Melanie Fiander

Digital Photography

Photography Instructor
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

Melanie Fiander

Work well with others and accept constructive criticism. Melanie Fiander , Photography Instructor , The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

There were many defining moments. Lessons learned in high school, college, and grad school; internships and entry-level jobs over the years; conversations with photographers and professors; museum and gallery openings; and everyday life experiences have all influenced my photography and my interest in working in the field.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

In my critiques and personal conversations with students, I offer advice based on what I’ve been through as a working photographer. I also share examples of my work and offer specific suggestions—for instance, how to communicate with a client. I also let them know that becoming a successful photographer doesn’t happen overnight. Our programs teach the basic artistic, technical, and business aspects photography to help them to start a photography business or apply for a photography position.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

A student’s goal may be to complete an assignment, earn points, and get a grade. My goal is to provide the kind of feedback that helps them improve their skills. A big part of that feedback is simply answering the question, “Why?” “Why is the image under-exposed?” “Why is the lighting too hard when I wanted it to be soft?” I want them to understand that I’m trying to help them succeed, not think that they have to do something because I said so.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

Collaboration is huge in photography, so students must be ready to give clear instructions to their subjects and models—and be prepared to listen and understand what clients are looking for.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Collaboration. Whether you want to be a family portrait photographer, shoot weddings, work as a photojournalist, or be a product photographer, you’ll need to work well with others and accept constructive criticism.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Most of my students have jobs and families, and many live far away from an Ai Campus. Online learning allows them to study photography in a way that fits their lifestyle.