March 24, 2021

Switch to Manual – Good to Be Back

With the easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland, we can finally restart our Switch to Manual workshops

Before this week, the last time I could run the popular Switch to Manual Workshop was on November 23. The COVID lockdown stopped my income coming in. 117 days later, on March 18, I was finally able to restart. By the time you read this, I will have been fortunate enough to run another two workshops with customers wanting to learn how to use their cameras. I thought that this week’s blog would be an excellent opportunity to describe how I run the workshops as we start to come out of lockdown.

Limited Attendees

When the First Minister announced the start of the unlocking plan, I was happy to see that up to four people from two households could meet for social and recreational purposes, as well as general exercise. It meant that I could restart the workshops, albeit just for people who live in the City of Edinburgh council area. There is still a restriction on travelling between council areas in place.

I would usually be able to welcome up to four people to the workshop. It is pretty disappointing that outdoor sports can occur with up to 15 people, yet our socially distanced outdoor workshops don’t appear to allow the same larger group sizes. I contacted the Scottish Government for clarification if I can increase my maximum workshop size to four people on 9 March. On the day of writing this, 22 March, it is incredibly disappointing that I haven’t had anything other than a standard response stating that they will pass it to the relevant person. For now, we need to stay at the conservative interpretation of four people from two households, so I hope you understand if workshop dates are showing as unavailable.

Video introductions and review

Back in the good old days, the Switch to Manual Workshop was around four hours long on one day. The workshop’s start was done over a coffee at Cold Town House, where we went through the theory of exposure and composition. There was then two to three hours of photography in the Old Town streets before finishing in Holyrood 9A, where we review the photos and learn some basic editing in Lightroom.

As hospitality is currently closed, the start and end sessions have moved online. The evening before the session, we meet for an hour to go through the theory elements. It means extra work for me – part of the session shows how to change the controls on your camera – so each session is tailored for the make and model of camera that you own. I would much rather spend a bit of time making the session work for the customer than making the experience worse than when we would have met face-to-face.

We’ll talk about the workshop’s face-to-face element later, but at the end of this part of the workshop, I’ll download your photos to the hard-drive of my computer, ready for the review and editing session. A couple of hours after the practical section, we meet again online. We look at how to get your photos from your camera and onto the computer in an orderly and organised way so that you can find them later. Also, we go through my 20-second edit process to spend less time on the computer and more time behind the camera. It’s also an excellent time for you to ask any questions that may have cropped up in the previous 24 hours.

Face-to-face practical element

Book-ended by the two video sessions is the fun part of the workshop – the practical getting out and taking photos bit. If you’ve been stuck away for nearly four months, working on your dining room table, then this will be a welcome change. The route is broadly similar to the pre-COVID days, but I have adapted it slightly to ensure that we can always maintain distance between each other. While I have been fortunate enough to have been vaccinated with the first dose, I don’t want to take any chances with your health.

I always carry a face-covering with me, so if you need me to look at the back of your camera, then I can reduce any risks. I also have a supply of hand-gel with me. When I take the memory card from your camera to download the photos taken to my computer, my hands have been sanitised and free of any nasty virus.

Despite all the measures I have taken to ensure that the practical element is safe, I am confident that I have also kept the fun. As well as taking great photos of a beautiful city, I’ll try and share a bit of history and the odd tall tale as we go.

Come and join us

The Switch to Manual Workshop runs seven days a week. The video elements take place at 4:30 for the starting session and 3:30 for the second one. If these times don’t work for you, let me know, and I can usually accommodate your calendar. The practical part of the workshop starts close to Edinburgh’s Grassmarket area at 10:30 in the morning and usually finishes between 1 and 1:30 pm. You can book now by clicking here. If you don’t live in the City of Edinburgh council area then sign up to our newsletter and I’ll send regular updates as the restrictions continue to lift.

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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