GTA Photography: Review
A recent press trip across the Iberian Peninsula with Insight Vacations was a humbling experience. All I had to do was compare the inspiring photos taken by UK Photographer Simon Boucher-Harris of Renegade Photography to mine before I quickly realized I should either quit lugging around my Nikon D90 or go back to school.
If you’re a travel writer who’s rarely in one place for long, blocking off time for school can pose a problem. Fortunately, GTA Photography came to the rescue. Photo 101 could be completed in 3 short weeks (three classes and a field trip) in Toronto.
“Sign me up,” I said. If Simon Boucher-Harris could transform himself from corporate banker to award-winning fashion photographer in less than two years, surely I could make some progress in 3 weeks, right?
Here’s my Review of GTA Photography School:
Objective: My goal was to learn how to shoot better in Manual mode. I hoped that by mastering the mysterious M on the top of my Nikon D90 DSLR, I’d be able to deal with challenging light conditions, improve my food photography and create Bokeh, a Japanese word meaning “pleasant blur” that describes out-of-focus areas in a photo. Although I’ve taken some decent photos in the past, it’s been more by accident than by design.
- Concepts such as Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO were explained in a way I could understand (and remember). The course hand-outs were super helpful. In fact, I was tempted to laminate the diagram of the “3-Step Process for Perfect Photos“
- The three-hour chunk of time was used productively. We began at 6 pm and finished at 9 pm. That meant no wasted time on coffee breaks or waiting for stragglers.
- Course duration (4 classes over three weeks) worked perfectly for someone like me who travels a lot.
- Our friendly, award-winning and photogenic instructor Chloe Norman has a BFA from York University so knows her stuff (and how to explain it).
- Small class size meant we got individual attention when we needed it. For example, Chloe was able to fix certain settings on my camera (why did I have Picture Control set on Neutral? Who knows…but switching the setting to Vivid improved my photos mightily.)
- Chloe’s artistic eye for design came in handy when it came to the group critique of our photos. She analyzed our photos, explaining what/why a particular shot didn’t work and what we could have done to improve the shot – from aperture, shutter speed, depth of field and light metering.
- We also learned to set realistic expectations for our photos. Even for pros, one amazing photo out of 100 is considered a good ratio.
- Good technology. GTA Photography’s overhead projector was perfect for illustrating the “Rules of Composition” and technical details.
- Classes are held within a converted industrial building with lots of character at 51 Wolseley St. near Bathhurst and Queen West, Toronto. It’s a fun location and, with a huge Winners and Joe Fresh right around the corner, there’s lots to do if you arrive early for class.
- Field trips in the middle of winter are cold. Chloe kindly compensated for this by volunteering to act as a windbreak. We also pretended to shop in the stores of Kensington Village so we could warm up. If you plan on studying in the winter, wear extra layers. And then add a few more.
Summary: I’ve taken several photography courses since I purchased my DSLR and this course at GTA Photography was, by far, the most useful. I learned about Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, depth of field, rules of composition, manual and auto focus, white balance and more – all in just three weeks of four classes. I also learned to love (and work with) the internal light meter on my Nikon D90 camera. I can now adjust to brighten or darken as needed in order to get the saturated colours I’m looking for.
The curriculum offered a thorough explanation of what Bokeh is and how to get it. Apologies to the shop owner on Augusta Avenue who wondered why a strange woman (me) was taking hundreds of photos of the dead plants on his balcony.
In summary, GTA Photography‘s Photo 101 was a worthwhile class taught by a skilled, full time photographer, artist and instructor.