“Why does it take 3 years to learn how to press a button?”

 “Why does it take 3 years to learn how to press a button?”

Sadly, this a Frequently Asked Question when I explain my photographic training, and a reflection of current perception. Photography has become just pressing a button.

A camera is a magic little box of creativity once you peer inside.

We have all experienced that magical view before us and taken a picture to find the resulting image disappointing. That is Programme Mode with technical correctness but zero creativity. To take the image we visualise, we need to tell the camera what we want it to do through manual settings.

When I teach photography, I look forward to that special moment, where a student overrides the camera setting and suddenly realises the potential to improve the image as desired. That special moment of ‘getting it’, usually accompanied by a wide grin, tells me I have helped to open that box to another creative journey.

A brief example, with the Exposure setting. The camera reads ‘correct’ exposure as a mid- grey tone. Therefore, when shooting something ‘light’ it comes out darker to achieve the mid grey tone. When the subject is dark, such as a sunset, it comes out too light and flat. We have all experienced grey snow..

Therefore, to lighten the scene, image exposure is increased (the + dial). With darker scenes, the exposure is reduced (the –dial) to make the photo darker and the colour richer. That means, more or less light is utilised to make the image look, as it should. The same process is applied creatively to darken an image for an evocative mood and to lighten for an ethereal look, as demonstrated below.




Of course, to change over to Manual Settings takes time and work. Just like any other creative media, be it drawing, painting, printmaking etc. it requires learning and practice. Once the basics are mastered one begins to see the creative potential in almost everything that is seen.

Once I had experienced my own magic ‘getting it’ moment, I was unstoppable. I devoured photo magazines and enrolled on a City and Guilds course for 3 years. I learnt everything the camera had to offer, with continual study eventually taking me to a professional level; a very unexpected turn of events. Studying photography has transformed my life, just by exploring that little magic box.

To re-phrase then, it took 3 years to learn how to become a Photographer.


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year… and a Happy New Decade! 


Be the first to know about new collections and exclusive offers, plus free shipping on your first PRINT order.

Back to blog


Love this post and I feel like I am always learning something new each time I pick up the camera. The light is always different and so is the subject having me to try something new.
Thank you Ann

Ann Davis

I enjoyed reading this Dianna; thankyou.

I’m sure you’re very gracious when people say these things, but …!

In my line of things, the one that gets me is “A child of five could have done that” …

Ho hum …

Kevin Scott

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.