My recent interview with the wonderful wedding photographer Emma Weiss seriously got me thinking about my own photography. Although my background is Fine Art and Photography – pre-digital and completely manual – somewhere along the way I decided to become a journalist, then editor, instead.
Throughout my 12+ year career writing about hair, beauty, travel and other fun things, I’ve spent a lot of time – and money – drooling over the work of many a photographer, from fashion icons such as Patrick Demarchelier and Gilles Bensimon, to photographic artists such as David LaChapelle, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin and Lorna Simpson.
Photography’s always been a major love of mine, but aside from doing a couple of editorial shoots, I decided to leave it alone as I built my journalistic career. Years later, prior to interviewing Emma, I had invested in a semi-decent camera that would at least help me prove if I was serious about photography, rather than shelling out a few grand on something that I wasn’t prepared to commit to.
Although I loved the act of taking pictures, it was clear that the digital age – something that I’ll admit I was a little snobbish about – had passed me by and I needed to start learning again, from scratch.
First, I did a couple of one-day workshops with Jessops; thanks to some very chilled tutors, I learned how to get to know my ‘new’ camera, and also learned to just start playing again. I soon became tempted to spend a lot more on my kit, but I was still cautious. In my interview with Emma, I asked her abut who inspired her, and a name that kept coming up was Ben Sasso.
I checked out Ben’s site and couldn’t believe the amount of free education he offers. Even if you don’t want to spend a single penny on Ben’s advice and expertise, I challenge you not to learn a ton from his free lighting class or even just his blog posts, where he often breaks down how he got a certain shot and what happens in the editing room, i.e. the Adobe Lightroom app.
I told myself that after pay-day I would invest $200 (about €180 or £153) in Ben’s Editing + Consistency self-paced workshop, a course that listed eight videos broken down into specific sections, but you actually get a little more, as Ben throws in a super useful Mobile Editing video and also an extra video on shooting in hard light. What you end up with is over two hours of solid advice and teaching, as Ben guides you through his own processes to produce his imagery – mostly wedding imagery but whatever your chosen area, it’s well worth watching. In all I split the videos into three days, as I found that once I got into a video I would a) want to start playing with my pre-existing images in Lightroom and b) I would want to shoot a whole lot more, just so I could experiment with his advice in the street and at my laptop.
First up, there’s Shooting for consistency (around 12 mins).
This was the video that really took me by surprise. As someone who just loves photography, all types, I was initially a tad put off when Ben started to talk about the importance of developing a style. But the more he broke it down, the more it made sense, particularly if you want to get paid for your work. Without giving you the whole workshop, the main gist of this section is; consistency gains trust. A potential client will book you based on your style, and if your style is up and down how will they know which ‘you’ will turn up on the day?
Then Ben moves on to the larger Editing and Retouching section, which is broken down into several parts. He makes things seem so simple that I find myself wondering: surely it must be more difficult than this? But it isn’t! One thing I’d advise though: take notes. Whether it’s in iNotes or with pen and paper, note down the bits that are interesting or important to you so that you can refer to them later.
Here’s a mini breakdown of the rest of the course:
Presets (Around 18.5 mins)
Ben discusses the time-saving capabilities of using presets in the developing stage, including his own, very clean and fresh preset – which he also throws in for you to play with.
Light + Colour (Around 33.5 mins)
This is the part where I’d suggest getting your coffee ready and just absorb, absorb – and take notes! I took a ton of notes here on creating various film effects, such as how a Fuji look differs to Kodak, etc. It was great fun to play around with Ben’s own favourites as well as think about what mine might be. The best thing about this section is; if you’ve had Lightroom on your laptop forever but only ever use one single developing tool, Ben will talk you through just about all of them.
Backlighting (Around 4 mins)
Style (15 mins)
Hard light ( 11mins with an additional 6 later)
Retouching (24 mins)
Again, another brain-melting section, but in a good way. I just finished this today and am so excited to play with retouching, especially when there’s such a lot of BAD retouching going on! I think I’ve always thought that any kind of retouching is inherently bad, so this opened my eyes a lot to merely enhancing or improving a shot, or a face, without making it look unrecognisable.
Adding grain (2 mins)
I didn’t watch this one as it involves an app I’m unfamiliar with, but I’ll come back to it for sure.
There’s also a Mobile Editing section (11 mins) which is really cool, and will probably mean you end up installing a couple of extra apps on your phone. Ben’s faves include VSCO (my fave for a while now) and also 645 Pro and Retouch (or Touch Retouch if you’re looking through the Apple app store). Interestingly, Ben uses VSCO as an editing app, rather than using it to take photographs. I’ll leave it there for now, but honestly, it’s just very cool. (I know, I already said that.)
I was going to skip the last little video (barely over a minute long) but it’s all about why Ben started sharing his knowledge. He knows how uncool it can be when you take a chance on contacting someone who inspires you or whom you admire, only to get nada in return, so I love how he’s passing the knowledge on.
If you’re thinking about upping your game in photography, I strongly suggest that you download this course. Once you’ve bought it, you can watch the videos as many times as you like!
For more information, check out Ben’s full site here