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How to choose a photography course?

*Disclaimer: My name is Deane Patterson. I’m a working photographer, & I'm writing on behalf of Bring Your Own Camera.


Choosing a photography course



As a working photographer, I see the importance of getting a grip on the basics of photography before you embark on the life long quest for great images. You will always be learning, but you have to start somewhere.

The majority of people take photos for pleasure, or occasionally for work, but everyone wants to make a great photo every time. You don’t need a degree, but you know you can do better than a selfie from a smartphone. Everyone is online, and pictures are a valued currency of social and business web life. But how can you make a well-crafted image that people actually want to look at?

The good news is: the things that make a great photo apply for personal and professional use. It all starts with a few simple rules you can build on. And whatever your current skills or future ambitions, there are several excellent photography courses available in Auckland.

But which one is right for you? Let’s start by looking at some of the short courses and photography workshops available in Auckland. I’d like to suggest a few ideas to help you find a good match for your photographic learning.


1. Is this a real course, or just a guided tour or ‘photo walk’?

Photo walks are a terrific way to enjoy photography, meet likeminded people and gain a few tips as you soak in the scenery. But if you don’t know what you are doing, ‘on the job training’ is going to be an uphill battle.

If you don’t know the basics, then a course that is properly structured will equip you to know what questions to ask, and how to do more than ‘point and shoot.’ Look for a course that has hand-outs, a curriculum developed by an experienced trainer and a clear set of goals as to what you will learn.

Many courses list what you will be taught on their website. Make sure you know before you pay that what’s on offer is what you need.

Bring Your Own Laptop offers an ‘Intro’ course that’s specifically aimed at people new to photography. You will learn the things that are important to taking control of your camera, and your photos, without getting stuck in hard to understand jargon. You’ll have a great foundation to build a hobby, passion or maybe even a career on. And you’ll gain entry to making creative images and great results from the camera you already own.

Also, a great photographer does not necessarily make a great teacher. Look for courses that are written and taught by experienced trainers. How it’s delivered is very important.


2. Do you need specialist information?

If you really want to take pictures of animals, there’s a course for that. Seriously. Photography is an art form with many styles and genres. Be sure that what you are learning applies to the types of photos you want to take.

Check that the course you are interested in is broad enough that you get an overview of photography. Especially if you have no specific subjects in mind. If you are new to taking pictures, you’ll probably discover some aspect you have never considered before – such as night photography. It sounds challenging, but with the right training and a chance to put your learning into practice, you might amaze yourself with a subject or style that fires your creative engines.

If you are a total beginner, try a few styles, and make sure your training exposes you to more than just the ‘technical’ aspects of photography.

Bring Your Own Camera offers a course in night photography, street and travel photography and landscape photography. There is enough scope in these subjects to really get your imagination going, and your skills sharpened.

BYOC has range of subjects to cover an absolute beginner to the intermediate who’s ready to expand their repertoire. You will find a course that fits you. You can even do all the subjects as a ‘boot camp’ and get a sizable discount – this is great for people whose photo output consists mainly of selfies and pics of the family. There’s a whole world of subjects and styles to explore.


3. Resources and making use of what you have.

If you already own a camera, does your course support it? Many courses insist you have a relatively expensive DSLR. Some courses will teach you to make the most of any camera (or even your iPhone!). It’s pretty common for even point and shoot cameras to have some manual controls, and a good course will help you take control of your camera for better and more consistent pictures. There are even courses for people who just want to go ‘full auto’ and not learn anything ‘technical’ – but I think you are missing out!

Learning your own camera is vital to feeling comfortable in a variety of situations so that you can take a great photo every time. We all want great photos that tell a story, not photocopies of where we’ve been.

But there is more to photography than just a camera. There’s lighting, there are computer programs for finessing your photos, and much more.

Does your course cover the extras? Do they have a training centre with access to things like Photoshop Courses? Check out what resources your course requires and offers as part of the package.

How big is the class, and how much time will you get with your instructor? BYOC, for example, keeps the numbers low with class sizes from 2-12. And you get your instructor’s email address so you can keep asking questions even when the course is finished. You even get take home notes


4. Aftercare and continuing opportunities.

Once you have completed your first course, are there more to choose from? I guarantee that once you discover even a few of the possibilities of what you can shoot, and what you can do with an image, you are going to want to go deeper.
Bring Your Own Camera has continuing courses in photography – Tried travel photography? How about landscapes?
Even beyond that, BYOC has amazing courses in Photoshop – the most popular and powerful way to create beautiful or even ‘impossible’ images. Your imagination is the only limit. So it’s nice that you can continue to expand your horizons and not be limited to a single ‘basic’ course.

And when your course is completed - then what? Some courses, BYOC included, let you retake your course if you think you didn’t ‘get it’ the first time. And beyond that, BYOC lets you stay in touch with your instructor so you can keep asking questions even after the course is over.


5. Duration and discounts.

Since we are dealing with introductory courses here, duration matters. Some courses try to cram a crazy amount of information into one day. Others take weeks of night meetings and/or weekends. A little balance please. You should look for a course that will use your time wisely.

BYOC’s ‘intro’ class will have you up and running (and knowing what you’re doing) in a day. But rather than stuff you full of just theory, they have 1 day courses that will have you learning different styles of photography in the field.

Real world training, with a really smart instructor, at a relaxed pace.

And this is where the discount becomes important – if you are doing more than a one day course – shouldn’t you get a discount on those other courses? How about making a boot camp out of all the photo courses? But without the camping for days (or the drill sergeant).

BYOC goes a step further and even gives you a ‘buddy’ deal – bring someone else along and they’ll get 50% off. This is perfect if you want to share the class with a friend, family or a colleague. Learning with a friend really brings the fun (and you can even share a camera).

I recommend you try an introductory short course that lets you then continue on with other classes to build on what you learn. Find a provider that’s going to keep the support up even when the course is over, because photography is an exciting journey where you will always be discovering something new. Find a provider who’s up for the journey with you.




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