Monday, 20 February 2017

Photography Basics & Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR Specialisation

Back in January 2016, I enrolled in a Coursera Photography Specialisation run by two Professors based at Michigan State University. It was the first {& so far only} photography course I'd ever taken & I thought I'd share my experience of the course & what it entailed.

In its entirety, the Specialisation ran from February to September. But there are new start dates every month or so. The course was brand new to Coursera when I took it, so I was among the very first to complete it.

The Specialisation was split into 5 separate courses:

Course One: Cameras, Exposure & Photography
  • Week 1: Basic Principles of Photography.
  • Week 2: Camera capabilities: differences and similarities
  • Week 3: Setting up yourself and your digital camera: Menus, Settings, and baggage!
  • Week 4: Picture Decisions: The Vantage Point and Frame

Course Two: Camera Control
  • Week 1: Elements of Camera Control 1.0: Exposure
  • Week 2: Elements of Camera Control 2.0: The Lens
  • Week 3: Elements of Camera Control 3.0: Depth of Field
  • Week 4: Picture Decisions

Course 2 Week 3: Shallow Depth of Field Assignment

Course Three: Principle of Photo Composition and Digital Image Post-Production
  • Week 1: Elements of Design: Building Blocks of Composition
  • Week 2: Composition means putting the Elements of Design together!
  • Week 3: Photo Editing Fundamentals 1.0: "Workflow," from Exposure through Adobe™ Lightroom™
  • Week 4: Photo Editing Fundamentals 2.0: SmartPhone Apps

Course 3 Week 2: "The Onlooker" Asymmetry Assignment

Course Four: Photography Techniques: Light, Content and Sharing
  • Week 1: The Content of a Photograph
  • Week 2: Light Fundamentals 1.0: People, Places, Things under Ambient Light
  • Week 3: Light Fundamentals 2.0: People, Places, Things under Controlled Light
  • Week 4: Finishing Pictures: Options for Showing and Sharing

Course 4, Week 1: "Portrait en Creux" Assignment

Course Five: Photography Capstone Project
  • Week 1: Defining and Launching your Capstone Project
  • Week 2: Learning from others
  • Week 3: Learning more about critically analysing
  • Week 4: Mid-Term review time!
  • Week 5: Getting ready to be ready to finish your project!
  • Week 6: Inspiration and Perspiration!
  • Week 7: Reveal the Capstone Projects!
  • Week 8: Review, Reflect, and Go Beyond!

Stroll Down The Promenade Capstone Project - "Sculptural Views"

Each course caters for smartphone & DSLR users so even if you don't own a proper camera, you can still take & complete the course. The only stipulation is that you complete & pass the first four courses to qualify for the final course where you put together your own project. The specialisation is done in video form, so you watch the videos, take notes {if you want} & complete a review test, which you need a certain score to pass. Most week's you also have a photography assignment to complete, based on what you have learnt that week. There are given deadlines to keep you on track but you are given 2 months to complete each course. One advantage to this course is that everything is online & you have access to all four of the weeks of the course you're on, so you can, if you want or need to, get ahead.

The only thing you have to be aware of when getting really far ahead, is that the assignment grades are done on a peer review basis. This means that the people taking the course with you {from anywhere in the world} have to review your photograph & accompanying statement. Depending on how your peers score your work, depends on your grade for the week & you need a certain percentage to pass each assignment. You are required to do the same for your fellow learners & have a number of reviews you must complete. You're given a certain number to do but you can do more if you want & have the time too. So if you're ahead, then you may have to wait longer for your grades & there might not be as many assignments for you to review either.

There's a number of lessons about how to critique photographs, these not only help you when reviewing other people's work but I found it makes me look at photographs in general in a different way, picking up on the detail in a shot & not just the photo as a whole. It also helps you to look at your own shots in a similar way.

Stroll Down The Promenade Capstone Project: "99 Lakeland Hills"

So from February through July, I worked my way through & completed the first four courses! To say I was proud of myself was huge understatement! This meant I'd qualified for the final course, the Capstone Photography Project, which is focused on a personal project & how to put a project together successfully. My hometown was my chosen subject & I enjoyed the entire process of working on it; from the planning, to taking the shots & writing up the "Gallery Statement". It was such a great experience & one that will help me as I begin to start other projects.

For those of us that completed the entire course, my fabulous Professors put together an exhibition consisting of one photograph from each learners project. The exhibition was held at the Kresge Art Centre at Michigan State University from the 21st November to the 9th December 2016. The exhibition will also be shown at the Coursera Convention that my Professors will be attending in March. They're also hoping that the exhibition will then be able to be sent & put on display any where in the world. It's absolutely mind blowing to think that one of my photographs could be travelling the world & put on display for all to see!

Stroll Down The Promenade Capstone Project - "Sea Through The Frame"
This photograph was on display at the Kresge Art Centre, MSU 21/11 - 09/12
So overall, I really do recommend this course to anyone interested in Photography. It was such a great experience & has greatly benefited my photography. I'm much more confident with my camera now. I was one of those "stay in Auto" mode photographers but this course has given me the push to play around with my settings more & be more creative when taking photos. It's also made me realise that I'd like to try & make a living from photography in the future.

If you'd like to have a look at my Capstone Photography Project, "Stroll Down The Promenade" in full, then you can find on my portfolio here: Stroll Down The Promenade Project
Please feel free to have a nosey at the other Galleries I have set up on there; some need tweaking & updating but let me know what you think. There may also be prints for sale of some them in the future.

Happy Snapping!


Monday, 13 February 2017

Bird Photography

In my last post, I mentioned photographing wildlife in your back Garden & included Birds within that. However, since Birds are the main type of wildlife that I photograph (though my cats can be pretty wild at times!) & are a great starting subject if Wildlife photography is something you want to pursue further, I thought I'd write a little separate post on Bird photography. Although, I'm definitely not an expert, I thought I'd share a few little tips that help you get started...
So first things first, you need to have Birds visiting your garden!
Tip One: Feed them, if you're not already. This will encourage them into your garden, giving you more opportunities to photograph them. Bird feeders with seeds or fat balls in them seem to go down well for most Birds. Also meal worms & apples cut in half on the ground will encourage ground feeding birds, like Blackbirds to come to your garden.

ISO: 200 Aperture: f/5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/500s Focal Length: 300mm

Tip Two: Be Patient & Don't Give Up! Getting a good shot can be difficult, especially with small garden birds as they move incredibly fast! This type of photography will give you the chance to play with your shutter speed settings helping you learn how to freeze motion or capture a creative blur to show how speedy these birds can be! So keep at it, your efforts will be rewarded.

ISO: 200 Aperture: f/5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/2000s Focal Length: 220mm

ISO: 220 Aperture: f/5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/500s Focal Length: 300mm

Tip Three: Set Your Camera Up First! (This one can be applied to every time to head out with your camera) It can be so frustrating when you see your shot, sort your camera settings out, go to take a shot, only to see the bird fly off before you've hit the shutter! To help avoid this, before you even think about your first shot, sort your settings out. Adjust your ISO & white balance, you can also set a corresponding Aperture & Shutter Speed but these two will change once you begin to take photographs, especially if you're after a freeze motion type of capture. I usually shoot using Program mode in the garden, which means I can set the ISO & then my camera adjusts the Aperture & Shutter Speed itself. This just means I can concentrate a bit more on the composition & creating the shot I want instead of bothering with settings.
Tip Four: Always Have Your Camera With You. As most amateurs or Pros, we photographers will usually grab our camera as we head out the door just in case we see something that inspires us & we want to capture the moment. Yet, when we decide to simply go & sit in the garden, often the camera is left in the house. I'm speaking from experience & had a number of occasions of running back into the house to get my camera & by the time I've come back, whatever I wanted to capture has gone. So get into the habit of having your camera with you even if your staying around your home & in your garden. You never know when a Bird might arrive in the garden while you're there & without your camera, it'll be a disappointing missed shot because you can guarantee the moment you try to move to get your camera, the Bird will have flown off!

ISO: 500 Aperture: f/5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/500s Focal Length: 300mm

I think that's all the "wisdom" I can offer when it comes to Bird Photography, I did say I wasn't an expert! I'm sure there's many more of you that know much more about this than me, so feel free to share any tips you may have regarding Bird Photography.
So if you've never tried photographing Birds, why not give it a try.
Happy Snapping!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Back Garden Photography

I was on Instagram, scrolling through my feed, seeing all these amazing shots of far off places, wishing I could be there. Then every now & then, I'd come across a shot of a flower or a bird in someone's back garden & those shots are as powerful & amazing as all the others!

This started me thinking: Most of the photographs I've taken have been in my back garden & of the birds that come to visit.

Now I'm sure as amateur or pro photographers, we all want to travel to exotic or spectacular locations because a great location to shoot in should usually inspire us & help us to capture some great shots. I know I do! However, some of the most inspiring places to shoot can often be our own back garden or local area & by utilising the resources & locations on your very doorstep, you can hone your creativity & skill as a photographer.  So when you do find yourself in that far off place, you'll be more likely to get that amazing shot because you've already been practising & honing your craft before you get there.

There are plenty of different types of photography that you can practise within your back garden & I thought I'd list a few to hopefully inspire anyone out there that might be struggling to find something to shoot or not sure where to start if they're wanting to try a type of photography:


Garden photography lends itself nicely to practising Macro shots. If you own a Macro lens (Micro Nikkor if you use Nikon), then you can get up close & personal with the flowers, trees & insects in your garden. If you don't have a Macro lens, you can either have a play with seeing how close you can get your camera to focus on your chosen subject, or I remember reading an article that said to turn your lens round & shoot through the back (the part that sits in your camera) as this apparently will do the same thing as a Macro lens (I haven't tried it though). I'm sure you can also get a mount that will fix the lens to your camera this way round so you don't have to worry about letting any extra light onto the sensor, resulting in an over exposed shot.

ISO: 450 Aperture: f/3.3 Shutter Speed: 1/100s Focal Length: 60mm

Depending on the area you live in, will depend on what type of wildlife you'll have the opportunity to photograph. I'm very blessed to live in a fairly quiet area that's flourishing with a few different types of birds. My garden is also a haven for a number of different insects, such as Bees. Plus, I also have a small wildlife pond in the garden, which is home to a few frogs that are happy to be photographed while they're sunbathing!

ISO:250 Aperture: f/5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/500s Focal Length: 300mm
Photographing Wildlife isn't without its challenges & I've found that it has really helped me to learn patience & also become a little quicker at picking up my camera. It's also helped me quicken my lens changes too, since you can guarantee a bird will arrive either on the fence, a rooftop or even join me in the garden when I've just put my kit lens back on my camera & I have to change back to telephoto lens! Of course, you don't have to use a telephoto lens but I find it helps get some nice close up shots without trying to get too close & resulting in the bird flying away before I've taken my shot.

ISO: 1100 Aperture: f/5.3 Shutter Speed: 1/400s Focal Length: 240mm
Flower, Plant & Tree Photography:

This is probably the most obvious as everyone, no matter how small or large their garden, is likely to have plant life of some description in their garden or in their home if they don't have a garden. As mentioned above, these are a good way to practise Macro Photography, but they're also a great subject to help you become more familiar with your camera settings & becoming more creative with your shots. They are a nice still subject (unless its windy, then if you don't want blur, you may need to change your focus mode to Continuous-servo) so you could maybe have a go at creative blur by slowing down your shutter speed & moving your camera. Another thing I love to do is to playing with the Exposure Value, to either darker or brighten a shot. I especially love to do this when shooting in Monochrome. Try lowering the exposure value by a stop or two & see how your shots look.

ISO: 200 Aperture: f/9 Shutter Speed: 1/320s Focal Length: 55mm Exposure Value: -2

ISO: 200 Aperture: f/5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/40s Focal Length: 300mm Exposure Value: -1.7

Well, that's just a few types of Photography that you can begin practising right in your very own back garden! Utilising the subjects in my back garden has done wonders for my photography & allowed me to keep taking photographs even on days when I can't get out anywhere else. So all that's left is for you to get out in your back garden & see what amazing shots you can make!

If you'd like to check out more my garden photography, then feel free to have a browse & follow my Instagram Account: @l.e.sphotography

Happy Snapping!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


My name is Louise Shepherd, I'm an Amateur Photographer & I'm based in the tiny Village/Town of Heysham, located in the North West Region of Lancashire in the United Kingdom.

I've decided to create this little space to explore my love of photography more as
I've always been fascinated by cameras & photographs. As a small child, I have memories of being surrounded by my parents photograph albums & spending hours looking through them. Amongst the many family photo's is a photograph of myself, camera in hand so I guess being behind the camera taking photographs is something I've done from an early age.

For a long time it's been one of my causal hobbies but I am now beginning to take it a bit more seriously. I've recently completed my first Photography Course through Michigan State University via the Coursera Website which has really helped increase my photography knowledge & also boosted my overall confidence when taking photographs.

I love the whole process from capturing a moment to then spending time editing & playing with the colour on my laptop to enhance the photograph, but only if it's needed of course. Sometimes the best pictures are the ones in their natural unedited state.

I usually keep my main camera, a Nikon D3200, to hand as I never know when I might want to capture my surroundings or a moment in time. I currently have four lenses that I swap between, a 18-50mm, 55-300mm, a Micro 60mm & a 35mm Prime. To find out what else is in my kit bag, feel free to have a nosy at the Camera Kit page on here.

If you'd like to have a look some of the photographs I've taken over the past few years, then please feel free to head over to my Crevado portfolio: L.E.S Photography Portfolio Included there is my first Photography Project "Stroll Down the Promenade."

My hopes with this little place is to document a few of the "adventures" I get up to with my camera whether that's when I go & about, when I'm around the house or in my garden. I'm also going to try & document the process of working towards starting my own photography business.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below & I'll be happy to reply.

Happy Snapping,