I got an email from a lady today.

Hi there, I just had a quick query about the Beginner’s Class – I’m interested in attending with my husband and we have one SLR and one compact digital camera between us. Is it worth trying to do the class with a compact camera (it doesn’t have a separate focus, only zoom) or is it best for us to just try with the SLR – and perhaps do separate classes?

Here’s what I replied:

While the class is designed for people with SLRs, we like to think it’s useful to people with all kinds of cameras, even those who use their phones.

One of the issues we face when designing a beginners class is that all cameras are slightly different. If we focus on the specific controls of a Nikon camera we risk alienating those with Canons. And then there are the other makes and models which we might not have personal knowledge of. Finally, this all happens in an hour.

So we split the class into roughly two areas.

First we help you understand the basic technical concepts of how cameras work so you can take that knowledge and apply it to your camera. The main principle is controlling how light enters the box and what effect that has on the image. This applies to all cameras though with an SLR you have much more control over the process. For a compact cameras you might not be able to exercise fine control but by understanding what’s going on you can wield the camera more intelligently.

The second area is composition, which applies to all cameras no matter their size. This helps you give you photos impact and depth regardless of their megapixels.

When I was learning to drive recently my instructor gave me some quite specific instructions on how to reverse park his car. This got me through the test but didn’t help me park my own car because the dimensions and turning circles were all wrong. If he’d taught me the fundamentals of how cars reverse around corners I could have applied these to all cars, but he didn’t. I like to think we approach teaching photography so you can master all cameras, regardless of their make or size.