Photography in Focus

Some of Orcutt Academy High School’s most popular electives are the ones captured behind a lens. The Oracle has started a new series featuring every class, and Mr. Jim McManus’s Photography course is its first subject. 


McManus has been teaching Photography, Video Production, and Yearbook for six years now. His Photo 1 and Photo 2 courses are nothing like they were before his Spartan debut. McManus brought in all of the studio, lighting, and sound equipment, as well as the widely used cameras and Macbooks.


Everyone has a different experience in McManus’s Photo classes, but he has his own goal for them. McManus expresses how he hopes his students get “a real understanding of the fundamentals of photography.” Throughout the two courses, students will learn the science and beauty behind photography, as well as applying their knowledge to their own work. 


Photo 1 is a prerequisite to taking Photo 2, but what distinguishes them? McManus says that Photo 1 is a foundation for what is yet to come. “It’s really all about the history, the camera, lighting, composition, studio photography, and basic photoshop,” he explains. In Photo 2, students take it up a notch. McManus says, “They learn food styling, advanced lighting, and editing.” Better yet, this year, the photo classes are teaming up with a local restaurant to shoot food for their menu applications.

Winston Harris

Right now, Photo 1 students are starting a unit on lighting. Every week, they must submit a new assignment to Moodle, an online portfolio for students to submit work and utilize resources for a better learning experience. In Photo 2, students are making a five-photo essay called “How We See It;” each photo will feature a different way light affects a subject. 

Mason Williams

It’s important to understand that photography classes are not always a walk in the park. Students will struggle and make mistakes. According to McManus, students have the most trouble with telling an actual story through photography. This subject is a form of art, so storytelling is a very big component. “I call it ‘VOICE,’” he shares, “With any good photograph, there should be an element where the subject matter ‘talks’ to you and draws you into the photo.”

Lacey Barnes

Some of the students who have taken Photo at Orcutt Academy have continued their photography adventure outside the classroom. “I am proud to say that I have seven to eight students who have taken my class and now work in the photography field,” shares McManus. These students work for professionals and/or themselves. It’s totally possible to make a career out of this, as long as you have passion.


Mr. McManus’s photography courses sound like a blast, especially as we continue to live through a digital age now covered with media. Consider taking his class, as it seems like you won’t be disappointed.