Photography lesson at South Bank

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” Karl Lagerfeld

I am one of those annoying people at a party who always has a drink in one hand and a camera in the other.  And if I’m not behind the camera, I’m in front of it, usually taking a ‘selfie’.

I received my first camera when I was just out of primary school and stashed away in a box somewhere is a collection of badly taken photos which are mostly out of focus. Thankfully I’ve somewhat improved over the years!

It is hard to articulate what I love about photographs and why I find them so precious.  I think it is their ability to capture a moment which may soon be forgotten until that photo is found and then the memories come flooding back.

While a photo may capture merely a second in time; it can remind us of the minutes, days or weeks surrounding it.

As a journalist, I spent a lot of my time working alongside photographers and picked up a few tricks of the trade but I don’t proclaim to be a good photographer mostly because I’ve never taken my camera off AUTO mode.

Despite that I’ve managed to take what I think are some good photos on my travels around Europe.

Brad in Croatia (a total fluke of a photo!).

But with my New York/Vegas trip less than a month away, a flash new Canon 550D SLR camera that my parents gave me and ‘take a photography course’ on my bucket list, it was time to switch off AUTO mode.

My friend Alli gave me a gift voucher towards a full-day SLR camera course for my birthday which is how we ended up at

the State Library on Saturday morning; camera bags over our shoulders and filled with hope that all the buttons and dials would soon make sense.

Our instructor Andrew is a working photographer. He studied photography at the Queensland College of Art, working in a professional photo lab before starting his photography business.

For three hours Andrew took us through the ins and outs of our cameras, trying to explain everything in layman’s terms and always stopping to make sure we understood.

Words such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and depth of field flew back and forward over the table as we asked question after question, taking photos of water bottles and our notebooks.

I’d love to give you some tips and advice, but I’d probably just tell you the wrong this, so instead I’ll share a few of the challenges Andrew set for us, try to explain how I got the shot I did and basically just let you ooh and ahh over my photos!

Our first challenge came in a little nook at South Bank where we encounter both sunshine and shade and where trees, leaves, birds and a lazy lizard became our subjects (pretty handy for a girl who has both a fear of birds and a fear of lizards… I would pretty much shoot and run).

Fingers whizzed over buttons while we tried to work out how to get the best shot … and confusion reigned supreme when the images didn’t work out the way we expected.

“Why is my whole photo black? It’s meant to be that bird standing on the rock next to the water!? This never happened on AUTO!”

Andrew talked me through my photos explaining which were good (a few..hurrah!) and why others hadn’t worked out as I’d hoped and how to get the right light/dark balance.

Next he lined us up along the side of the Goodwill Bridge with the challenge of capturing a cyclist riding past. It sounded easy enough (especially if we could just flick over to AUTO SPORTS mode) but this wasn’t an easy photo; we needed to get the background blurred but the cyclist clear and in focus.

Normally, if you are photographing a fast-moving object (think cars, people running, cyclists, running water) you need a use a fast shutter speed to capture the sharpest image. The one exception to this is when you are panning the camera with the subject which, when done right, enables you to capture the subject sharply and blur the background.

And this is what we were meant to do!

Thankfully there were a few cyclists going past because it wasn’t an easy shot; there were hits and misses for all of us. A tyre here. A blurred cyclist there. And then finally I came close and the cyclist, who failed to remember that ‘heroes wear helmets’, even managed a smile!

Next up came depth of field, which is the amount of distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear in acceptably sharp focus in a photograph.

Larger apertures (smaller f-number) and closer focusing distances produce a shallower depth of field. (Aperture  basically refers to the size of the diaphragm opening inside a camera lens which regulates how much light passes through during exposure. The higher the f-number, the smaller the hole which means less light.)

The photo below uses a large aperture with a fast shutter speed and has a shallow depth of field.

To finish up we headed over to the Wheel of Brisbane so we could continue to test the different looks we could achieve by changing shutter speeds and apertures.

For any Brisbanites looking to brush up on their SLR photography skills, I’d highly recommend Andrew from Learn Photography. Hopefully I can thank him by showing off some awesome photos from New York and Vegas!

The details:
Learn Photographer
What: Full day SLR course, 10am-6.30pm (with an hour for lunch)
Where: State Library of Queensland and South Bank, Brisbane
Cost: $199
Find them:


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