When it comes to teaching digital photography, few instructors bring as much to the digital side of the equation as Jon Canfield. Since September, 2006, Canfield has been a fulltime photographer specializing in editorial work from his base in Seattle. But for more than a decade, he was a fulltime software wizard, working at Microsoft headquarters on projects that included Digital Image Pro, the company’s flagship imaging application.
Canfield is also a skilled writer who uses his unique perspective to illuminate the aspects of digital photography that amateurs find particularly perplexing. He has published five digital photo guides including Print Like a Pro, Raw 101, The Digital SLR Guide, and Photo Finish. He is also a frequent contributor of how-to articles and product reviews for enthusiast magazines, including Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro and Shutterbug. Leading companies such as HP respect his expertise enough to regularly consult with him on the intricacies of digital printing.
Jon Canfield grew up in sunny San Diego in a family that thrived on challenging outdoor activities. His parents were into competitive water-skiing and owned a shop dedicated to the sport. Jon developed a passion for rock-climbing while in high school and took up photography to share the view from the precipice. ‘Rock-climbing is what got my photography bug started,’ he says. ‘But I didn’t have the money for decent equipment back then. So the dream was always to have a good system that could really do what I wanted.’
It would take Canfield many years to acquire the professional camera system he coveted. But right out of high school, he found what looked like a good way to elevate his climbing skills to the next level. ‘I joined the army in order to go rock-climbing in Europe,’ he says. ‘As things turned out, I spent two years driving a tank in Germany just to climb for two weeks in Switzerland. It was one of those things that are a lot better looking back on than experiencing.’
Jon’s recollections of military life couldn’t have been totally negative because both his children volunteered for the service. His son is currently in the Navy and his daughter served in the Air Force. Canfield now lives in Washington with his wife of 28 years and a pair of Labrador Retrievers whom they call ‘the boys.’
Canfield is self-taught both in computers and photography, a fact that gives him added insight into the needs of people trying to upgrade their digital photo skills. ‘I’m one of those people who learns best by doing,’ he says. ‘I got interested in computers when I was in college and dropped out because I figured I could learn more about them by myself than by going to school.’
Microsoft must have agreed. Able to pick and choose among grads and post-grads from the world’s top universities, they recruited the self-schooled Canfield from a software company in San Diego, flew him up to Seattle for an interview and hired him to do software test management. The corporate gig left Canfield with enough disposable energy and income to recharge his love of photography and assemble the professional camera system he’d been wanting since high school.
After twelve years with Microsoft, Canfield was ready to strike out on his own as a professional photographer. His goal as an instructor in the Digital Photo Academy is, ‘to get people as enthused about photography as I am. It’s an activity that gives me so many things– a creative outlet, a way to relax, to go out and take my time, a way to enjoy myself and what’s around me. It’s also a way to bring back more than memories, to capture what you see and share it with other people.’
Capturing what you see and being able to create prints that fully express your vision, however, are often trickier than equipment manufacturers would have us believe. Canfield’s workshops will help students get the quality images they want by going into subjects such as, ‘using the Raw image format to get better photos out of your camera and optimizing your images for printing or sharing via the web.’
Canfield believes that preparing images for output is one of the most confusing issues for amateurs. ‘Optimizing images is a huge confusion for most people,’ he says. ‘The seminars that I do on printing are usually filled to capacity. People are extremely frustrated about not being able to get a print that matches the image on their monitor. Nine times out of ten, it’s because they haven’t color-calibrated their monitor to match their printer. Without going into a lot of technical jargon, I’ll offer some basic things you can do to make your image-quality much better and more consistent. That’s what most people are looking for.’
Jon likes what he knows so far about the Panasonic-LUMIX cameras. ‘The camera I’m using now takes great images but it’s a tank, a deadly weapon. Between the camera and the lenses, I get tired carrying of the weight around . The Panasonic system is a lot more compact, and the other thing that really excites me is that they use Leica lenses. The standard mount on Panasonic SLRs also accepts a wide range of other lenses, which lets me use equipment that I already have.’
Call Digital Photo Academy at 1 877 372 2231. Lots of people seem to hang up if our welcome recording comes on instead of a live voice, but we promise to return your message within a day or two if you leave one with your name and number. It would be even better if you included your e mail address as well as the date and city of the class you are considering. If leaving a voice mail message is not your thing, please email us at DPAbooking@digitalphotoacademy.com or Richard@digitalphotoacademy.com.