The Australian School of Amateur Photography has been running for a couple of years now.
It is located in Launceston, Tasmania (Australia for those of you reading this from some other part of the world) and so currently services Tasmania.
I started it because I could see that a lot of those frustrated by photography and their photos only needed tips in certain areas to get past their stop points, they didn’t need a full two year course so they could head off and be a National Geographic photographer. Thus the aim of the school is to fill the space between intensive, super comprehensive photography courses, and no instruction at all.
ASAP provides bite size chunks of information that will be straight to the point, easy to digest, and helpful (and since you only buy the bits you need to learn, cheaper) to help you get a good photo faster.
‘Gear‘ is all about cameras, lenses, flashes, tripods, reflectors etcetera. How to buy it. How to look after it.
‘Skills‘ is how to use the gear and how to be a good ‘camera operator’, for example what to do to get sharp focus, correct exposure, the depth of field wanted, etcetera
‘Vision‘ at ASAP is more than being able to process light with your eyes and brain. It is the arty part and is really what takes you from being a camera operator to being a photographer. It is the part that differentiates you from other photographers. Vision is the way you see the world. What you choose to put into your images, how you compose them, how you use light etcetera.
So with luck you can see that you need Gear first, then Skills to drive it in order to achieve your photographic Vision (although you can probably see that your Vision drives your Gear and Skills requirements)
Here’s a bit more definition.
So far, close to every photographer I have ever met, has a thing for gear. Some get totally wrapped up in the gear and will talk at length about the pros and cons of various camera bodies, lenses etcetera.
Some reject the excess gear approach and hang their pride on being a minimalist, while others reject modern technology and embrace what they see as the purity of film.
Regardless of their approach, they have a passion for the gear.
So in the gear space ASAP will teach you how to pick the gear you need for what you want to shoot and how to look after it. (We plan to have second hand gear available in a buy/swap/sell format so stay tuned for that.)
Now assuming you have some gear, the next bit is learning how to work it.
Although I accept that it takes skill to figure out what to take a photo of, in ASAP’s world ‘Skills’ refers specifically to knowing how to drive your gear. Some examples should clarify what we mean by ‘drive’ the gear.
- Can you get nice sharp focus on the object in your image that represents the subject of your image? And can you do that regardless of where in the frame the object is? And can you do it without moving the focus reticule (that bit in your frame that is the bit your camera is analysing for focus)?
- Can you get correct exposure on the dog in the shadow under a tree on a nice bright day? Or do you end up with a dark dog?
- Do you know how to get a really shallow depth of field? (‘Depth of field’ is the term for the amount of an image that is in focus as you move further from the object that has been focused on. So a shallow depth of field means the tree behind your daughter is blurred while she is sharp. A deep or large depth of field means that your son and the entire soccer team in the background are all in focus).
- Can you freeze the drops of the waterfall? or alternately blur the whole thing to cream? while maintaining correct exposure.
- Can you get rid of the yellow colour that seems to be everywhere when you take photos at a party inside a house?
So driving your gear means you know how to focus your camera, how to set the aperture and shutter speed to get the exposure you want, how to set the ISO of your camera to take into account different levels of available light, how to set the white balance so that the colour cast of different light sources is taken into account, how to set the curtain sync when you are shooting with a flash, how to choose the right lens to get the amount of foreshortening for the image in your mind, etcetera.
Notice that none of these things have anything to do with the composition, colour palette or artistic expression you are after with your photo. The stuff to consider artistically for an image we here at ASAP collect under the label ‘Vision’. Skills are what you need to achieve the vision.
So can you see that deciding to take a photo of a lonely dog on a concrete path in the rain as everyone walks past is uniquely you. Your camera and your skills to drive that camera do not determine the images you decide to take, although they will definitely set some limits on what you can take.
So Vision training at ASAP is about teaching you the basics of the artistic space. Ways to think about colour. Ways to think about the use of space in your image, and the lines that run through your image. Ways to think about light etcetera. All these things contribute to the meaning of the final image.
In addition you will learn something of communications theory. Don’t get scared by the academic sound of that, it just means that you will learn that all of us carry around an internal library of imagery vs meaning which is used to interpret what we see. So for example a lonely dog by himself on a stool will produce a certain emotional impact in people. A lonely dog with the rain dripping off him on a sunny day means something slightly different. Make it rain on a dark day and the change in colour palette will change the meaning. A colder image (more blues and greys) will tend to make the image a bit sadder. The legs of people moving past the dog will further indicate that the dog is perhaps being ignored. All of this imagery only reinforces the overall message of the image because we have all acquired a certain understanding of what the image elements mean.
Take exactly the same image and let one person stop to pat the dog and the entire image perhaps changes from loneliness to one of hope or kindness or sharing.
Most photographers are very visual people, so it is likely you had the above imagery happening in your head while you read it.
It is also possible that as you motor around in your day, you will see things that you think would make a good photo.
So that’s what ASAP is about.
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