There is a difference between a snapshot and a photograph.

There is a difference between a snapshot and a photograph.

This is one concept McPherson professional photographer Jim Griggs tried to convey during a McPherson Arts Alliance photography class this week. Over three sessions, he showed local fifth- through ninth-graders how to see and capture ordinary shots in a way that will leave others breathless.

“There was a point that I reached where people went from saying 'Oh no, he brought his camera,' to 'Hey, will you bring your camera?” he said. “When they do that, that's a win.”

The class lasted three hours Monday through Wednesday. The first day involved basic instruction, such as camera parts, how to load batteries and chips and to hold and take care of it.

Through an online tool “Camera Sim,” they were then shown how to use settings to their advantage, such as ISO, white balance and shutter speed.

The most important concept Griggs wanted to convey was composition.

Composition involves balance, harmony, diagonals, triangles, depth, and most importantly, the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds says: if the image was divided into thirds vertically and horizontally, the focal point should be at one of those four intersections.

Griggs said the last thing he wanted his students to do was place the focal point at the center of the frame.

“Everybody's got a camera now, and there is a lot of bad photography,” Griggs said. “I want them to realize there's something beyond a phone for a camera. That there's so much you can do when there's the capability for adjustments. With an iPhone, you're just capturing what's in front of it.”

After these lessons, the students left their classroom in the Mary Anderson Arts Center and ventured out into other areas of the McPherson Opera House, as well as outside on Sutherland Street. They practiced shooting one object in six different ways. Later they snapped portraits of themselves and also determined the best way to capture moving water.

“It seems they picked it up pretty well,” Griggs said. “It's a very nice thing to see.”

Once he felt they captured these concepts, Griggs discussed with them more complicated concepts. For example, when he was taking a photograph within an area called the Tall Grass Prairie, he crouched down so the grass actually looked tall. Additionally, when a subject is looking one way, Griggs said it looks better when space is given in that direction. He also took close-up pictures in their classroom and asked them to identify what they were.

Kaleb Achilles said he has learned a lot in the class and even taught his father some concepts. He said the class makes him want to be a photographer when he grows up and take pictures in Africa like Griggs.

Avery Howard, 11, said she took the class because she wanted to know how to take better photographs when her family goes on their frequent vacations. She learned to use a higher ISO when she is outside and that slower shutter speeds make the picture blurry.

Griggs said he hopes he allowed the students to see their world in a new way.

Contact Jenae Pauls at and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel