Our Photography Courses Blog - Photography Tips and Techniques

What’s the best way to learn photography?

Posted in Photography Tips and Techniques on December 23rd, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

Photography is a skill that is part technical and part creative.  Learning to see shots and then capture them takes different abilities, which can all be improved with a little tuition.  As teachers and educators as well as photographers we know the best way to learn photography.


Are you the kind of person who knows what you want to photograph but can’t make the camera do it?

You may find that the automatic settings are fine for tourist snaps, but the more interesting and creative your picture needs to be the less well they work.  The colours are too strong, the focus is not at the front, the brightness is non-standard so the camera can’t do it .  Our DSLR course will get you off the automatic settings and using the proper camera modes and flash as appropriate.  We usually have small groups of about 6 or 8 and many people find it very helpful to see other people with similar cameras having the same issues that they are.  We can also run this course as a one to one course for people who would rather work alone – in this case we can usually cover the material in half a day.


Are you the kind of person who knows how to make their camera do things, but can’t find the pictures to take?

Many people struggle to see the picture – to take something interesting even in an interesting location. You may feel stuck in a bit of a rut – you always take the same sort of pictures.  Our creative course is designed (by Rachel, former professional musician, illustrator, art teacher and all round creative) to push your envelope a bit creatively.  It can be run as a one to one course too – but it is always interesting to see other people’s work when we run this as a group course.  People have even taken this more than once – it can give you a bit of a kick.

Assuming you don’t want to come to a course, how can you get out of your rut?  We have a few ideas:

  • limit yourself to your least favourite lens
  • give yourself some sort of theme – make things look spooky, or fast, or modern
  • get out without your camera – look for shots, then come back with a camera and try to capture what it was that you saw
  • tell the story and look for what is different between your subject and other similar ones – what’s the difference between that tree and another, or that child and another, or that child and the same child last month?

Modern cameras have so many choices, and post-production even more, and it can help creatively to limit yourself, even if you expand the idea later.


Are you the kind of person that has just needs a few specific tips?  

Our photography mentoring system works well for you because it is specific and individual to your photography and your camera.  We give you a theme and critique your pictures on both technical, compositional and post-production aspects to help you take the picture you want.  As an individual service, it works well for people with specific areas they want to work on.


We’re all different and we learn in different ways, and the trick is to see what you need to improve, and then work on that aspect of your photography.  We think it’s a little like cookery – we can all make a few dishes, but you need Jamie Oliver to suggest that you put a little vanilla in with the fish!  It’s the best way to learn photography and any skill that requires both technical and creative abilities.


Testimonials for all our teaching can be found here, if you like that sort of thing!








How to take good museum photographs

Posted in Photography Tips and Techniques on December 20th, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

How do you take good museum photographs when they are such hard places in which to take pictures.

They are usually dark (to keep the artifacts safe from light), crowded, and have rules about tripods. How is it possible to get decent shots in these conditions?

good museum photographs

Nikon D100, 15mm equiv, 6 seconds, f22, 100 ISO

The British Museum is full of cameras, and a lot of photographs are taken there, but most of the them are terrible. It’s a hard place to work, although you do see a lot of fast prime lenses, usually 35mm and 50mm f1.8 – these give apertures ten times the size of the hole in the kit lenses, and can therefore photograph in ten times less light.  So they are helpful for taking good museum photographs.

The picture above used a different strategy – using the timer on the camera, the one that is there for cheesy picture of yourself! I rested the camera on plinth of another statue, and put my wallet under it to balance it up (don’t walk too far from the camera!) I then set the lowest ISO and the highest f number in aperture priority – this is forcing the camera to do the longest shutter speed it can do in the conditions. My poor old D100 here can only do 1600 ISO, which looks terrible anyway, so there was no chance of doing fast stuff in this poor light.

I wanted to say something about the timelessness of the Egyptian statues, and the brief nature of our time on earth, or something. Anyway, something about the contrast seemed to be worth saying. Besides, I didn’t have much choice withe the equipment I had!

So with a bit of consideration and planning, you can take pictures almost in the dark. Obviously, you need to think before you begin – that is the way to take good museum photographs.

Getting the colours right in your photographs

Posted in Photography Tips and Techniques on December 4th, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

Getting the colours right in your photographs is something we don’t think about until it goes wrong. Most of our pictures were perfectly well in the auto mode and we are perfectly happy with the results.

However, there are a few shots where things tend to go very wrong indeed – and to make matters worse new cameras are worse at this than old ones. This is the kind of picture that often goes wrong, taken on this weekend’s photography course at Henley-on-Thames.


The camera has a device to fix strange lighting – the white balance system. There is an article on the subject in the Ask PMS section of our website. Basically, the camera adjusts the colouring picture when it thinks the colours are slightly wrong. This is usually what you want – when you go inside a building and the lighting becomes a bit yellow with light bulb light or green with fluorescent lighting, the camera can adjust for this to make sure that the scene looks about right visually.

However, in the real world this may not be what you want. Sunset and sunrise pictures are often very yellow and the camera misinterprets this as yellow tungsten light bulb lighting and reduces the yellow colour. Some autumn colour pictures are so full of green that the camera thinks that it is green fluorescent lighting and reduces the green. In both these cases the camera will produce a picture that is similar to what you wanted, but just not quite right in terms of the colour. Newer cameras are more sensitive to white balance, so do a better job of photographing your friends in the right colours inside a pub, but often worse job of the sunset outside.

It’s a very easy thing to fix, even if you don’t want to get too involved with settings on your camera. You will find that if you change the white balance on the camera colours look very different. Auto white balance, although it works fine most of the time will give lots of problems on scenes like the one above. So our advice is leave the camera on auto but don’t be surprised if it fails horribly in certain circumstances – and when it does you pick a specific white balance – cloudy light on autumn trees, sunny light on that yellow building, or whatever. Doing this can make a huge difference to how your pictures look and help you get the colours right in your photographs.

How to make an interesting photograph

Posted in Photography Tips and Techniques on December 2nd, 2013 by Phil – Comments Off

One of the subjects that often comes up on photography courses is question of how to take an interesting photograph. We’ve all seen this – other people’s wedding or holiday pictures just don’t capture the scene or the atmosphere. What is it about cameras but so singularly fails to capture our emotional impression of the scene?

Firstly, the camera sees very differently to us. It’s not our fault that cameras see differently, we just have to bear in mind when we take photographs.

secondly, you’re trying to interest the viewer in something they’ve never seen, or some location they’ve never been to, or some person they will never meet – you have to make it interesting and dramatic. You need to sell it to them. They’ve got lots of other things to do besides looking your photograph! There are several ways to do this – interesting camera angles, slightly non-human lenses can combine to result in a picture that shows a familiar scene in a slightly unfamiliar way.


seagulls on the river at Henley

So here’s a picture from Saturday’s photography course in Henley-on-Thames. This shows the Henley church and river from a slightly more interesting angle than usual. The composition is quite standard, with the bird in a rough thirdsy location, but nonetheless it pulls in what is unique, different and interesting about Henley, and after all isn’t that what we want from an interesting photograph?


We recently had a German lady on a course whose father had been a professional photographer perhaps 70 years ago in Germany.  He said that all photographs need to be taken from low down. We’re not sure about that, but we are sure that the camera position needs to be thought about every time. Taking shots from your eye level is going to give the most boring view possible, and everyone able to like our shots, we need to plan and construct an interesting photograph.