Like any of the UK’s capital cities, Belfast is a great place to learn how to take photos.
This sounds a little banal, considering we all do it almost every day. Like, some people have said that we, humanity, took 1.2 trillion photos in 2017. That’s a photo each, every other day – if everyone took their equal share of photos. As they probably don’t, some people are really taking a lot of photos.
These days, we Instagram, we Snapchat, we send photo messages. This proliferation of images is really quite amazing honestly – particularly considering that the history of photography only stretches back some 150 years. And most of the photos we take – more often than not with a phone, rather than an analogue or digital camera – are full of nothing: a silly face, a new tattoo, a meal. Photographs these days are completely commonplace, totally ubiquitous, and, often enough, barely even registered.
What does it mean then to learn how to take photos? What are the photography skills that you could learn in a photography course? Why would you do it when, almost from birth, kids are now taking photos of themselves on a smartphone, when we’re actually growing up with a camera as a sort of extra limb?
This, really, is a fun question. Because, even in such a world saturated with photos, we know that we can look at a photographic image and think ‘wow!’; we know that we can still be incredibly impressed by the work of a professional photographer, or even that of an amateur. And so photography courses must exist for a reason!
Now let’s look at some of those reasons – and find you a place where you can find photography schools in Belfast.
Take a beautiful photo yourself
Let’s have a think then about what some of those reasons might be. Why would we consider photography lessons or any sort of photography training, when we sort of know-how to photograph stuff from birth (and when it’s as easy as pointing a camera at something and clicking)?
Simply put, it just isn’t that easy, and we’ve been creating some of a straw man. Whilst we use basic photography for documentary purposes, that’s not all it’s about. We know that really.
Most of use photography for mementos, to remember or document a thing, a meal, an event, something fun, something shocking, something criminal.
But those people engaged in professional photography aren’t just documenting at, are they? Those who do portrait photography or wedding photography want to make their subject look their best. Landscape photography and street photography is about capturing – and enhancing or transforming, maybe – the surprising, beautiful, or compelling aspects of a place. Photojournalism usually wants to tell some sort of story, whilst commercial photography aims to sell or market whatever it is being photographed.
The photograph, in these cases, become more important than the thing being photographed – whilst it is the other way around in the way that we usually use photos. You sort of need to notice the photo as a photo; your attention needs to be drawn to that photo.
So whether it is with studio lighting or natural light, whether it is on location or in a photography studio, photographers use various photography techniques – shutter speed, lighting techniques, digital image manipulation – to make the photograph itself as eye-catching or notable as the landscape, place, person, or meal that is its subject.
Obviously, you need to learn this stuff, these different techniques. Good photography rarely comes from a case of ‘point and shoot’. Learning these is precisely what photography workshops are for.
Test your photography skills with a photo class
If you are an amateur photographer, or someone with a general interest in how to shoot nice pictures, it is not always the easiest situation to learn all the skills that you need to keep your interest in photography alive. People get bored. They get stuck in a rut. They don’t have the energy, motivation, or interest in teaching themselves how to use Photoshop, how to adjust to different lighting, or how to find the extraordinary photo.
In the end, all their images look pretty much the same – like an amateur guitarist who just plays the same pieces every time he touches his instrument. And, ultimately, the amateur photographer gets as bored as the guitarist.
This situation doesn’t happen when the guitarist – or the photographer – has a teacher or workshop he regularly attends. With a teacher to support him, or a school to guide him, the student is more compelled to progress, to discover new things, and to work harder at their hobby, art, or whatever it is they call it.
Maybe this is the key role of all private tutors or group hobby sessions generally. They provide the stability and schedule – as well as the inspiration, advice, and opportunity – to make sure that you stay interested in your photography. And to ensure that you get out of – or (even better) never enter – your rut.
And whilst this stuff holds for amateur photographers, for the aspiring professional photographer attending some photography lesson is really just essential. As we said above, if this is you, it is necessary that you learn all the different techniques, skills, and aspects of the camera to ensure that you can produce the best images possible. You ain’t getting anywhere if not.
However, the photography industry – like any commercial industry – is as much about who you know as it is about what you know. And that means connections, networks, contacts. Because these things mean clients, tips, and, ultimately, a living.
These things don’t come, however, through just playing with your Kodak in your room. But by joining a photography class – particularly one at degree level – you can meet a lot of really interesting people too. Whether that’s peers, professors, or people wanting to buy your work, it’s all going to help in the long run.
Belfast is a city that, like any other city in the world, has been photographed almost to smithereens. We recognise Titanic Belfast before we even know what we are looking at. The murals are some of the most photographed political works there are. And the famous images of the Troubles are among the most iconic and painful images of the twentieth century.
Yet, Belfast’s opportunities for photography are not just about tourist snaps and photojournalism. With stunning landscapes, a fantastic food scene, and large international arts and culture festivals (including the Belfast Photo Festival!), you’re more than welcome to take photos of anything you want.
If you decide that, we’ll give you some great opportunities to learn all about photography right here.
As you’ll know, the Belfast School of Art is probably the best art school in Northern Ireland and is up there with the best arts institutions in the UK. As such, it is a great place to be learning photography. If you don’t believe us, ask the British Journal of Photography, who named the school as one of the best institutions for photography in Europe.
The course in photography they offer is an MFA, a Master’s in Fine Arts. Here, you’ll be hobnobbing with industry leaders, whilst developing your already-strong photographic skills.
If you’re not quite at that level, try The Crescent, at the north end of the Queen’s Quarter. Alongside courses in pretty much any other subject you can image, Crescent offer weekly beginner courses in photography.
It’s pretty much all practical, so bring your camera along and be prepared to take lots of photos!
Belfast Exposed call themselves the best photography organisation in Northern Ireland. And we’re not sure we disagree at all.
In terms of the education they provide, they’re pretty much unmatched. From courses in traditional photography to lessons in digital photography and post-production techniques, they cover all the bases that you could want from a photography institution.
You can also do a bespoke course, in which you decide what you learn – one-to-one.
Make the most out of your camera!
At Superprof, meanwhile, we connect enthusiastic students to professional tutors on an individual basis. That means that you can find the tutor that is right for you in exactly the subject you want to be studying.
In Belfast, our photography tutors are based across the area, and they are willing to travel to help you get the best photo.
You’ll get the tuition you need to take your photography to the level at which you want it to be.