About

Four ways you can find out about me and my photography:

  1. Look at my photographs
  2. Read what people say about me and how I teach and practise photography
  3. Read my photography blog
  4. Read the rest of this page

db-73555_edit-2Before I arrived in Australia—that was in July 2012—as well as earning a real, pay-the-bills living, I led photography workshops in places like the English Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, the Scottish Highlands, the Northumberland and Yorkshire coasts, and the Brecon Beacons. I developed photography workshops for HF Holidays, and I taught adult education photography for Cumbria County Council.

Getty Images, the world’s biggest stock photography agency, likes my photographs. Click here to see some of my work that they have selected for licensing. But, if you think that being a Getty contributor is a good way to dispense with your day job, read this. [Update: I am in the process of resigning from Getty. This is because of the way they are treating photographers and their work, specifically opening up all of their images for free use on just about all social media. Details here.]

What qualifies me to teach photography?

I am a fully qualified teacher and, until I left the UK, I was a member of the adult education-orientated Institute for Learning, which required me to provide evidence of continuing professional development. I taught adult education photography classes. Government funding for the latter meant my teaching was regularly inspected to ensure quality and value for taxpayers’ money. My last inspection report was rather good. You can read it here if you are interested. (largish PDF file)

In April 2013 I began leading Melbourne-based photography workshops and landscape photography workshops further afield.

Amateur or professional?

By some definitions, and at some point in time, I became a “professional photographer”. But, recently, because I wanted to enjoy and spend more “quality time” with my photography, I decided to [re]affirm my amateur status. By the way, if you think “professional photographer” is better or sounds more impressive than “amateur photographer”, I would urge you to read this and then, in case you missed the earlier link, this blog post.

My photography journey

Geeky confession: it did all start with gear, but I have—he protests too much—gotten over that.

At the age of eight, my first camera was one of those boxy Kodak 126-format Instamatics, which, I’ve convinced myself, I remember finding very limiting. That affair was soon superseded by the first of a succession of second-hand SLRs—Minoltas and a few prime lenses to begin with. I shot in manual mode—fastidiously scribbling notes next to frame numbers so I could complete the feedback loop when my images came back from the lab—sufficient reason to cherish the immediate feedback on modern digital cameras.

Today, most of my camera gear is professional-grade Nikon. Currently a D800E, the usual “holy trinity” lens suspects, a couple of tilt-shifts lenses, a few primes to keep me moving my feet, and neutral density filters to help deliver as much as possible on the “get it right in camera” mantra.

About ten years ago, people began paying me to take photographs and to teach them about their cameras and photography. I began leading photography classes in 2006. I started developing and leading photography holidays the following year.

Philosophy

With a sub-heading like that, there’s a danger of descent into artsy pretentiousness. But I have to say, in spite of my he-doesn’t-take-himself-to-seriously self image, I do see photography as an art form. Yes, art not craft. The craft of photography is the technical stuff, which is necessary but not sufficient for inspiring images and sustained enjoyment.

Here’s my take on the truism:

“A good photograph is a photograph that provokes an emotional response.”

Agreed. But I’ll qualify that by insisting that an emotional response from the photographer alone can be enough. It is good and sometimes—and only sometimes!—financially rewarding if other viewers are similarly moved.

My heart sinks when photography-savvy peers or other people talk first about an image’s sharpness or subject positioning. Worse still, they commend its use of the “rule” of thirds, or some other photographic convention instead of describing how it makes them feel. But I don’t say this to be superior. That way of appreciating photographs is passed onto new photographers mostly by photography teachers like me!

It’s not just about light!

It is not only photography rule reductionism that we inflict on upcoming photographers. We are always going on about The Light. “It’s all about the light!” we insist.

No it isn’t.

Remember that some of the most impactful images that you have seen could be described as poorly exposed or were captured in flat, less than inspiring light.

If I can’t persuade my students to put away their thousands-of-dollars-worth of camera gear, and to walk around with only a cardboard viewfinder for a while, I ask them, at least for a day or two, don’t “look for interesting light before you look for interesting subject matter.” Look for story and feeling. If you can, of course, wait for or create great light—that’s how I spend invest a lot of my time! The subject is usually the baby, not the bathwater!

Remember something else: if you are the artist, you decide.

What about those photography “rules”?

I teach compositional conventions, of course I do: rule of thirds, balance, tension, leading lines, recession and the rest. But only so we can make intelligent choices about using or avoiding their sometimes helpful but often “by the numbers” results.

There’s more, but I think its about time we went and made some photographs …

Images, insights and photography workshops by David Barrett