Photography FAQ’s  – questions about our photography courses.  If you can’t find the answer you need here please contact us.

Why do you offer 20% off for early bookings?

Running a business with several courses and so many venues takes a lot of planning, and it makes our lives a lot easier if customers book early, so we’d like to encourage this! If you book more than three months early 20% of the course price will automatically be deducted. Unfortunately, we can’t apply this to gift certificates.  Our clever website does this automatically based on the date you book and the date of the course you’re booking, so we can’t be too flexible about it, sadly.

How many people do you have in a class?

No more than about 12 as a rule, but sometimes people swap at the last minute. It’s usually more like six or eight. For Creative, Landscape and People it is usually less. It’s really useful to have a small mixed group, so that students can learn from each other.

How can you teach two photography courses at the same time?

By the cunning plan of having two teachers! Creative, Landscape and People are taught by a different person (usually Rachel) leaving someone else (usually Phil) to teach DSLR. We’re quite happy for people to swap over courses at the last minute if there is room.

Do you really do home delivery?

Yes, we’re quite happy to come to you, or meet you at a location where you like to photograph. Here are our prices for One-to-One Photography Training. We are also happy to work with children – Rachel is a qualified teacher and Phil has presented science education workshops at the Natural History Museum among many others. Both Phil and Rachel have worked extensively in schools and have fistfuls of CRB clearances. Please call or write to us if you’re interested in this option or giving it as present.

Do you offer discounts for the unwaged/disabled?

Not at the moment, but we are working on it. Watch this space.

Do you do gift certificates?

Absolutely! We think that it’s a great gift…a lovely day out at one of the UK’s most beautiful venues, and you learn how to take better photographs…what could be better for the budding photographer? After all, non-photographers usually have absolutely no idea which useless new photographic gadget they might need and often buy the wrong thing.

Gift certificates can be used at any location for any course. They can be posted to the purchaser, or to the gift receiver. We can customise them to the recipient, and in a hurry or during a postal strike we can email them to you to print out and give them yourself. (Use some nice shiny paper for maximum brownie points!)

Do gift certificates need to be for a specific photography course?

No – our certificates are usable for any course at any location, but if you’d like to give someone a particular course and have a certificate for that we’re very happy to produce that specifically and we’ll email it to you. All gift certificates can include the name of the recipient and can include the name of the sender and the occasion.

How long does it take to get a gift certificate?

We produce gift certificates in weekly batches, so you should get them in under two weeks even if you have unlucky timing. If you need them especially quickly we can email them to you for printing at your end within a day or two – please let us know if you need this and we’ll get it to you asap.

How long do photography courses last?

Generally they run from 10am until 4pm, but at some venues from 11am-5pm. We’ll meet you at reception, and we’ll let you know of starting times before you come.

What do I need to wear?

Photographers generally are a scruffy lot. One of the reasons that snaps have that awful 5’6″-off-the-ground look is that people have made no effort apart from pointing the camera and pressing the shutter. Real photographs may require lying on the ground or standing on a chair, and your pictures will be worse if your clothes prevent this kind of thing. Obviously Rachel and I are usually immaculate, but sadly for photography shoots we’re forced to leave the designer labels in the wardrobe!

What do I need to bring?

Anything you would normally take if you were going out with your camera for a couple of hours. Lenses, flash guns and tripods if you have them. We’ll give you course notes, but some people like to bring a notebook so that they can make notes while out shooting. Please charge the batteries on your camera.

Can I bring a friend?

Not on the course, we’re afraid, but your friends and family are obviously welcome to expore the venue while we work, and even meet you for lunch.

Can I get into the house using the photography course ticket?

Sadly, for copyright reasons the National Trust and venues like Chatsworth do not allow photography inside the houses. As a result our tickets get us into the gardens, grounds and outbuildings where we can actually photograph. If you’d like to get into the house itself you may have to pay an additional fee at the venue. NT members are of course free, including at Shugborough.

Can I publish my pictures, sell them or put them on Flickr?

The pictures you take on the course are for your personal use only, since we do not have a license for the commercial exploitation of the pictures. The National Trust takes this very seriously, other venues less so.

What happens if it’s raining on the day of the course?

We find that it rarely rains all day long. The structure of the course allows us to be inside for part of the day, so we can change our timings around to take advantage of the good weather. Immediately after rain, with shiny surfaces and clear air, is often a lovely time to photograph.

I don’t have a camera, can you recommend one?

We love the Nikon D50 and D70 which are obsolete and therefore very cheap second-hand (£200 or less on ebay, which is a bargain). For compacts, we love our (also obsolete) Canon G9. We are impressed by the current crop of Sony and Olympus cameras too. If you are looking to get more lenses in the future, we’d stay away from the Nikon D40, which only works with a restricted (and expensive) set of lenses. The D3000 and D5000 suffer from the same problem. Also please be aware that camera bodies depreciate rapidly while lenses hold their value. So a second-hand D50 with some good lenses will be worth more in the future than a brand new D40. However, the D40 is a fine camera provided that you don’t want to use a load of different lenses. We also feel h2ly that even cheap cameras made by camera companies are better than those made by companies that make loads of different consumer goods, with the exception of Sony who use Zeiss lenses. Even Sony Ericsson phones can take good pictures!

We would recommend that you look at websites (we like Ken Rockwell even though he is big fan of the D40) and go to a good camera shop (we like London Camera Exchange) and have a chat with some knowledgeable staff. Don’t rush your decision, it’s important because once you start down the road with a particular camera company most of your accessories will not fit a different one if you decide to change. There’s very little to choose between Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus etc besides personal preference, in much the same way as there’s not much difference between a Ford, Vauxhall or Volkswagen. In much the same way that you wouldn’t want to learn to drive in a Ferrari, even if money is no object we’d recommend starting somewhere near the bottom of the camera pecking order, and/or going second hand. Nikon cameras generally tend to be heavier and more robust than Canon, but there’s really not much in it.

Why don’t you offer lunches any more?

We found that the cost was prohibitive, and that there was a lot of food wasted. All our venues have good facilities for lunch, and there is more choice than we could provide on our budget. Anyone who has an older booking from when we did provide lunches will be offered lunch.

What’s the difference between a consumer and a pro-sumer SLR camera?

Camera makers have consumer, pro-sumer, and professional cameras. Nikon has the D40 – D90 range for consumers, the D300 – D700 range for serious amateurs, press photographers and cheapskate professionals, and the D3 range for professionals. For many beginners, the quality difference between the pictures they take will not be visible for the first couple of years. Professional cameras have no auto modes, and have a lot more switches to hand that do things that you will need to find in a menu on a cheaper camera. They are also better built, with longer battery life, waterproof switches and metal bodies rather than plastic. But for beginners they are really not sensible first cameras unless you take a course, in the same way that a Ferrari makes a poor choice as a first car. You may need to be as good as the Stig to notice the difference! And don’t think that you’ll look cool just by buying a really expensive camera – photographers can easily tell if you know what you’re doing. Start at the low end and work your way up like you would with a car or a musical instrument. Don’t be one of those people who buys a Fender Strat as their first guitar and can only play “Smoke on the Water.” Authenticity is it’s own cool.

We recently saw a Nikon D100 camera for £100 in London Camera Exchange in Taunton. This is one of Nikon’s first digitals, a camera built for the press. If you don’t want a shiny new consumer camera you could a do a lot worse than try this, even if you have the budget for a D3.

How many megapixels should my camera have?

More than about 6, so that pictures can be blown up or cropped. Otherwise it makes no difference at all at this level. For technical reasons a 12 megapixel compact camera will often produce worse pictures than a 6 megapixel DSLR. We’ve had pictures printed at 2X3 feet from a 6.1 Mp camera with no problems. This is larger than printers really like to do, but looks fine to the untrained naked eye. Measuring the quality of a camera by megapixels is like measuring the quality of cars by their engine size. Sure, the most expensive cars have the biggest engines, but do you need a 6 litre V8 to pop to the shops?

Anything else I should bring with me?

Well, it’s really, really helpful if your memory card is empty, or only a few photo’s on it! We have had people come along with hundreds of holiday pics on, which takes ages to upload! Also, a fully-charged battery!

Is there a minimum age for participants?

Not really – we’ve had kids as young as 12 on courses. The courses aren’t difficult, but it’s a long day among adults, and we can’t make too many concessions for their age. But if they’re mature in outlook and sufficiently interested in photography they’ll be fine!

Oh, yes, while we’re on the subject of lunch…

Our venues are fantastic at catering for almost anything. They all provide wonderful food and can cater for dietary restrictions if you let them or us know. If your other half wants to join us for lunch, that’s fine.

Is there wheelchair access?

Yes, at all but one of our venues. We’ve coped with wheelchair off-roading at Ashton Court and in the Severn Valley. Unfortunately, the room we use at Charlecote Park is up a flight of stairs.

What if I’m ill/can’t come after all?

We would love to be able to say ‘don’t worry, we’ll give you your money back’, but unfortunately, usually we can’t. We have to make transport arrangements and book rooms weeks in advance. We have to pay for all this whether you come or not. The only exception would be if we have someone on our waiting list who can take your place, in which case, we might be able to offer you an alternate course. If we can possibly refund your money without cost to ourselves we will do so.

What if you have to cancel a course?

We hate doing this, but occasionally we need to cancel or re-schedule courses. If so we will contact you to schedule an alternative, and offer a full refund.

Do you have a last date for Gift Certificates for Christmas?

Orders we receive by December 18th will be sent to you before Christmas Day. Please send us an extra email with the dispatch address (paypal doesn’t tell us this for some reason). If you order later we can still do you a certificate and email it back for printing at your end – we can do this up to and including Christmas Eve for late shoppers (Phil has, in years past, bought all his presents on Christmas Eve, so we want to help).

But you haven’t answered my question!

Send us an email and we’ll do what we can.