a day with jessops academy

a few weeks back i got a very exciting email pop into my inbox; an invitation to a taster session at jessops academy's oxford street classroom. the taster session planned to take the attendees through a variety of camera tips and tricks, as well as help new users through the very basic steps of using their expensive - and probably, scary machines. well, it sounded awesome, right? one small problem; i currently use a point and click... when i'm not taking all of my pictures on my samsung galaxy s4. yes, i'm that blogger. phone camera for the win!

well, i'd explained as much to the folk over at jessops, and rather than the tirade of abuse and ridicule i was expecting from the uk's most professional camera company, they were actually really cool about it, and even offered me the use of a nikon dslr for the day! with a generous offer like that, how could i possibly say no?

i headed off just after lunch on wednesday and made my way to the oxford street store. there i was met by susan from the pr company, and was introduced to the training team for the day; ian, owen, james and vicky, who have a combined photography and camera knowledge of over fifty years. it was safe to say we were in good hands for the day!

after a brief round of introductions and self promotion (and shaming; when asked what type of photography we're into and i explained, ian wrote on the board "selfies". i die), we got onto some of the basics; how to hold your camera (yes, really, you're doing it wrong), basic components of your camera, and generally how it all works together to create an image. it's pretty basic stuff, but... i literally had no idea until that point. it was all very useful for a novice like me! of the attendees, i wasn't the least knowledgeable, which was nice, but there were a few semi-pros there too who probably found this all a bit tiring. in the actual academy courses this wouldn't be the case; they offer a range of courses from stage one beginner right up to professional photography courses, but for the press day it was nice to see that they do consider a wide range of customers.

the one thing i was definitely getting from the trainers was that they were all very passionate about their craft. a lot of them are or were professional photographers themselves, and also had worked in-store with jessops too, so knew a lot about cameras in general (all of them. seriously). for the benefit of the room, everything was explained in relation to our specific device. some were nikon users, some were cannon users, some were old school olympus point-and-click users, and as you can imagine, each camera is different. this could have become very time consuming for the trainers, but they never showed it.

the whole day was about giving us the confidence to use our own piece of kit. the taster session was tailored around giving us an insight into a couple of the courses available to jessops customers, but also about what makes a great picture. as well as detailed training on how to use technical settings like aperture, depth of feild and shutter speed to create visually appealing pictures, we talked about how to "see", and what makes a really great image.

we were taken out onto the streets of soho and asked to put some of the day's training to the test. we played around with shutter speed and tracking to capture some excellent 'in motion' pictures, as well as composition of still photography. i think my favourite part of the day was learning about composition, because even without a fancy camera, this is something that i will be keeping in mind now as i take any kind of photo. hopefully my instagram starts to look more polished after that course! it was really interesting to hear about what it actually takes to make the eye appreciate a photograph. it made me think back to my outing last week to the sony phography awards, and were these things the things i liked about those pictures? hmm.

all in all, it was a great learning experience! i am no closer to buying my own dslr financially, but this session certainly inspired me to kick up the savings a notch. seeing the quality of the images created just by tweaking this or aligning that there was incredible. with the academy courses starting from as little as £39 (with any lens purchase in store), there is certainly a lot of information available to learn, and a wide variety of courses on offer; from dslr level one and city tours to macro, studio and wedding photography, and now even a big cats one in the works, there really is one there to suit all levels and customers.

a massive thanks to jessops academy for having me for the day, and bringing my basic camera knowledge up a peg or two. an even bigger thanks to ian and his training team; it was a bonus that the trainers were so full of personality that we instantly felt at ease, laughing and joking about our selfies, and felt completely comfortable asking them even the most inane of questions. they honestly have the patience of saints.

[update] i should note that you can take these academy courses in your local jessops, not just in central london! ask in store for more details, and, breaking news: jessops want to offer all being Erica readers this very generous offer; special discount on all the £119 courses (csc + bridge, dslr levels 1 + 2 and city tour classes) - book as per the below, and these classes will be reduced to just £79.

1. call 0844 800 4444 and choose option 1 for sales
2. quote the code ACAD40
3. book your course and receive confirmation email
4. have fun and learn lots!
what fab news! what are your camera skills like; do you think you'll book a course?