Since January we’ve put 80 people through our Beginners course, giving them the basic foundations of photography (exposure, lighting, composition and how it all relates to the buttons and dials on their cameras) and getting them off the Auto setting. And, naturally, a lot of them ask what they should do next?
We’ve been reluctant to run any kind of general Intermediate or Advanced classes, mostly because everyone seems to have different requirements and the effort involved in getting it right has, so far, outweighed the rewards. And we’re both strong believers that the best way to improve your photography is to simply go out and take lots of photos and, importantly, show them to people.
But you shouldn’t do this alone. There is plenty of opportunity for support from peers and experts available, particularly in Birmingham. Here’s a very brief sample of some things we recommend.
Our Photo Walks
Obviously you should all come on these whenever you can. Pete runs at least one walk a month in Birmingham, often more, and they’re a great chance to slow down and behave like a photographer without worrying about your safety or looking like an idiot. Most of them cost £5 and current dates are here.
There are thousands of books on photography fundamentals available and, to be honest, they all cover pretty much the same stuff. If you need a nice chunky reference with lots of examples Pete likes the look of these two:
If you want something more academic about the history of photography itself, the BBC4 documentary The Genius Of Photography is fantastic. It’s 10 years old so doesn’t cover recent revolutions in digital, but that’s not a problem. Available as a DVD and coffee-table book.
Links to Amazon for convenience (and a small commission if you order from them). Other booksellers are available.
There are loads groups and societies in Birmingham devoted to photography. Here’s a small selection that we can confidently recommend.
Birmingham Loves Photographers. Started as a relatively informal gathering of photographers in the city, this has recently been boosted by friend-of-Photo-School Jenny Duffin and some arts funding into a full program of events through the summer. Of particular relevance are the monthly meetups on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 6/8 Kafe where people are encouraged to show their photos and get feedback from each other. All levels are welcome.
Birmingham Photography on Meetup.com came recommended and looks pretty active, running meetups and themed competitions. I have no personal experience but the conversations on the website look perfect for the beginner. (You have to sign up to see them.)
Frame is a group welcoming photographers from all disciplines who recently put on a conference and exhibition. I know a few people who were involved and they had a good time. Keep an eye on what they do next.
Birmingham Flickrmeets, where Matt and Pete first met in 2006, is still going strong meeting every month for a walk around Birmingham. The regulars have an enthusiast bent and you’ll often see a strange vintage camera being wielded, but they’re very friendly and welcoming.
The Midland Counties Photographic Federation (est 1907) has a listing of all the traditional photo clubs. Many of these will be Traditional with a capital T, but in my limited experience (I did a talk for Yardley a few years back) they’re friendly, overflowing with knowledge and always after new blood. If there’s one near you it might be worth popping in.
Grain is Birmingham Library’s attempt to bring some coherence to photograph in Birmingham and, like all such huge undertakings, it’s sometimes hard to get a handle on what it’s for or who it’s aimed at. Keep an eye on the listings and events and see if something appeals.
BOM (Birmingham Open Media) is a new space opening in central Birmingham this year for photography and image-making run by Karen Newman recently of Open Eye and FACT in Livepool. It’s planned to be a member-run space with lots of equipment to use. More details to come.
AKA, “the competition”. Obviously we’re the best at beginners courses and walks, but if you want to pay for something specific you could try…
Darkroom Birmingham, in Balsall Heath, is all about analogue photography which, if you have access to a manual 35mm camera, is a fantastic way to learn about the fundamentals of photography. Run by Dan Burwood in an old printworks, he also runs the Some Cities project with Andrew Jackson.
Fotofilia, based in the Jewellery Quarter, have a full photography studio so are well placed to teach about lighting and professional portraiture, if that’s where you’d like to go.
Calumet, on Hagley Road, do a series of classes which, frankly, are aimed at people who can afford the equipment they sell instore, which is perfectly sensible as that’s their area of expertise. So if you’re going down the kit route have a look at what they offer.
And that’s just a sample
As with all things, once you start searching you find all sorts of things happening in Birmingham, particularly at a grass-roots level which this city excels at.
If you find anything good please do let us know, and remember, the main thing is to keep taking photos, keep showing them to other people – online and offline, and to learn from your experience. Everything else is gravy!