Who needs a photo education anyway?

Is it really worth paying to learn to be a better photographer?

”Sixteen hundred kroner!”

So cried the partner of one my clients recently when she found out what he was paying me to teach him.

More than once this week the conversation has turned towards education. Does a photographer need one? If so, what kind and for how long?

Even as I write this, one of my colleagues (new assistant David) is applying to go to University to study fashion photography.

Unbeknown to me, he was already contemplating the idea when I boldly claimed, “You don’t need much of a photo education to work in this industry.” It’s possible my words were taken out of context, as what I meant was, learning how to take a great picture is just a small part of the job. Time-keeping, accountancy and negotiation skills are all equally important factors that a Uni Professor probably won’t teach you.

The most recent conversation along these lines took place between myself and a Private Photography Workshop client called Stuart. Like me, Stuart is from the UK but calls Copenhagen his home. And this was our second workshop together in recent weeks.


I get plenty of return-customers, but Stuart is different. He contacted me within hours of the first workshop ending and asked to book a second. Furthermore he even went and bought an expensive lens that I recommended to him. This behaviour is rare, and most welcome!

Sadly the lens didn’t arrive in time for our next session, so we turned our attention instead to Adobe Lightroom. Stuart wanted to learn some basic yet powerful editing skills – something I encourage ALL workshop attendees to get a grip with.

You see, taking a well-composed, tight, bright and not-shite photo is just the start. You’ve got to put your mark on it somehow; make it better than 99% of the crap out there on Facebook.

When I ask people what they do with their images after they’ve switched off the camera, most of them reply, “Nothing.” In other words, those images get buried somewhere on a hard drive, never to be seen again.

What a shame!

Sitting down with Stuart, my first goal was to choose an image to work on. Stuart is fortunate enough to live right by Copenhagen Harbour and therefore has plenty of opportunities to photograph the comings-and-goings of people and boats, and the mixture of old and new architecture.

Going through his images I found a bog-standard pic taken at night through his bedroom window. It showed the orange-roofed theatre, Inner-Harbour Bridge (Copenhagen’s most up to date (and controversial) bridge), and a long exposure of a ship passing slowly underneath.

As far as editing was concerned Stuart had done absolutely none, so we started there.

Over the next few minutes we cropped the image, adjusted the exposure (whilst removing any Noise Reduction at the same time) and played around with the colour a fair bit. I wanted to help make the orange roof stand out, and as we all know, blue is the opposite colour. You did know that, right?

After a bit of sharpening here and there and a touch of clarity, the picture was totally different and ready to be shown. Here’s a before and after.



The point here is that it doesn’t take much to make a photo really stand out and look presentable. It’s estimated that up to 1.2 Trillion photos will be taken in 2017 – a staggering number. But how many of these will be worth looking at? Make sure some of yours do.

The reward for me after showing Stuart these simple techniques was simple satisfaction. Stuart doesn’t work as a pro photographer, but his work takes him to some interesting places alongside talented sportsmen and women.

Hopefully he’s now in a better position to start taking semi-professional images of them that could start to pay off financially. Surely his partner can dig that?

For more info regarding my Adobe Lightroom workshops, take a look at http://www.shootingcopenhagen.com/wp/adobe-lightroom-workshops/

This blog post originally appeared on www.photographybymatthewjames.com