Jessops Training Academy Beginners Digital SLR Skills Course Review

Daniel Bell attends the beginners Digital SLR skills course from the Jessops Training Academy.

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On Saturday I was given the opportunity to attend a one-day photography course offered by Jessops Training Academy, specifically the beginners digital SLR skills course with Gary Wolstenholme. The course was held at The Met Hotel in Leeds running from 10am till 4pm. As a relative newcomer to photography myself, this seemed like an ideal opportunity to boost my DSLR knowledge.

An example using a large aperture.
For this particular course, there were seven attendees, but there are a total of 15 places available. Firstly, Gary went around the group and asked us to introduce ourselves and tell him what they were hoping to get out the course. The aim was to help Gary tailor the course more towards our individual needs, rather than just present it as a standard course. I found that many of the attendees had bought a camera, but were stuck using them in auto mode and didn't know what to do next.

The course took a close look at the following subjects:
  • Aperture
  • Shutter speed
  • Exposure Control
  • White Balance
  • ISO
  • Composition
  • Choice of lens
  • Filters
  • Flash
  • Accessories
  • Cleaning and maintenance
  • Raw or JPEG
Wherever possible, we were asked to shoot an example image to illustrate the points which had been covered, although this was very useful and allowed for some one-to-one tuition, I found that I was easily bored while waiting for the whole group to have their turn and I imagine this would have been quite tedious had every place on the course been taken, although I understand the tutor would have done things differently had the course been at maximum capacity to compensate for this. Nevertheless, having the one-to-one time was invaluable and worth some patience.

Using a slow shutter speed I was able to blur the motion of the water.
The course was taught using a powerpoint presentation, I was impressed as it wasn't a standard Jessops Training Academy presentation, but one that Gary had put together himself, and all the pictures used were shot by Gary himself. Overall, the course had a very relaxed and informal feel to it which I enjoyed and by the end everyone was friendly enough to help each other where possible.

We had covered the course material by just after 3pm, so Gary suggested we have a walk round Leeds for the remaining time, where we could put our new skills into practice. The Met Hotel was only a short walk from Leeds City Square, where there are several statues and small water fountains. Many of the group were quickly snapping away, using the ability to change the shutter speed to capture the water flowing from the fountains. Getting out and about was extemely beneficial to all the members, especially as the light in the hotel had been quite poor and was difficult to take decent pictures.

The fee for the course does not include lunch, although we did stop for 45 minutes to get a sandwich and there was ample tea, coffee and cookies to keep us going throughout the day.

Overall, I would recommend the course to any newcomers to DSLR photography and I am now keen to take a look at the intermediate level. The beginners course is priced at £109, there are other courses including intermediate (£119) and advanced digital SLR skills (prices vary dependent upon each course), as well as courses tailored towards Canon, Nikon and Sony users. For more information, or to book a course, please visit the Jessops Training Academy website.
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