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My name is Graeme and I run Blank Slate Creative; a local business that offers photo and video services. I started out as a hobbyist but found myself drawn in deeper and deeper, it’s an addictive but fun hobby!

Enjoyment is the key point. What can you see, how can you capture it? And then the obsession follows. I’m always in pursuit of the perfect image, regardless of how I get it, be it danger, debt, upsetting someone who didn’t want their photo taken, travelling endless miles to get to that special place or just plain old endless hours waiting for something to happen.

In truth, I love and sometimes hate photography. It’s a creative outlet that distracts me from my inner demons but it’s also become an obsession, maybe a burden and a frustration at times. I need to shoot!

Since my early 20s I’ve owned one camera or another as digital cameras became the must-have item. But it wasn’t until I was 28 when I really found my love for it. That was when I quit my day job and went off backpacking. To me, that was the best place to learn; on the road I had all the time in the world. I believe you should learn by doing. Photography can be taught in the classroom but you need to find your way organically. Technology can help but I’d really recommend starting with something utterly basic. The Auto function can be awful at times but that is something you need to discover for yourself. Find out why it’s not always reliable, review those photos and decide how they could be better. Then you can take it to the next step; manual mode.

Photography can be taught in the classroom but you need to find your way organically

My first ‘decent’ camera was a Canon Powershot. Nothing fancy, but it opened the door to creative possibilities. I’d spend hours wandering around the cities I visited snapping away. I’d walk miles for days on end utterly engrossed in finding things to photograph.

It’s about capturing something; a moment, a memory. Someone once told me that you’ll take at least 100,000 photos before you start to get results. Up until then, it’s just practice. That is true for a lot of us, I’m a latecomer to photography and have had to learn the only way I know. Learn by doing, which includes lots of mistakes!

Inspiration is also key. Look at other people’s work, find something you connect with. Today photography is much more accessible. Camera phones and Instagram are a great way to start out. Learn the basics; get feedback and inspiration from other Instagrammers. But try to find your own style. It’s not about filters or garish editing, it’s about your interpretation of the imagery.

It’s tempting to throw yourself in the deep end with expensive gear when you start out. I’d say resist! Learn how to work around lens or camera flaws. That way you’ll appreciate it more when you get that high-end equipment. It will prepare you for any eventuality in a working scenario and it’ll give you extra confidence that you can cope with bad lighting or imperfect conditions. If I can shoot with a £50 lens and get results I can capture anything.

My gear tips would be to buy camera bodies new and lenses second-hand. A good lens will outlive you. The brand is fairly irrelevant these days with similar specs across the manufacturers and no real innovation (with exception of Sony who have come back from the dead with some outstanding mirrorless cameras). For me usability is the most important factor; the functions, button locations and software should be suited to your preferences as you’ll be using muscle memory to function your camera. Learn how to use it without looking at the buttons, use it by touch only.

Oh, and one last thing. Photoshop and Lightroom skills are essential. Bite the bullet and learn it. You don’t have to be an expert, simple things such as colour tweaks and levels can rescue an image from mundanity. It’s all about optimising the image you have. There are some brilliant tutorials on YouTube, it’s intimidating at first but you’ll find it ultimately rewarding when it brings extra life to your photos in post-production.

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