Our Photography Courses Blog - Photography Courses

Why do a photography course?

Posted in Photography Courses on October 24th, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

Photography courses might seem like an expensive day out in this time of austerity. After all, there is plenty of photography advice out there for free. By looking on forums, talking to knowledgeable people in camera shops and friends who take  good pictures you can learn an awful lot and then spend the money on equipment. So why take a photography course?


Internet photography forums

The problem with forums and chat rooms is the usual Internet problem, that no one knows who the experts are. Technical facts are bandied around, quite often out of context, and there can be an overarching feeling of my camera is bigger than yours. And a recent job because somebody asked about a feature on their Canon 550D which on the spur of the moment Phil  could not remember. Looking it up on various camera forums, someone else had asked the same question only to be met with endless replies of RTFM –    this is a rude way of suggesting that they should read the manual. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable to us on our photography courses – this was a perfectly reasonable question and to be met with such rudeness is unpleasant and unhelpful.

Besides the very aggressive forums and camera clubs there are also sites that praise all the photographs no matter how good they are. This doesn’t help people to improve. the art of being an educator is to encourage and instruct without flattering or insulting. As professional teachers and educators we are pretty good at helping people develop their skills as far as they need to be developed. We’ve seen too many professional photographers teaching photography courses who clearly don’t have any interest in beginners or  in helping inexperienced photographers. We don’t think this is acceptable and it is probably why we have so many good testimonials for our photography courses.

It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of photography forums are talking about American light and conditions,  on our photography courses we are dealing with the real world of miserable grey British light!


Camera shops

Some camera shops (usually independents) give fantastic advice with no pressure to purchase. As a result people try things out and go and buy online, and are amazed when the shops close. If you have good local camera shop you will find that spending your money there  is an investment in your future photography.

Having said that, the clue is in the name, and camera shops exist to sell cameras. Certain shop chains (particularly one that begins with J) are very target driven and sell hard the cameras that they are promoting for manufacturers irrespective of what the customer actually needs. And while it is true that the bigger, more complex, more expensive version of the camera probably is better overall, it may not be better for you. For example, we often see people who have been sold  the Canon 60 mm f2.8 macro lens ( about £300) when they would have been much better off with a Canon 50 mm f1 .8 lens instead (£80).

It is technically true that the Canon wide-angle lens is better than the Tamron or Sigma equivalent, but it is not worth the extra price  for most customers. Camera shops have a vested interest in selling the most expensive gear, particularly if they are chainstores in shopping malls rather than a trusted local business.



Your mate with a good camera may be a fantastic resource, or he may just be a bit of a boastful idiot. How do you know which?



On our photography courses we try to begin your photography journey with the end in sight – what kind of pictures you want to take? Is the weight of the camera going to be a problem?  Are you dealing with low light?

As practitioners rather than salespeople we are interested in your photography rather than your camera. A recent attendee in Birmingham bought a Nikon DSLR camera and a couple of lenses second-hand on Phil’s advice and equipped himself perfectly well for his needs for under £100.


photography course picture

Rachel and Phil back in 2009 when Photography Made Simple went national

The clues in the name –  our photography courses are designed to get you using the camera you have properly rather than feeling that you should buy a better one. Of course, better cameras cost more money for a reason, and sometimes we all need to upgrade, but even entry-level modern cameras are now the standard of a professional camera from 10 years ago.



Stourhead Autumn Colours caught DSLR Photography Course

Posted in Stourhead Garden, Wiltshire on October 20th, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

The Autumn colours Stourhead are so famous that Radio 4′s Today programme is going to be broadcast from there shortly.  Fall colours on the radio!  Fall colours sounds like the kind of naff American phrase used by disgraced Radio 1 DJ’s, but Shakespeare used the word fall to describe Autumn, so we’re going to run with it.

These pictures come from our beginners DSLR course, taken by a great varied group who were kind and support of each other’s efforts. Chris, Neil, Gill, Dominic, Deryck and Martin took this lot:

IMG_8858 IMG_8896 IMG_8887













Yesterday’s photography course at Stourhead had a great time despite changeable weather – blue skies and black skies within half an hour.  Oh well, you can always hide in the grotto.  The grotto picture here is a 30 second exposure taken by Chris using the timer and balancing the camera on Phil’s (thin) wallet!

As always at Stourhead you need to avoid the standard vistas while keeping the elements that make Stourhead unique. I think this group did particularly well, despite the weather!  There was a remarkable variety of equipment too, from ancient 20D to 5D mk2, to G1 to D40X – but it’s as we always say, it’s in the eye not the equipment!  For autumn colours Stourhead has to be a top destination.


Neil came all the way from Kent to see the autumn colours Stourhead – it’s well worth it.  Certainly one of the top National Trust gardens in the country and only just off the A303.  It’s a curious little world.




Dunham Massey photography course pictures

Posted in Dunham Massey on September 5th, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

We had a great day being creative on the Dunham Massey photography course, at a spectacular National Trust property near Manchester.  Here are some pictures from the photography course at Dunham Massey.

The deer were wandering around the house, the leaves were a million shades of green, and the weather was just cool enough to keep the wasps off.

We started with our usual larkery with out-of context articles:
Dunham Massey photography course photo
Ian liked the deer.

Then the aim of the day was to make pictures that sum up Dunham Massey. Brenda was struck by the diverse greenery:
Dunham Massey photography course photo

Katie by the delicate hydrangeas, slightly underexposing here to get the veins:
Dunham Massey photography course photo

Then Katie took a shot of the main house by the water:
Dunham Massey photography course photo

But Terry got a more effective shot with his little Fuji – filling the frame and adding drama. It’s not the camera, it’s the eye!
Dunham Massey photography course photo

We haven’t taught many creative photography courses at Dunham Massey – and it gives us a great opportunity to look into the grounds more than the DSLR course, which tends to be a little more classroom-based. We were surprised at the size and variety of the gardens which gave plenty of opportunities for creative photography. Dunham Massey has everything photographically – from deer, to statuary, to formal and informal gardens with reflecting pools and fountains thrown in. It’s a great place to improve your creativity on a Dunham Massey photography course. The  new restaurant and visitor facilities look great, and talking to staff members in costume and in character really adds to the atmosphere of the visit. It also makes life easy to take photographs of people when staff are in character and costume.

Photography Composition tips – make it clear

Posted in Ashton Court, Bristol, Photography Tips and Techniques on August 21st, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

A lot of people don’t really get landscapes, so we have to think about it differently than portraits – so some landscape photography composition tips. We always say that a landscape photo should be easy to understand, with clear flowing lines and the foreground and background nicely separated.

We took out a group on a photography course at Ashton Court in Bristol to prove the point.

photography composition

Less than perfect view

Here the picture is very hard to read – the trees blend together and with the skyline and the people at the bottom and their bike are cut in half. There’s no clear story here. Let’s take a few steps back:

photography composition

A more perfect view – easy to understand.

Now the trees are separate in the sky, the people are whole and make sense giving the picture an easy-to-follow story.

It’s just a better picture!

As we always say, it doesn’t really matter what the camera is, it’s in the eye of the photographer. Taking a few steps back has made a picture that makes sense. We may not like it, but we understand it.

There are two reasons why the first picture doesn’t work – our photography composition tips are:

firstly the one eyed camera has flattened the whole scene to give a 2D version that crams all the trees together. Cameras, having one eye, will always do this, we need to alter the composition to make it less obvious. It probably looked good visually, but it doesn’t work as a photograph. We need to think like a camera when we compose.

Secondly, we like stories and having a clear story to follow makes it easier to digest the picture. We don’t have to like it, but we have to understand it. A bad landscape photograph makes it look as if the camera went off on it’s own!