Our Photography Courses Blog - Ashton Court, Bristol

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!

Personal photography tuition in Bristol

Posted in Ashton Court, Bristol on May 18th, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

Phil had a varied day teaching one to one photography at Ashton Court on Friday. Sometimes, personal photography tuition is a much more efficient way of learning, particularly for non-beginners.


Pedro had a lot of questions about white balance and using RAW files, with all the extra workflow and storage issues that come with it.  As always, we recommend using Picasa for basic work and Adobe Lightroom when you want more control.  For many beginners, Picasa (which is a free google download) is all they ever need, and it does not need to be connected on-line to Google in order to work.


White balance can be adjusted at will in post production with RAW files,  but for your personal morale you need to use a reasonably accurate white balance on the camera, or your strangely-coloured pictures will sap your creative energy!


Ian does this kind of thing well!

Ian does this kind of thing well!

Ian is a highly experienced fashion/boudoir/glamour photographer, but rarely shoots outdoors, and wants to understand the lighting outside, where you don’t always have the control of a studio set up.  (ISO too low?  Just turn the lights up!)  His website is http://www.ian-james-photography.co.uk/


He has some amazing looking work (much of it captured with our old favourite lens – the 50mm f1.8 (here acting as a 75mm f1.8). Glamour is not really our thing – but it’s good to see it done well!


Using fill flash – picture from photography course Bristol, Ashton Court

Posted in Ashton Court, Bristol, Photography Tips and Techniques on November 23rd, 2012 by Phil – Comments Off

When you move from the automatic/vari-program side of the camera to the clever side, with all the P A S M or P Av Tv and M modes you have to make a few decisions. You need to be on top of the ISO, white balance, autofocus mode etc. to get the picture that you want.

One of the things that people forget is that on the clever side of the dial you have the ability to add flash even when the camera wouldn’t have done it automatically. We often find that by the time people come on a course they are so fed up with the flash popping up willy-nilly that they turn it off more or less permanently.

This is a shame, because certain subjects which are back lit could really do with a little flash. This statuary at Ashton Court in Bristol for example:

photography flash tips from photography course in Bristol

Using “fill” flash or “force” flash in this way can make a picture look more natural, weirdly enough. Even more weirdly, the brighter the say, the more fill flash you might need!

Sometimes it can look a little glary, but nearly all cameras will allow you to set “flash exposure compensation” – in other words to turn up or down the power of the flash. It may be tricky to find (look in the flash control section of a canon camera), but it’s worth it. You rarely want to turn the flash up – nearly always you end up turning it down a stop or two.

“Flash exposure compensation” is changing the power of the flash. “Exposure compensation” makes the picture brighter or darker. You can use the two together – for example to make the picture dark with really stark flash for effect.

Nigel has a good day at Ashton court

Posted in Ashton Court, Bristol on November 7th, 2012 by Phil – Comments Off

Nigel attended a creative photography course here at PMS’s new HQ at Ashton Court – he sent a lovely testimonial that we thought we should pass on:

Simply Fantastic!
I wanted to develop the way I saw the world through the camera lens and was given the opportunity to attend a Creative Photography Day at Aston Court being taught by Rachel. I had a myriad of thoughts about the day ahead, but I parked these at the door and nervously embarked upon a day into the world of creative photography. Within minutes the nerves were forgotten, Rachel had put me at ease, and so a fabulous day of learning began.
Rachel is a fantastic teacher; guiding you with great enthusiasm and experience through the world of creative photography and the possibilities it holds for all her students. The day went so quickly, being sent out into the field with a number of practical briefs to complete throughout the day which were then reviewed back at HQ.
At the end of the day I’m sure you will come away with a wealth of knowledge and practical experiences you can put into practice as well as some great photos. I know I certainly did.
So go on, stop thinking, start creating and have a go, I did, & wished I’d only gone along sooner!!
Thanks Rachel, I had a fantastic day. I highly recommend it to those wanting to take their photography to the next level.

Nigel Taylor
21st October 2012

You can’t say fairer than that!  All our testimonials end up here, but this one was too long.