January 26, 2022

Switch to Manual – what to expect

Two recent attendees on the Switch to Manual workshop share their views about this entry-level session from Edinburgh Photography Workshop

I am often contacted by people thinking about attending a Switch to Manual workshop at the level of knowledge required to attend. I thought it would be good to speak with a couple of people who have been on the workshop and let them describe their experiences. Last weekend, mother and daughter Lesley and Becca were part of a group of four that attended a session. They agreed to spend about twenty minutes a few days after the event to share their views on attending a Switch to Manual workshop.

Why do you want to Switch to Manual?

We started by talking about the motivation to attend the Switch to Manual workshop. Lesley received a camera for Christmas with lots of knobs and buttons. She could use it on the Auto mode, and most of the time, it would take good pictures. The problem was when Lesley took a picture of the moon, which looked like a small street lamp. It led her to conclude that she really needed to learn to use the camera as it obviously had a lot to offer. After looking online, Lesley found Switch to Manual and thought it covered everything she wanted. There was some trepidation, though, as Lesley had attended a previous course where a class of around twenty people received a classroom session and were then left to work it out for themselves when they went out to shoot.

Becca’s view was similar in that she had a camera for a long time and had dappled with other settings and hoped for the best. Sometimes it was ok, but there was never a consistency or understanding of what she was doing. When her mum suggested doing the course, she was very open to it, especially having a good quality camera and not using it well.

What were your expectations before the workshop?

Both Lesley and Becca said they were terrified that their lack of knowledge would make them look stupid. They even went online before the session and found a website with the 25 most common words to hope they would look like they knew what they were doing from the start. Becca continued, “there was no need to do that because the beginning of the session explained everything and, while I was a bit daunted, going out taking photos for a couple of hours helped. I am a ‘learning by doing’ kind of person, and that was what I found really helpful.”

What does the day feel like?

The workshop attended by Becca and Lesley was the maximum size offered for the Switch to Manual session, four people. Given Lesley had a previous bad experience with a large group, I asked how she found the group size on this workshop. She responded that the class size was just perfect. “The day started so informally, and you were so welcoming. Everything was explained so well for a novice. You gave us a combination of reassurance and fun, and eventually, it just clicked.”

We then went on to discuss the scope of the workshop. As well as the technical elements, we also cover the more creative side of photography, composition. Becca is an architect and enjoys illustration. Lesley also enjoys art and painting. Despite this, they were both surprised to think of composition as artists differently as a photographer. During the workshop, I challenged the group to photograph a particular object, and Becca found this particularly eye-opening. When asked what someone else would think the photo’s subject was, she had a light-bulb moment. Looking back, she had seen a nice view in the past and took a picture of that, whereas now she is thinking more about the actual focus of the shot.

Editing with Lightroom and Photoshop

The workshop concludes with a short session introducing Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop editing. Lesley commented, “The last part of the workshop was a great introduction to editing. It could have been overwhelming, but you kept it to the basics to get us started. There could easily be a whole other class on editing, but at least you didn’t leave us hanging. You showed us how to load the photographs, the different choices available and the minimum that you should do.”

What was the highlight of the day?

I concluded by asking Becca and Lesley what the highlight of the day was for each of them. Becca left the workshop not being afraid of the camera using the manual settings. She now has a basic understanding of what each setting will do and has the confidence to take the camera out and not just set it to automatic. Lesley went further, “…being able to take really good quality photos. How amazing is that? I actually feel like a photographer being able to utilise the camera.”

Thoughts and conclusions

Lesley offered some great advice to anyone attending the workshop. “After the workshop, you reiterated the need to practice, and that’s just what I am going to do. I’ve never sat so long with my camera after the class, pointing, shooting and trying things out.” When I asked what one sentence would you offer to someone thinking about attending Switch to Manual, she said, “You’ll never need to point and click again”. Lesley added, “You’ll see the world differently.”

Throughout the blog, I have added some of the photos that Lesley and Becca took during the session. I thought it would be good to finish this week with a short clip from the Zoom call where Lesley talked about the workshop;


You can see Lesley’s Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/lesley__horne and Becca’s fabulous artwork is at https://www.instagram.com/drawacity

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About the author

As well as running Edinburgh Photography Workshop, Rich Dyson is a professional photographer. His photographs are regularly used in newspapers such as The Times, Guardian and Daily Telegraph. He also had two solo exhibitions as well as being featured in a members sponsored exhibition in the Scottish Parliament. You can see and buy his photography at richdysonphotography.com