Skills fill the jigsaw puzzle

One of my students asked how I remember it all. That was quite a compliment.

I find photography intuitive and the technical knowledge comes easily to me, but I also work hard and study lots.

I am very fortunate because I love my work. For me, the science and maths of exposure, workings of composition and handling of the equipment is really interesting. But they are not the best bits.

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I enjoy creating photographs. Discovering the right image for the lighting conditions, or waiting for the decisive moment to press the shutter and knowing I’ve got a good shot are a delight. They are not the best bits either.

Neither is it getting outside and enjoying the beauty of nature, though that is really special. Sitting on the beach with sanderling within reach, or watching the sun rise behind Coquet Island, or the glory of the aurora, are all remarkable.

What I enjoy most is passing on my knowledge. I’ve delivered around 170 photography lessons over the last year. Every one of my clients has been fantastic. Participants ranged from 13 to 83 and included teachers, artists, mechanics, a quantity surveyor, musicians, nurses, hotel manager, police officer, vicar, soldier, HGV driver, farmers, actors, retired folk and other professional photographers.

It’s hugely rewarding when they walk away with new skills and can enjoy their hobby or profession even more.

Learning to take great photos is like a big jigsaw puzzle.

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Along the left side are technical skills. If we control the camera, we can decide the exposure, where to focus, depth of field and whether to show or stop movement.

The components of composition come next. Many know the rule of thirds, but colour theories, perspective, contrasts, ratios, proportions and lighting are a few other pieces that fill in the top edge of the puzzle.

On the right comes visualising an image. This is something we can learn by studying other people’s photos. Where was the camera positioned and what were its settings?

One of the hardest things to teach is creativity, the ability to be original. This is discovered more that learnt. I believe everybody has it. It completes the bottom edge of the puzzle.

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Finally, we fill in the middle with the stories we want to tell. Great photography is not about technical perfection or equipment, but creating images with meaning.

The theme this month is to use artificial light, flash or a table-lamp. Manually change the white balance in your camera and try different ISOs to see how images differ. Capture fairy lights, candles and decorations. The challenge words are Red and Champion.

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