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News Photo by Darby Hinkley
Buddies Rick Houchin and Steve Jakubcin show their pearly whites for the camera. Learn more about how to use yours in their photography course at Art in the Loft.

ALPENA — Snapping photos can be fun, meaningful and therapeutic, depending on what you’re seeking. Whether it’s capturing a moment in history, documenting a family event, or just preserving nature’s beauty, taking photographs has become a large part of our lives.

But how do you know if it’s a good photo? What could make it better? How can you take photos that “Wow” the viewer?

Learn the answers to those questions and more in a two-part photography course starting Wednesday at Art in the Loft.

Freelance photographers and close friends Rick Houchin and Steve Jakubcin of 45th Lens are teaming up to teach a photography course starting with “Dial It In” from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. The second part of the course, “We’ve Taken The Shot — Let’s Edit,” will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 15. Register in advance for both sessions for $70, or each individual session for $40 apiece. The course is for teens and adults who have some experience taking photos, but want to expand their knowledge and take their photography “from good to great.”

In Part 1 of this course, you will learn how to optimize your digital camera’s potential. You will learn how to use the various settings to produce better-quality photos. Shot composition will also be covered. Learn where to stand, sit or lie down to get the best, most interesting photos. Find out how perspective ties into the shot, and much more.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Rick Houchin, left, peers down the alley as his friend and fellow photographer Steve Jakubcin smiles for the camera. The pair will teach a two-part photography course starting Wednesday at Art in the Loft.

Part 2 will focus on editing your photos. Do you want them to be brighter? Do you want to change them to black and white? Do you want to modify the subject matter? Learn all sorts of tips and tricks on Sept. 15.

“There are a lot of people that are fans of Rick’s photography,” Jakubcin said. “And I think a lot of people want to learn how to do that. And it’s a two-part process. It’s not just taking the picture, which is part of it, but there’s also an editing process, and some tips and tricks along the way.”

“I started taking pictures with my phone, and started getting serious about composition and being purposeful about what I was taking and when,” said Houchin, who started taking photos as a hobby about five years ago. He first did it as a creative outlet for himself, and now he shares his photography with others. His work primarily focuses on landscape, portrait and nature photography.

“I shot on my phone for six to eight months, then I bought my first $300 camera, and it’s just kind of grown from there,” Houchin said.

Jakubcin first got into photography because his dad took a lot of pictures, and back-up pictures.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Houchin contemplates the best pose to strike — either that or he’s wondering what to eat for dinner.

“So that was put in me at a young age,” Jakubcin said. “The rule of thumb is, the best camera is the one you have with you.”

He owns more complex cameras, but he enjoys using his iPhone, which has three cameras in it.

Both Houchin and Jakubcin have full-time jobs, so they have to plan their time for when they can take photographs, which they often do together. Jakubcin works at Cliff-Anschuetz Chevrolet, and Houchin works for Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency.

Houchin said boundaries are essential in order to make sure the hobby you love does not turn into an overwhelming job.

“It’s a hobby, and when you start going all in on something that’s a hobby, it’s a business, and I just didn’t want to take away that joy at this point,” Houchin said.

Jakubcin has recently started photographing weddings, in addition to his artistic work, which centers on landscape, candid and astrophotography. He also does videos.

“He’s jumpin’ head first into it,” Houchin said of Jakubcin.

Houchin loves the creative aspect of photography, and he goes to Jakubcin for technical advice and equipment questions.

“He’s a technical genius,” he said of his buddy.

Jakubcin enjoys the social component of photography.

“If I’m being honest, the best times I’ve had taking pictures has been with someone,” Jakubcin said on Friday, adding that he and Houchin planned on shooting together that evening.

Both guys are self-taught, and they want to encourage others to try photography as well.

“We know easy ways for people who have these (digital) cameras to get them started and get them to feel like they’re getting out of that automatic mode and getting to be a little creative,” Houchin said.

Jakubcin added that they will be sharing some of their own “Aha!” moments so others can learn how to improve their photography skills.

“I believe a lot of people have an eye for composition,” Houchin said. “They might not know what the names are called, but we can show some examples.”

He said many people can discern which photo they like better, and that can be explained by different composition techniques that bring out different feelings.

“A lot of people have that feeling, but they don’t know how to vocalize what it is,” Houchin said.

Every photograph is unique, as is the photographer who took it. Jakubcin’s first thought when he sees a great photo is “How did they do that?” On the other hand, Houchin knows he is viewing a great photo when it invokes emotion. So each of them have a different technique and goal in mind when taking pictures, which becomes evident in their work.

To register for the course, visit artintheloft.org. Scholarships are available. Apply online.

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