There is so much more to taking great photos than simply aiming and pressing the shutter release button of your camera.

Whether you need to learn basic photography techniques or already have some experience and wish to turn photography into a career, enlisting the help of the right photography teacher will set you on the path towards achieving your objectives and taking amazing photos.

So, whether it’s digital photography tips for beginners you’re after, or you need help in mastering the latest photo editing software, we’re here to help you choose your perfect instructor.

A suitable tutor will become your secret weapon in becoming the photographer you always wanted to be.

Learn from a Professional

There is a wealth of resources available to help you learn the basics of photography. With the help of digital guides, tutorial videos and other free online tools you are able to take the first steps in your journey towards becoming an expert photographer.

photo gallery
You may wish to one day exhibit your work in a gallery. ⎢Source: Unsplash

However, photography is an art form that not only requires theoretical understanding, but also practical experience and application. An experienced professional photographer can therefore be a great source of guidance; helping you to understand basic concepts such as depth of field, sharpness, negative space, focal length, white balance, and the rule of thirds along with the latest digital tricks and photo editing techniques.

Before starting a course, ask yourself why you really want to learn photography.

Your goal may be one of the following:

  • Exhibiting your photos in a well-known gallery
  • Selling your photographs to online image banks
  • Getting the most out of your DSLR camera and camera equipment
  • Utilising different techniques to discover your artistic style
  • Acquiring a professional photography qualification
  • Moving from amateur to professional status
  • Learning how to photograph a wedding or other large-scale event
  • Refining your image editing skills.
camera placed on harbour wall
A professional photographer may let you shadow him or her on job assignments. ⎢Source: Unsplash

The practical nature of photography means a professional, experienced teacher will be able to help you craft your skills according to your own personal objectives. It is therefore helpful – and important - for your instructor to know what you would like to achieve from your photography lessons in order for them to direct your learning experience accordingly.

What Makes a Tutor the Perfect Match?

When you’re interested in enhancing your knowledge of a subject that you are passionate about and which brings you joy, it is vitally important to choose a teacher who suits your style and whose teaching methods you find stimulating.  If you don’t feel inspired by your instructor, you will very quickly lose the motivation to take photos.

cameras and electronic tablet
Choose a tutor who leaves you inspired to create. ⎢Source: Unsplash

The best mentor for you will be someone who will, not only, help you with shutter speeds and the selection of the best wide angle lenses, but who also has a personality that will complement your own. They should be someone who will allow you to express yourself freely while challenging and motivating you at the same time.

When you have a true connection with your teacher, the rate at which you learn will be elevated, since your teacher will tailor and adapt the training sessions to make them better suited to your learning style.

Is it important to you for your instructor to have a professional certifications?

photographer in snow
A great teacher is passionate about the craft. ⎢Source: Unsplash

Then you should look for a tutor amongst the photographers who boast one of the following formal qualifications:

  • A diploma in Photography
  • A BA in Visual Communication
  • A master’s degree in Visual Arts, Photography or Media Studies.

A diploma or tertiary qualification no doubt attests to the teacher having a strong foundation in the craft, but many of the greatest artists and well-known photographers did not gain acclaim simply by obtaining a degree or diploma. They were driven to success by their passion, a desire for continuous improvement, and an interest in learning photography tips from the experts they themselves admire.

Being aware of what your needs and requirements are will help you narrow down your search and will save you a lot of time. Ensure that you know exactly how much you are willing to pay and how compatible your potential tutor’s schedule is with your own.

Know Your Areas of Interest

Knowing which field of photography you would like to specialise in or which techniques for taking pictures interest you most will save you time in your search for a tutor and ensure that you are learning exactly what you need from a specialist in the genre.

Bear in mind that becoming an expert in a field will take time and a commitment to continuous development. Even professional photographers continue to learn as technology, trends and their own interests evolve.  A photography course is a great starting point, but ensure that you consider your long-term goals as well.

photography studio
Learn about fashion photography in a studio. ⎢Source: Unsplash

Which of these specialisation areas excite you?

  • Fashion Photography
  • Travel Photography
  • Landscape Photography
  • Commercial and Product Photography
  • Wildlife or Nature Photography
  • Wedding or Event Photography
  • Portrait Photography
  • Architectural Photography
  • Fine Art Photography
  • Photojournalism.

Each speciality field comes with its own environment and related challenges. A specialist photographer will therefore introduce you to a range of techniques which you can utilise to overcome environmental obstacles and take shots of a professional quality.

You might learn about aperture priority, exposure compensation, leading lines, long exposure, studio lighting techniques, how framing and composition influence your image, and what the benefits and disadvantages of analogue and digital photography are.

The techniques for taking the best photos differ based on the conditions in your immediate surroundings, and a specialist in the relevant field would be best placed to help you get the most out of your viewfinder and camera lens.

Reach out to Photography Schools or Associations

Tutors come with a wealth of experience and if you are fortunate you might be lucky to find a lecturer from a school or university who agrees to become your private mentor. These lecturers are usually well-versed in topics around the history and development of photography as an art, and can provide you with all the knowledge you require to start out your career.

group of photographers
Choose a course that will help you excel in the field you are most passionate about. ⎢Source: Unsplash

Perhaps current photography or fine arts students are willing to offer photography tutorials for beginners at a very favourable price point. While these students may not yet have made a name for themselves in the industry, they will have a strong artistic foundation that any apprentice could learn and benefit from.

You could also join a photography group or association where people share their passion and study photography as a group learning experience. Social media allows us to be a part of a broader international photography groups, so be sure to check out Facebook or Instagram for groups that might interest you.

These South African photography associations are worth a further look:

South African Professional Photographers (SAPP)

The SAPP is a professional trade body representing South Africans and connecting them to similar associations globally.

Photographic Society of South Africa (PSSA)

The PSSA seeks to promote the science and art of photography in South Africa.

These associations organise master classes or educational sessions at which their members are invited to participate.  There are also plenty of photography groups and clubs that are more city- and region-specific, like the Sandton Photographic Association, the Helderberg Photographic Society and the Johannesburg Photographic Society.

Consider Using Traditional Channels

One of the most effective ways to find a tutor is by word of mouth.  Your group of friends or members of your local photography community might know an instructor they would be happy to recommend.

You could also find your mentor by going to photography exhibitions and asking for the contact details of the featured photographer and other artists who may be in attendance.

a selection of photos
Use every available channel to help you improve your photography skills. ⎢Source: Unsplash

If you cannot find a teacher via your network or connections you could try advertising in the classified section of your local newspaper or a creative magazine or even on notice boards in public areas like community centres. You might think that using traditional media is an out-of-date practice, but posting a classified advertisement can be a practical way to let people know that you a searching for a photography tutor.

Sign-Up for Online Lessons

We live in an exciting time where online studies make learning more affordable, accessible and convenient. So, if you’re struggling to find a teacher in your neighbourhood, why not consider taking lessons via webcam?

Whether you live in Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg or Dullstroom, using a tutoring platform which gives you access to photographers based locally and abroad could be a great way for you to improve your camera skills.

camera and laptop
Your photography guru may be just a few clicks away. ⎢Source: Unsplash

If you are hesitant about making a selection, platforms like Superprof help you achieve a level of reassurance in your potential tutor’s abilities by giving you access to reviews written by their current and former students. This will allow you to assess whether or not the teacher in question has the right skills and employs the training methodology you are looking for.

The average cost of one hour of lessons via webcam with a Superprof tutor is R260.

So, what are you waiting for? Contact your photography tutor today, grab your tripod, adjust those camera settings and prepare to capture some amazing images.

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A South African in France who loves to travel and discover new cultures, is passionate about photography, and who is happiest near the ocean.