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Nikon School – Intro to DSLR Photography

7 March 2011

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Nikon Australia gave me the opportunity to borrow and test drive a DSLR and lens – the not so new D90, and the completely new Nikkor 35mm 1.4G.

They also gave me a complimentary pass to Nikon School – a new offering of DSLR photography courses, for a range of different skill levels.

These courses started in June 2010 and are now held regularly in all major Australian cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane and Perth.

Nikon School - Intro to DSLR

Photo: Now THIS is a BIG LENS!! This was me messing around with our Class Instructor’s HUGE LENS. It was bigger than my head! And now I even know exactly WHY this lens is so big (because not only is it very zoomy, it also lets in so much light).

I  joined a course called “Introductory to Digital SLR Photography

Now, I know I’m not a beginner at photography. I did a photography unit during my university days (but I was too interested in boys to pay real attention). And in those long gone days of the mid 1990s, most of my “photo” time was spent in the dark room, dipping and developing film in liquid chemicals!

Although I have spent up to 15 years of my life taking photos, only in the last 3 years have I become interested in “professional” level photography. Most of my knowledge has come in bits and pieces: tips from my husband and friends, mucking around with my camera, and reading online tutorials.

So to join a formal BEGINNER’S COURSE was very interesting for me.

Nikon School - Intro to DSLR

The Nikon School sessions are taught by an industry expert who actually is a working professional photographer in your city. My instructor had years of experience, sits on the board of various industry associations, and he actually runs a photography business and camera shop.

He was so practical and hands on. He was also lively, funny, engaging and very approachable. Best kind of instructor. And he was perfectly happy for me to play with his big lens – and it doesn’t get more hands on than that! And there were only 14 people in the class.

The main objective of the course was for people to gain confidence to take great photos. And to stop using the AUTO Mode.

Since I was invited as “media” I did some “interviews” with the other members in the class. I asked them how they heard of the course (website, word of mouth), what cameras did they have (D90, D300, D7000), had they been to any other photography course before (a few said no, a few said yes, and one woman had been to 3 other kinds of photography classes and still didn’t feel confident about using her DSLR.)

Nikon School - Intro to DSLR

We went through various camera functions, exposure, modes, depth of field, shutter speed, improving the look of your photo, composition, white balance, information about lens, and general hints and tips.

I think what everyone found most valuable was when the instructor asked everyone “What kind of photos are you hoping to take?”

Lots of people wanted to take photos of children and their pets. One guy wanted to take photos during his fishing trips and sports. Someone wanted to take photos of waterfalls, sunsets and landscapes. Someone else wanted to take travel photos.

And the instructor went around to everyone and gave specific tips and pointers catered to each person. Very helpful!

For me, I want to take photos with NO FLASH, in natural low-lighting events, catwalk photos, small boutiques, photos of my kids, food, objects, all indoor and outdoor, close ups, and myself in the mirror.

Nikon School - Intro to DSLR

We also received a booklet of everything we covered. For future references, and in case we were naughty and didn’t take notes.

Nikon School - Intro to DSLR

During a break, I made my way over to the table set up at the front and played with some lens. Yes, they are my new passion, mostly because I have realized that, after a certain point, the camera is much less important than the lens – which is why professional photographers have a small number of cameras, and a LOT of different lenses they can put on them. The instructor gave me some advice about my next possible lens purchase.

Nikon School - Intro to DSLR

The whole class also went outside to a park (over-looking the river) to test out our new knowledge. We took photos of each other, played with shutter speeds and exposures, asked a lot of questions, posed for portrait photos. It was all quite fun.

Over all, I honestly can’t say a bad thing about this Nikon School course, everyone seemed happy and much more confident about taking photos with their cameras. I totally recommend it.

Near the end of the class, I ducked away to the hotel foyer to take a photo of my outfit in a big mirror (as you do, if you are me). This is with the new “very fast” f1.4 lens that Nikon have lent to me. This means that the lens can get more light in, so I can take pictures in very low light situations. The downside is that the lens is so big that it nearly breaks my wrist holding the camera up – but it’s totally worth it. No flash, and super sharp images with full colour. YUM!

Nikon run a series of courses in all major Australian cities, they have a few coming up in March, April and May. They also run workshops, photography tours, and special events.

For example, they are running an Editorial Fashion Photography Course by Christian Blanchard, for budding fashion photographers in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Unfortunately they are not holding it in Perth yet. But if you go, please let me know how it went!