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!
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.
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.