Barret & Coe training session 1

So, Sunday was the first of seven days of training on my portrait photography course with Barret & Coe, and it went quite well.  This day was held in the delightful town of Ware, north of London, which meant leaving my home at 8 o’clock in the morning, quite early for me on a Sunday, fortunately, being Sunday the traffic was light.  Ware is a really picturesque little town, which I found out because I got lost finding the hotel where the training was being held.

They run two courses at the same time, one is a portrait course and the other a wedding course, so there were about twenty delegates at the hotel.  I talked to quite a few, and there was a broad spectrum of photgraphic knowledge and business acumen amongst us students.  The first session was about the history of Barrett and Coe, the trainers, and the success of the training, then after coffee we got into the nitty gritty of portrait photography.  This part of the training seems to be about locking down a fool proof way of capturing good portraits.  So we covered lighting and posing.  We covered it in about 45 minutes, well the theory any way.  I am not going into what they taught us, because if you want to know, you pay for the course, the same as I did 🙂 

In the afternoon, after a nice lunch of chilli con carne, we got into some practical stuff, with explanations of why you had to have the kit they state in their bumf.  At the start I was a bit sceptical about their equipment needs, for example a tripod.  Yes I have a tripod or two, but do I need it for portrait photography?  Hell no, if I hold the camera in my hands, I can quickly changed the shooting angle or distance, make small adjustments easily, be free in my movements.  However, my method does have a couple of downfalls; firstly, you are putting the camera between you and the sitter, and most sitters aren’t comfortable at being photographed.  By having the camera on a tripod, you can hide it behind your body just revealing it at the time you expose the shot, which puts the sitter at ease, and allows you to build a rapport with the sitter. The second issue, is around the training model, which is to master the basics, first before becoming creative with your shots, so for instance if you are doing a head shot the camera need to be a few inches higher than the top of a sitter’s head, so, if that is the height you need, why, then move around?  Once you have your lights set up and your sitter placed.  There is only one place to take the photo from, depending on the kind of portrait there is only one height for the camera to be at, so fix it on a tripod! 

At the end of the first day they have sent us away with some homework to do; which means I have to bully some people to be subjects for my photography,  which could be interesting.  I have a couple of ideas at the moment, and I will let you know how these pan out.

One thing that surprised me, given the price of the course, was that there was more than one person on the course, who didn’t know how to make basic adjustments on their camera, such as how to set the camera to manual and adjust the exposure; yeah, I know that I used to be like that before; but surely, if you are joining a course that aims to turn you into a professional photographer (someone who makes money from photography), surely that person would want to know the basic controls of their tools?

The main thing for me, at the moment, is it is rebuilding my motivation to go out and photograph people, and I am enjoying the course.

After the first seminar, I had to leave sharply to get myself to Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to Belgium, where I am working this week, and, yes, the Belgium beer is rather nice.


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