been introduced to these digital adventures in photography, the students have opportunities for more advanced classes and workshops,” notes Cuneo. “These include practical instruction on digital photography, how to take good images, using available light, portrait photography, and how to take travel and street photos that engage the viewer and spark the imagination.”

Other classes explore special photography and teach advanced skills using colors effectively, working with a model, advanced composition, learning to use photo editing software, and even taking better pictures with smartphones.

Guest Instructors

For the past few years, respected guest instructors from Canada, Germany, and California have come to Princeton for weekend workshops. Their emphasis is on teaching macro photography and black and white photography, and students have been enthusiastic learners and participants.

In addition, this year, the Photo Workshop plans to offer a day of infrared photography exploration.

Students are all ages — as young as 7 and as old as 80, and every age in between. Some have very little experience, others have been honing their photographic skills for many years. In addition to nearby areas, students come from Connecticut, New York, Long Island, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

Children and teens are eager participants, reports Barbara Cuneo. “We do a lot with teens, and we help them to take time to look. These kids have been born into the digital age, and they are
generally fast learners in digital technology. Therefore, we help them to focus on how to observe and compose a good image and how to make it into their art.”

On the other hand, she notes, “For some of the more mature photographers, the class may be the first time they have worked with a digital camera. But they come with a practiced eye for subject and composition.”

Subject and composition are essential for a good photograph, emphasizes Alan Kesselhaut. “Every photograph should have a definite subject and be well composed. Your viewers should know immediately what you, the photographer, are trying to say.”

Light and Color

“It’s good for the students to look at art to see how the painters handled composition and subject,” adds Cuneo. “We take the students to the Princeton University Art Museum to look at the paintings and see how the artists focused on that. And light is so important and can be so different — dim light, bright light, for example. We look at the paintings to see what the artists did with light and color.”

Summer camps and field trips are an important part of Princeton Photo Workshop’s curriculum. Summer camp is available for teens three times during the summer. Full Immersion Photo Camp: From beginner to Advanced is held twice, and Getting To Know Your Digital Camera is offered once.

These camps, which are held five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., give young photographers the opportunity to practice the fundamentals of digital photography while exploring their creative expression and having fun, explain Kesselhaut and Cuneo.

“Working with their own digital cameras, teens receive field-based and class instruction on how to improve their photography. In the classroom and on location, experienced instructors explain camera settings, the use of light, and the importance of composition, giving each camper a lot of personal attention.

“In Full Immersion Photo Camp, students engage in hands-on processing, learning to organize and enhance their images with photo editing software.

“In the fall, we hold a gallery evening, displaying the campers’ favorite work. Family and friends are astonished by the proficiency and artistry of their camper’s photographs.”

Art Underground

Field trips, which are three hours, include excursions to a variety of different places, says Cuneo. “We go to New York and Philadelphia, to locations in Princeton, Belle Mead, Lambertville, and rural settings, including a horse farm. We go to Grand Central Station, and work with a tripod. We have a two-part Subway Series called Art Underground in which we teach the essentials of street photography, and how to approach people. This can also be helpful when people want to take pictures when traveling.”

Other field trips include visits to New York’s Central Park, the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Art Museum, and the historic Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, among other locations.

“We have a variety of workshops throughout the year, at different times in different locations, and for different skill levels,” she adds. “We also do corporate and group workshops, and have had events with the Garden Club, Princeton University, Rutgers University, consulting firms, and high schools.”

As an educational enterprise, Princeton Photo Workshop believes that training and practice are the fundamentals in becoming a better photographer. “With practice and application, you are always learning something new,” points out Cuneo. “In the beginning, the kids coming to class may not really know how to use the camera; after the classes, they can leave as photographic artists!”

Alan Kesselhaut explains that all digital cameras today have the technical ability to take good photographs regardless of price. “The name brands make very good cameras that are simple enough for the beginner and have the capability to do more advanced work as the photographer learns to improve his or her skill.”

When asked to recommend a camera for a new photographer, he suggests specifics to consider: budget; what do you like to take pictures of (landscapes, wildlife, family, buildings, etc.)?; and how does the camera feel in your hand? “Ask the salesperson to tell you more about each camera with these questions in mind.”

Exceptional Teachers

Princeton Photo Workshop plans to add two new instructors to the staff, one from New York and one from Philadelphia, notes Cuneo. “Our experienced instructors are first and foremost exceptional teachers who are passionate about sharing their skills with students. We are rigorous in the selection of our instructors. They have to meet our high standards. Not only do they have to be good photographers, they have to be good teachers. To be a good teacher is a gift.”

“I love seeing our students and teaching them how to enjoy photography,” says Alan Kesselhaut. “I love giving them helpful tips. For example, take pictures of the same subject from different angles, above and below, to the left or right. In this practice, by moving a few feet or inches, you capture surprisingly different images.

“And, remember: if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough!”

“Every day is different,” adds Cuneo. “And part of the fun is that we are always learning, and we are always adding something new for our students. I love the beginning classes and watching the students learn and blossom. Photography can be a lifelong journey.”

Princeton Photo Workshop offers gift certificates, a welcome introduction to an exciting photographic adventure. For more information, call (609) 921-3519; website: princetonphotoworkshop.com.

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