I love Photographing weddings. The joy on people's faces when the Bride and Groom say 'I Do' - it's great.
It's lovely capturing hugs, laughs and tears of happiness. Recording the celebrations throughout the day with lots of happy people, food and music in beautiful venues makes for a lovely job. But you do need to know what you're doing as a Photographer. Often, you're working in tricky lighting situations, fairy lit barns, dark ceremony rooms and so on, having the right understanding of lighting, both ambient and flash, and how to use your camera settings is essential for capturing good quality images. There's so much that goes into taking a good portrait shot and I love the challenge working with big groups on big days.
Christine and Adrian's wedding was lovely, they got married at Taunton registry office with their friends and family surrounding them, I was pre-notified that I would be able to tell the difference between the two families, one considerably smaller in stature (but not personality) than the other. Everybody was lovely and I set about my task to get shots of everyone candidly but also within their formal groups too.
I had two hours to capture everyone, we got some lovely shots, including a nice one of the bride and groom by the beautiful doorway, with a little Photoshop to remove fire extinguishers, that shot stood out as my personal favourite of the day. I prefer to shoot shorter weddings as I suffer with chronic fatigue due to a sleep disorder. - This means I work efficiently, getting shots of people quickly and in an organised way. My system means that I get all the shots you would expect, ring shots, flowers, details, the kiss, candids, posed, kids having fun, confetti and everything else that is possible in the given time frame. I'm a woman on a mission when my camera is in my hand.
I hope you enjoy looking through Mr and Mrs Welch's photos. If you would like to order any canvasses or a set of prints please let me know by emailing Gem@devonpt.co.uk. Similarly, if you liked my style on the day and would like me to photograph your wedding, event or family let me know in an email and I'll get back to you pronto.
(In Summary - Everything useful I learned in college and university about Photography, I could have learned in less than a month with the right tutor. So I became that Tutor for people who don't want to take years out of their lives heading into formal education and get into a lot of debt to do so.)
In my college years I decided I would go for the sensible option and study topics that I thought would give me a good career. I didn't choose anything creative. After my first year I asked to add Photography as an additional AS Level but wasn't allowed as it was a popular subject and I would only be able to do one years worth of study on it.
So... me being me and not liking being told no, I jacked in the boring sensible subjects and moved an hour down the county to take Photography as a BTEC National Diploma and studied Business on the side.
It was much better having the freedom to take photos as often as I liked, we spent A LOT of time cutting and sticking and writing about the photos. We also spent a huge amount of time in the darkroom, and, while I get that it's important to know where Photography started, I didn't feel the darkroom practice was particularly useful moving forward using Photography as a career path.
I don't remember learning about Shutter Speeds, Aperture and ISO in class, but I do remember asking Photographers on Flickr.com how to make my photos less fuzzy and gain clarity, like the shots I admired on their Photostreams. I got my answer there, to try and not shoot slower than 1/125th of a second when handheld.
This led me to trying out this setting one evening indoors, I noticed my camera wouldn't take a shot at 1/125th without being underexposed (way too dark) and that's when I realised I needed to be working with more light than I had.
I learned a fair amount about Photoshop in class with one teacher in particular who knew his stuff, he was technically a graphics teacher, but as with most public colleges and schools now, teachers, and even technicians are spread thin to teach a range of subjects, that they themselves aren't fluent in. This is often to the detriment of the students who don't know what they don't know and sadly aren't always taught the in-depth knowledge that they need to know - I certainly wasn't.
We also had studio equipment, we knew how to put the lights on the stands but we didn't know where to position the lights or subject, how to make the lights flash or anything more than turning the lights on and pointing them at the backdrop. When I say 'we' I'm not just talking about the students.
Thankfully my keen interest in Photography meant that I was learning outside of college, asking other Photographers for advice and tagging on to group shoots as an assistant and photographing want-to-be models in exchange for photos. Some of whom I am still friends with today.
After college I wasn't sure about University, I left it a bit last minute and decided to apply for just one, as it had a good reputation and it was in the same town as my Dad lived in, he had a big house that my Grandad left him so I could stay with him while I studied at University. I went for an interview at the Arts University. After a while, I received a conditional offer to get in, which I already knew I had the grades for, I remember being so happy when I got that letter, knowing I had a 1 in 7 chance to get in. I was thrilled!
Before I even got to Uni, I struggled, I had been living alone or renting a room for some time before applying for Uni, student loans were super unhelpful, they didn't accept that I had lived on such a low income as I only rented a small room and didn't make much money whilst at college.
I asked for support from a lot of people; family, staff at the University, all who said they wouldn't/couldn't help, either with forms, contacting student loans on my behalf or just with relevant advice. I was pushed from post to post.
Eventually, I was given the minimum amount that student loans would provide, £3700 for the entire year... Thankfully, I was living with my Dad, but I did still have to pay rent. I'm going to be real with you now. It was HARD. I hardly ate anything, I couldn't afford to, I was running a small car and my energy levels were at rock bottom. (I have since been diagnosed with sleep apneoa) I didn't have the energy for a job and Uni work. I was really unhappy living away from my partner at the time and would often drive back to his for the weekends where I mostly just slept or worked on assignments. He helped me with fuel costs and his family were lovely to let me stay with them and feed me.
My first year at Uni was ok, we learned even more darkroom practice, including bigger film formats and colour processing, all of which still haven't been useful for me in my career as a Photographer. We also actually learned to use the studio, which was great.
I took many notes from the studio sessions so I could best remember what I was taught. We mostly learned using film cameras and polaroids but you could book out the studios in your own time to shoot digitally too. I loved the studio side of Photography and it was really nice to have properly learned how to use the studio lighting, learn about lighting patterns and where to position the lights for different effects.
One of our sessions at university, we were asked to bring in our printed portfolios. These cost a lot to print because ink and paper is expensive. On the day of sharing our work, the lecturers brought in bottles of beer for everyone to drink whilst looking over our portfolios. I found this quite strange and it annoyed me because I was there to learn. University for me wasn't about partying or getting drunk, I didn't want people drinking whilst looking through my work. This party culture was regularly promoted by lecturers, organising nights out at local bars and generally trying to bond with students in this way. It quite frankly, wasn't for me.
After a while of being at Uni I realised just how self led that level of education was.
There were some weeks where we would only be required to be in the building for a couple of hours - for the whole week! After our technical lessons on the studio, darkroom and a couple photoshop lessons a week, we were pretty much left to it. I for one was left wondering, what education am I paying for?
My first year of Uni went by, it was tiring, stressful and frustrating at times but I passed everything and was just coming into the summer break when my Dad decided he was going to sell the house (there's a lot I could write here but I'll keep it factual) I asked him to keep me in the loop because I couldn't afford to live anywhere else. It didn't take long for the sales process to go through and he finally told me (when I asked about it) just as he was negotiating a final offer with potential buyers. I asked him if he would loan me some money from the sale of the house so I could carry on at Uni, but he refused.
I was already so burnt out from the stress of having very little money and energy, my heart sank because I knew I couldn't carry on with my course with things as they were. Sadly, I had to defer, move back to where I was staying before and start again with the hope of saving enough money to go back to Uni the year after.
In hindsight, I think the main reason why University is a good thing, is because of the contacts you can make that are associated with the University and the lecturers on your course. I did learn some useful things whilst at Uni but with the amount of time that I was left to it, I think it would have been more beneficial for me to have hired a private tutor or worked for a company that could teach me more on the job.
I could have learned everything useful I was taught in that first year in a few weeks with intense, relevant training, tutor support and tasks. I would have also avoided the stress of my living and financial situation as it was at that time.
Within a month of moving back I got myself a job working for Pixifoto. A company that's business model is with a mobile portrait photography studio and sales set up. As an employee you were given a van with all the kit you need, loads of training and shadowing time, then you're set free to work on your own. It was a fantastic way for me to learn how to take family portraits quickly, how to gel with customers and kids fast so they liked you and would smile for their 15 minute photo session. I learned A LOT both in good practices and not so good practices. I would have stayed with Pixifoto if it handn't been for how they treated me when my Grandad died.
I decided that I would start my own portrait photography business and that's when Gemma Varney Photography was born.
After a couple of years, I found that I was answering a lot of friends questions on Photography and I enjoy showing them the answer. I started Devon Photography Training a couple of years after going self employed. My main aim was to teach people all of the important information that had been helpful for me in my Photography and starting a business. I wanted there to be a way that people could learn what I had, without taking three years out of their lives and avoiding the stress that can come with going to University.
With a lot of practice, refining and learning about different ways in which people learn (I took a level three course in Education and Training) I have a training business where I teach people in blocks of three hours, all the things they need to know about using their cameras, using a photographic studio, editing images, selling images, marketing, branding, and other general Photography and Business related information.
I wanted to provide an accessible, affordable service that fits around people's lifestyles, no need to take three years out of their lives to learn the same information that I can teach in less than a month. Albeit there is plenty of practice needed to solidify what is learned.
Devon Photography Training allows people to learn just what they need to know to get to where they want to be with their Photography goals. I have a no BS, straightforward and concise way of teaching with quality handouts, practical tasks and tailored sessions. No one gets left behind and I work around peoples commitments, so no one's lifestyle has to change to come and learn about Photography with me.
My journey may or may not be unique to me, others may have learned more and loved their time within formal education. This is all just from my experience and I've been told it's good to share our stories. I hope to inspire and teach many more people how to use their camera's creatively. I LOVE what I do and LOVE that people come to me to help them with their Photography goals.
#devonphotographytraining #learnphotography #howtouseyourcamera #devonphotographytrainingstory #privatephotographytuition #formaltrainingvsprivatetraining #qualitytuition #privatetuition
When you first decide to take your camera out of Auto mode, the world becomes a scary place, so many values, fractions and 'F' numbers to get your head around. Balancing exposure becomes a problem that you have never knew you had before.
So why bother, right? Well, switching out of Auto mode is the first step to full creativity with your image making, You can learn to create light trails, to freeze fast motion in your images, to show movement in photos and how to take abstract images that look like painting. Learning how to control the camera settings opens a world of possibilities and allows you to take images that many people just don't know how to take.
Here are some example photos that you just can't take in automatic mode:
Long exposures are created when you use slow shutter speeds. Learning what the shutter is, what it does and how to use it is the first step in understanding this shooting technique. This photo was taken with a 15 second exposure time. We teach all students about this setting in our recommended first Photography tuition session 'How to use your camera and the basic principles of Photography' This is one of our favourite ways to create interesting abstract images.
These types of photos are hard to take in the daytime without the help of an ND filter (a filter that blocks light from coming into your lens) but you can take these types of shots in the golden hour, when the sun is going down, assuming you don't shoot straight into the sun. You can also take them as the sun is coming up as there won't be too much light around to flood into your camera. Knowing how to balance your three main camera settings in crucial to getting this effect in camera.
One of the perks of this type of Photography is that you always get a good quality image - because of how the settings balance. That means beautifully clear elements within your photo. Which we think is pretty cool.
So why can't I take long exposures in Auto mode? I hear you ask, because your camera is always trying to take your photo as quickly as it can in your given scene, it prioritises getting the correct exposure quickly, fast enough for you to hand hold your camera without getting camera shake or movement blur. The auto mode assumes you are trying to freeze the movement of your subject - therefore capturing the moment as you see it.
Super Detailed Landscapes
Did you know that a lot of landscape photographers take more than one image to create their landscape shots?
They use a technique called exposure bracketing. The reason for this is that most cameras can only record one light level at a time, which is great if your scene is flatly lit with not many shadows or highlights, but a lot of the best landscapes have a big contrast between light and shadow, and are hard to capture in just one photo.
This technique, known as bracketing allows you to take a range of exposures, from really dark, to a little dark, to correct exposure, then slightly too bright, then really bright, all of the same scene. You need to use a tripod to keep the camera still and to get the same framing for each shot, and there are particular camera settings to use for the best results. But essentially, once you have all of your exposures, you can merge them together in Lightroom Classic to create one image with lots of detail in the highlights, shadows and mid tones. A pretty cool process, we think.
Professional Looking Interior Photos
You can also use the above bracketing technique for interior photos. This is for when you want to get the detail in the bright areas outside and the dark areas inside the building. For rooms with big windows and gorgeous views.
This is a technique we teach estate agents and property photographers to do as part of our workshops.
Ping us an email if you want more detail about this.
Prioritising Image Quality
The image quality is determined by one of the camera's main settings and you can control this when adjusting the balance of settings for certain scenes. When you use a tripod your camera doesn't know it's on a tripod and therefore will still balance your settings as if you are hand holding, taking the photo quickly to the detriment of the image quality - especially in low light.
When you take control of your settings, and especially when you are using a tripod or have a lot of light to work with, you can use the best quality setting so your photos are sharp, distortion free and beautifully detailed.
Pop Up Flash
Isn't it annoying when you're trying to be subtle about taking a photo and then the annoying flash pops up? This happens in auto mode when your subject is backlit or when there isn't much light, not ideal if you're shooting where you're not supposed to be, I'm talking art galleries or museums for reference photos, I dunno what you're thinking...
Anyhoo, when you shoot in semi automatic modes like shutter priority, aperture priority or manual mode, the flash only comes on when you tell it too. No more annoying flash popping up and exposing your poor ninja skills.
Your camera records light, and when it comes to exposure (the brightness value in your photo) the camera is designed to record the light level of your scene by providing an average reading across the highlights, shadows and midtones. The camera is designed to make your most common light level in the scene a midtone, which can be problematic shooting in the snow or against a dark background, for example;
When your camera view finder is filled with a field covered in snow, the camera records the light bouncing off the snow as a midtone, darkening the overall image, it is designed to do this so that, in theory, your highlights and shadows fall either side of the midtones. When in auto mode there is nothing you can do about this, but if you shift to shutter priority, aperture priority or manual mode you can rebalance your settings to brighten the exposure to make the snow look white again. This is what is known as exposure compensation.
The same sort of thing happens when you fill the view finder with a predominantly dark object, like a black dog or wall of tyres. Your camera records the mass of dark tones as a midtone, making it a lighter grey exposure. You can adjust for this in the semi automatic modes; shutter and aperture priority or manual mode. You cannot make exposure adjustments in automatic mode.
To learn more about your camera and the basic principles of Photography pop your details in our sign up form here.
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