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Starting Out With a Camera

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Easy or Confusing?

Sunset - Chipstead Lake Near Sevenoaks
Sunset - Chipstead Lake Near Sevenoaks, Kent

Sunset Chipstead Lake - Paul Burgess

Back in the 1990’s I was mentored by Fay Godwin, at the time the foremost British landscape photographer. Among other things, she taught me one critical fact.

To be a successful photographer, look at lots of exhibitions and books, and don't get hung up on cameras and technical things. Photography is about images

You’ve probably been taking photos on your phone and thought, it’s about time I invested in a proper camera?

The camera arrives with lots of buttons and menus and a thick manual in several languages. Having worked out where the data card goes, how to charge the battery and turn it on you are ready to take your first proper pictures. You set the controls to auto and shoot away. When you have worked out how to download your pictures to your computer or tablet you think “Was it worth it, my phone pictures were better than this”. The new camera is relegated to gathering dust in the cupboard, and you stick with your phone!

This is a story I hear all too often, but it doesn’t have to be like this. Modern cameras take amazing pictures, but you need to invest time in learning how to use them, which can be a simple or confusing process depending on how you approach it.

The usual answer is to read the manual from cover to cover (great if you have trouble sleeping) or to go onto YouTube and watch hours of videos (which contradict each other), resulting in terminal confusion – I have devised a simple alternative.

Over the last 4 years I’ve successfully taught more than 200 students to take better pictures. Forget the technology (although you do need to learn bits along the way), photography is about the pictures, that’s all! You can read some reviews here

What makes a great picture? Great composition. I see loads of technically perfect images let down by poor composition! This is the first thing that I teach on my courses as it makes an immediate difference to your pictures before we move on to other key stuff that will make them even better.

I run regular online evening classes and one-day face-to-face beginners workshops for small groups, in my studio near Sevenoaks, designed to get you taking great pictures. The one-day course is best if you prefer a ‘boot-camp’ approach. The evening classes work well if you prefer a gentler structured approach with a bigger social element.

On both courses I cover:

· How to compose a picture

· Camera basics

· Aperture, shutter speed and ISO – what they do and how they can help you

· Why does the camera have different modes and how to use them

· Why might you need different lenses

· Editing your images (the camera won’t see the picture the way you did)

As part of the evening class, I set a weekly homework task so that you can put the evening’s lessons into practice (I can’t offer this as part of the one-day course). At the end of either course, you should be confident using your camera to take awesome pictures and edit them for sharing online, social media and printing.

All of the online course sessions are recorded so that you can refer to them in future.

As an alternative to my courses, I offer one-to-one tuition, if that appeals more to you.

If you are interested, you can book my courses using the links below, or contact me on 07983 394550 or email



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