Why would anyone bother with paying for photography lessons?
I live in Fleet in Hampshire. It's an affluent part of the world, although our home is very modest.
I grew up in a very different time and place. Raised on a council estate on the outskirts of Brighton, very few people back in the early 60's could afford a camera, let alone lessons. No one from my streets went to university.
I remember when I passed my 11-PLUS exam and my mother bought me my first camera. A very stylish-looking (at the time) grey and white plastic Kodak Brownie 127. It had no controls other than a knob to wind the film on and a button the take the picture. This camera was used to photograph my family, my friends and I also recall taking it on school trips.
A few years later at 14, I bought my first 35mm film camera. The Agfa Silette Pronto (above right) cost me £7.50 second-hand and marked the start of my serious journey into photography. I joined the school photography club and entered the world of darkrooms, chemicals and printing. It was exciting and the journey was to continue for the rest of my life.
But back in those days there was no internet, no Youtube, no on-line courses and everyone learnt from either their friends or from magazines like Amateur Photographer. Certainly no one would have thought about actually paying for photography lessons. You may have joined a club and occasionally a visiting speaker would come along and talk about the photos he took while visit overseas. You just picked stuff up along the way, it was all very casual. But then cameras were a lot simpler in those days.
1973 and I left home, moved to London and started work for the BBC film dept. I bought my first SLR from a family friend and a few years later I invested in one of the most iconic cameras of the 70's. The Olympus OM1 (above).
I continued to read every photography magazine I could get my hands on, I joined photography clubs, I even (for the personal challenge) took an evening class in O-Level photography. Then I joined the RPS (Royal Photographic Society) and began working to have letters after my name (never completed it sadly).
It wasn't until 2006 that I bought my first Digital SLR, a Canon 350D and a whole new learning curve began. Still I read magazines, still I bought books, still I experimented alone with my camera to practice the techniques I was learning.
Developing as the photographer for me then, was a long process. No photography workshops, or private lessons, everything came from word of mouth or from books and magazines.
It's a bit of a cliche today, talking about the fast pace of life. Everyone wants everything immediately. And this applies to most of us when we're trying to learn something new. No one reads their instruction manuals when they buy a new camera. They switch their cameras to AUTO and hope their expensive new DSLRs will magically take the most amazing photographs with absolutley no effort from them.
And I guess it's only natural, technology is capable of so much these days. But as clever as cameras are, they can't think like humans (fortunately). And they can't read our minds.
When we look through the viewfinder we see a great image, but often the resulting photograph disappoints. The two most common problems I hear about from my students are:
"My photos are too dark"
"I never seem to get really sharp images"
Everyone wants to take great photos of their kids, great photos of sunsets, they want to be able to get those lovely blurred out backgrounds. But finally they realise that they need to learn to operate their cameras properly, to take control of their them. Coming out of AUTO is a big step, a little daunting for most people.
Attending a local photography workshop is a great way to start. You're sharing the learning experience with others who are in the same boat as you and there's a sense of comfort and camaraderie in that.
I run three workshops a year for beginners and one of the workshops, Take Amazing Photos, has been running since 2009. I've even taught it on the Greek island of Samos to hotel guests. The next one (September) will be here in Fleet, Hampshire.
Photography courses are continually popular and over the last year I have run courses for beginners, those interested in photographing people, landscape, children, flash photography and studio lighting.
Private Photography Lessons
By far the most popular are private photography lessons.
Tuition from a professional photographer is the very best way to learn, better than courses, workshops and in my mind, better than college and even university. It's more practical, probably more useful and certainly less expensive.
Because you have that close mentoring relationship, you are not just a number and because you're learning from a working photographer, the advice is based on real-world experience.
For those students who are interested, there are opportunities to assist me on real photo-shoots. On these you'll learn about the gear, the set-ups and how to deal with paying clients. Invaluable.
If you're looking for photography workshops, photography courses or photography lessons, check out our website at www.hampshirephotoschool.com or call Tuesday - Friday 01252 643143