InFocus Blog

The Perfect Christmas Gift!


Ok, this is shameless self-promotion but I’m going to do it anyway.. ;o)


Not long ago I spent a wonderful December day instructing an individual workshop with a enthusiastic amateur who had recently purchased his first DSLR. His excitement and desire to start learning to more effectively use his new camera was infectious and we had a great time. Starting at ground zero with no knowledge of photography, all he knew was that he wanted to take better pictures and get the most from his new DSLR.


We started by examining the inner workings of an old SLR camera I keep for such purposes. He was able to visually see the aperture closing down, the shutter letting in light, and how the mirror directed the light through the lens, into the prism, and displayed it in the viewfinder while at the same time exposing the film. Does this sound like a lot of theory? It is, but when someone shows you the example camera, points out and demonstrates each function of the assembly, and answers any questions you may have... then it's only about a 5 - 10 minute fun look at technology.


Why would I bother showing a student with a brand new Digital SLR, leading edge technology, a 40 year old mechanical SLR camera body and lens much less show them how and why it works? Because the information is DIRECTLY transferable to the new DSLR and it helps the student visualize what’s happening inside the camera when we talk about such things as exposing the film and adjusting the aperture and shutter speed. This technique ensures understanding and greatly speeds up comprehension of the material. Besides, it’s a lot of fun playing with old mechanical cameras!


Over the course of the next 3-4 hours we walked around the ruins of a wat at Ayutthaya, picked out some choice scenes to photograph, and slowly and carefully went through the process of capturing the scene step by step by step. We’d often go over the same steps 5-6 times until he not only understood, but was very comfortable with the process. We talked about why each step was important and how the step would affect the image of the scene. We discussed how different lenses and settings would impact the composition. There really is no specific learning plan because each individual is different and learns at their own rate and speed. We tailor the instruction to the knowledge and needs of the individual student and take the time to ensure complete comprehension.
A few hours of instruction later I tell the student that for the next 45-60 minutes he is to walk around the site by himself, choose scenes, and apply what he’s learned over the last 4-5 hours in a slow and careful manner. He looks surprised but confident. I show him where I’ll be if questions arise and with a new found confidence he sets off on his assignment. There were no questions. And he wasn’t using the automatic or program modes either. During our instruction he’s learned to understand and use his new DSLR in full manual and aperture priority modes and how each control/setting would affect the composition of the selected scene.


He must have been having a lot of fun because it was over 90 minutes later when he returned. We stopped for a cold drink and then drove back into Bangkok where I had an image workstation set up in an air conditioned office area. It had already been 6-7 hours since we first started out that morning and we still had at least 3-5 hours on the computer as he learned to process raw image files and make the necessary adjustments for the best possible prints. Virtually all general purpose digital photography workshops spend approximately 50% of the course time on the image workstation. Some workshops are 100% computer time. It depends on the student.


By the end of a long day of instruction this total beginner was now a confident photographer who totally understood and could use the manual and aperture priority modes of his new DSLR, and could process the images for screen (web uses) or print with a high degree of competence. Not bad for a single slow paced day of fun instruction!


Obviously he didn’t learn everything there was to know about photography. After all, I’ve been doing this for over 25 years and I’m still learning. There will be more questions, more modes and features to learn, different scenes and compositions to tackle, different equipment to apply, and of course many more computer techniques. I recommended he take what he’d learned, practice what he learned for 3-4 weeks, and by then he’d be ready to move forward and learn more.


I had a great time on this instruction outing and I’m sure my client did as well. We were comfortable traveling in a late model SUV which is safe and well air-conditioned not to mention stocked with a full ice chest. He got my undivided attention for the entire day. I brought many different lenses that fit his camera which he could use and evaluate, and we had fun at a popular historical site. We weren’t in a hurry, nothing was forced or pushed, and the pace of instruction was fun and germane to his individual needs. No two workshops are the same, each workshop is tailored to the individual needs and desires of the student. We do everything from landscapes, studio, fine art, nudes, street photography, and anything else that catches your interest.


So I ask you, what better Christmas gift than to send yourself or someone you care about to a fun photography workshop?


For more information email me at workshops@bkkimages.com or call me at +66 2 722 3966. I’ll be more than happy to chat with you and present a plan for a workshop tailored around your own needs and desires.


Merry Christmas!


BkkSteve