F-Stops & Appertures??? Huh???
As a graphic designer I use a lot of stock photography in my work and have always been envious of those people with the skill and talent to take great photos. I’ve dabbled in the past with compact cameras and even did a 6 week course back in the early 90’s but that was before digital cameras and it all revolved around work in the dark room.
Then, about 2 years ago, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be brilliant if I could build up a stock library of my own photographs for using in projects. I wouldn’t need to rely on all of those stock websites and I could maybe even sell some of my own photographs on there. Hell yeah, that sounds awesome!!!!
So I did a bit of research online into some entry level Digital SLR (DSLR) cameras and finally ended up choosing a Nikon D3200 as it had features that fitted my remit. It also came in red, and if you know me you’ll know I like red so that sealed the deal.
I was super excited when my camera arrived but that joy quickly turned to frustration as like may others I had presumed that buying a good camera would instantly mean awesome photographs. Wrong, they were crap. I was getting better looking photographs on my iPhone 5!!
No way was I going to be putting this thing on manual mode. I don’t know anything about shutter speeds, ISO’s and apertures. I’d paid good money for a camera that could do things for me. I was following the in-built wizard guides that told you what to do for specific types of photo, I had everything on auto so the camera could do the heavy lifting, so why the hell was I getting crappy photographs?
After a few weeks of rubbish photos the camera went back in its box and I went back to using my smartphone.
It all comes into focus!
- Fast forward to the end of August this year and I get a visit to my design studio from Julie Christie (@JChristiePhoto) of Julie Christie Photography. For the past 6 months or so she has been doing a Podcast aimed at amateur photographers called Tea Break Tog.
Julie explained that the podcast was doing really well and that she wanted a logo created for the Tea Break Tog website and would I like to do it. I of course said yes as it was a great little project and I wanted to help her out. As I was speaking with Julie about the fees for the logo work it struck me that this was probably a great opportunity to get rid of my aperture demons and get some help from a professional. We struck a wee trade swap deal and I was signed up to Julie’s Beginners Photography Workshop in September. Exciting!
The Workshop Day
The day has arrived and I’m on my way to the photography workshop. As ever, I am a bag of nerves because other than Julie I am most likely going to be in a room with 11 other people I don’t know. I’m terrible at meeting new people so the nerves are kicking in. I arrive at the venue, Taypark House which is a beautiful old country house which has been turned into a hotel and conference venue. I go up to the room where the workshop is taking place and pretty much everyone is already there and Julie asks me to take a seat at a table with 3 ladies who also have the same camera as me. We are now officially the Nikon D3100/3200 table and my fellow Nikonists are Pamela, Julia and Alison.
I’m not going to detail everything about the day but in brief we learned a lot, a whole lot about cameras and how to operate them in manual mode. I’ll be honest, once we had gone over Aperture and F-Stops by the time we got to ISO I was getting a little bit lost, as were a few of my other table mates.
Julie though was excellent and made sure to answer any questions or puzzled looks and didn’t move on to anything new until she was sure we had all grasped the concept of the topic at hand. You could tell that Julie had been a teacher prior to her photography career. She has patience and the ability to answer questions clearly and often with good humour even though she must have been asked them hundreds of times over the course of her career.
There were a lot of practical exercises using printed photographs and memorising analogies in order to get the information to sink in. We also had to swap seats and move to different tables at various points through the day which helped us all to get to know everyone else in the room a little bit.
When lunch came, it was really needed because my head was swimming in numbers and settings and trying to piece it all together. When you get a group of strangers together, generally the conversation will turn to the one thing they have in common, and in this instance I thought it would be about photography, and how we were all getting on with the day’s course. Ours was 20 minutes talking about Gin. It was a welcome break from camera stuff 🙂
In the afternoon after a recap and some information how to compose your picture, taking light meter readings and using focus modes we went outside to put theory into practise.
I partnered up with Alison from my table and we took it in turns to take photographs of one another in various lighting conditions and areas in the grounds of Taypark House. We had varying degrees of success as we initially found it hard to remember all the steps you had to take before you actually pressed the shutter button. Photo quality ranged from pretty laughable to “oh, that actually looks really, really good!”. You could see all of the other pairs having a great time experimenting with the lighting and positioning of shots and Julie was always on hand to offer advice and tips as well as great ways to compose a shot.
The time outside flew past and before I knew it, there was a quick group photo taken by Julie and we were back indoors for a quick re-briefing of the day and some pointers on websites, magazines and Facebook groups to join to keep us on our journey.
One of the photographs I took on the day.
I left Tay Park House absolutely buzzing and my head still full of technical camera info but it was now in nice neat areas in my brain. I now knew how aperture, shutter speed and ISO all related to one another and how it would effect my final photograph. BOOM, my journey had begun and I have the basic knowledge and tools to actually make use of my camera without it being on ACP (Automatic Crap Photo) mode.
Even on the journey home in the car I was looking at the light outside differently, seeing things go past that I thought “that would make a good leading lines photo” or “hmmmm, I could make a nice frame out of that tree line over there”.
It was an absolutely brilliant day and if you have read this blog and are in the same position I was then what are you waiting for, get yourself onto Julie’s Beginners Photography Workshop, or if distance makes that out of the question you should, at the very least subscribe to her podcast over at Tea Break Tog where she covers a lot of the same information, just not in the flesh.
I will be posting more blogs in future relating to my photography and how I am progressing. It would be great if you could join me on that and give me feedback on my photographs which will accompany these future blogs.
Thanks for reading.