I used to be a fairly decent photographer. Of course, that was in the days when I would haul my heavy Nikon DSLR, all my lenses and a variety of tripods everywhere I went. At some point, I just started defaulting to point and shoot with my iPhone. The quality of my photos suffered. Or maybe I’m now at the downward slide where I’m starting to forget more than I’ve ever learned.

Then I got targeted with a series of Facebook ads urging me to sign up for a special on-line iPhone-specific photography course. I was intrigued and not just because I’m interested in photography. The ads mark the first time in all my time on Facebook that the platform has served me up anything remotely appropriate to my posting and buying patterns. If I may be permitted a bit of musing on the side: are we really concerned that Facebook knows us better than our own mothers and is tracking everything we do or buy? Because if my Facebook experience is any indication, Mark Zuckerberg thinks I’m a horny old man. Every day I’m spammed with ads for Viagra, for that hormone stuff “The Big Hurt” has been pushing, and for mail order Russian brides. I can’t think of anything I’ve clicked on or bought that would remotely make Zuck think I’m that target market. And despite being on at least a dozen Liberal and Women’s Issues Facebook groups (everything from Liberal Lady RVers to Pantsuit Nation to Impeach Trump Now), Facebook also serves me up several chances a day to buy MAGA gear.

One simple concept I seem to have forgotten: leading lines and working with interest in the foreground.

But back to the iPhone Photography Academy, which is the outfit that managed to find me with its ads. I’d never heard of a course that would teach how to take photos and edit specifically on the iPhone platform. And considering I’ve never really bothered to learn all the features of my iPhone, I figured it might be a good investment. I looked over the course, but balked at the price — which I believe was something like $1000. But before I could click away, suddenly there were six emails in my inbox, each reducing the price of the course. When they got down, later that evening, to about $49, I figured I had to spring for it. If I got five good tips out of the course, that’s my $49 well spent. I ended up getting more than five great tips in the first “module”. It only got better from there. I can whole-heartedly recommend this course. In fact, I signed up for their second course, iPhone Editing Academy, when that price dropped. I may sign up for others.

Now I’m a veteran of at least a half dozen photography courses, so some of the composition and good photography practices stuff was a repeat for me. But it was a welcome review. One of the key assets of the course is a very engaging teacher. With his hipster skinny jeans, sneaks and T-shirts, Emil Parkarklis looks like a cute Latvian Mark Zuckerberg…if Mark Zuckerberg were engaging, cute or Latvian. I was all kinds of impressed that this young kid had such a grasp of English, command of his subject, and sophisticated production values. Then he started using his wife and child as models and it occurred to me that he’s probably 15 years older than I thought he was. Not a problem, I’m happy to follow along with Professor Emil. A bonus is that, as he runs around Latvia demonstrating various techniques, you have a guided tour of Riga and surroundings, which must be one of the most beautiful areas in that end of Europe. (Note to self: investigate a possible trip to Riga Latvia.)

Here’s cute Emil. He’s endlessly enthusiastic and the course website is organized and easy to navigate.

Let me just give you a quick list of why this course is so good (in addition to cute Latvian Mark Zuckerberg’s presentation):

*The course is divided into easy bite-sized modules, usually about ten minutes long. The content has been very carefully organized in these modules so they build on each other in a logical manner.

*Each module has complete summary notes with the corresponding times on the video so you can jump to that point for a quick review of a specific point.

*For most of the modules, there are homework assignments and a very active Facebook group where you can post your photos and get feedback. (Full disclosure: I skipped this part.)

*As part of each module, cute Emil takes lots of his own pictures to illustrate each technique. (Bonus: a free travelogue of beautiful Riga, Latvia.)

*The course doesn’t just cover photography basics and tips, it reviews a lot of information about the iPhone’s camera features, it goes over editing techniques with third party programs like Snapseed, recommends accessories like lenses and tripods, and has a section on storing and categorizing your photos.

Did you know you have a huge amount of control over the lighting on your iPhone? Emil shows you how.

Don’t thank me now. Go over to the site. I think you can preview a couple of the modules for free. Granted, I’m relearning a lot of things I already knew. But I am seeing an improvement. And I’m still investigating a possible dream trip to Latvia.