Photography Portfolio 2016-2017 Sarah Williams

Hello everyone! This year I took a semester photography course as one of my more fun courses for senior year. I was excited because I found photography fun, and I had no idea what the mechanics were behind taking a picture, so I wanted to learn more about it. Of course, we were not using any easy, point-and-shoot digital cameras. We had to go with slightly more "old school" technology: film cameras.

My first challenge was simply figuring out how to use a film camera. There were a lot of parts and pieces that were very different from a digital camera, especially with an iPhone camera (what I commonly use).

An iPhone does all the heavy lifting for you when taking a picture. It can easily fix the contrast, the focus, etc... You don't get so much handed to you with a film camera, where you have to manually do all of those things while both taking a photo and developing it.


Our first practice with developing was through making photograms, where we placed objects on photo paper, exposed it to light, and then developed it by soaking the paper in various chemical baths. It was pretty straightforward (and a bit addicting).



After a long week of learning how our cameras worked, we could go out and take some pictures at last!

I used my dad's Olympus OM-4 film camera for most of the semester, but it was difficult to handle since every single part of it had to be manually controlled (unlike the more automatic film cameras that were offered to us). But I was stubborn and stuck with it as an attempt to understand the strategy behind taking photos. That is, until I realized the school cameras were far easier and less trouble.

Our first assignment was to take photos under the subject of texture.


I figured landscapes would be easy, considering they are all around us. I was wrong.

When you take in a scene, whether it is a clear vista or a bustling subway station, your eyes pick up on everything happening and makes your brain think, "wow, that is beautiful/cool/interesting". Then you take a photo, and it, frankly, looks terrible. All the emotions you felt in person are suddenly lost.

This is how it was for a lot of my landscape shots. I realized that what I was missing was solid composition. I wasn't always thinking about what I was shooting or how I was placing objects in the frame to make a scene more dramatic.

Some of my landscapes turned out well, and others were too "busy" and crowded, while some were more sparse and boring. Not to mention, I was still figuring out how to work the aperture of a camera to create the right depth of field. But it was fun to experiment and see what I could come up with.

Ranch on the hill

My daydream

Shadows and lines

Pond view

Walking along

Gazebo meeting

Trees at sunset

Hills in the light

Chipping paint


In thought
“In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little, human detail can become a Leitmotiv.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

When I heard we would be taking portrait shots, I decided to try tackling my previous composition problems. I wanted to be able to convey emotion in a moment. And I got better... only after what felt like a hundred terrible shots.

This was one of my favorite sections of the course. My photogenic friends were almost as excited as I was. After all, they got to have fun posing!

Jin Jin




Double Negatives

Double negatives were the most difficult part of the whole semester. Successfully layering two film slides so that both came together to make something more was no easy task. But it challenged everyone to think outside the box and turned out to be very fun and engaging.

Two shadows

This photo (above) of two layered shots of my cat Lucas was my favorite out of all the double negatives. It turned out super sharp and I personally feel like this was when I finally nailed the composition of a photo, so I was pretty proud of myself. This is also when it clicked that I had a fluffy, model-status cat living in my house, and that I had a knack for cat pictures.

This photo was the spark behind my final project idea.

Final Project

The Cat Tower

We were told that our final projects were supposed to be the gems of our semester. My project turned out to be my pride and joy, so I am happy to show it off a bit.

I knew I wanted my subject to be Lucas, so my only issue was figuring out what to do as a project. I could have done a classy poster, or maybe a collage, but it didn't feel right. Then I thought of making a sculpture.

After a few minutes of idea-crunching with my family, who were intrigued by the project as well, I settled on making a cat tower from cardboard and paper towel rolls. From each platform, the photos would hang from strings and fill the empty space. The platforms would be a vibrant red and the poles would be white. The origami cat was the finishing touch that brought the piece together.

The cat tower

I loved how fun it looked! The red popped and the photos showed what a beautiful (and weird) cat Lucas is. It was worth every minute I spent working on it.

Below are all the photos hanging from the sculpture, since they are hard to make out in the full picture of the tower.

Afternoon nap
Snow cat
Feline Photoshoot
In the light
The King
Eyes and nose

It's crazy to me how much I progressed through only one semester. I began without even knowing what a darkroom was and barely understanding how to take a photo that actually looked decent. I ended it with creating an art piece of some of the best photos I've probably ever taken.

I am pretty sure I have a bit of an addiction now. Everywhere I go, I am constantly thinking whether something could be made into a photo. Whenever I am driving, I see certain scenes that give me this weird compulsion to pull the car over that instant to take a photo.

Not going to lie, I kind of like it.

Thanks for watching!
“A photograph is neither taken or seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos.”– Henri Cartier-Bresson
Created By
Sarah Williams

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