A new member progresses

Although not quite such a new member now, Bryan Rawlins has kindly penned a follow up to his previous story of his first year.

Bryan Rawlins: The Continual Journey

I was looking at the Sevenoaks Camera Club Website and was surprised to see that the story of my first year of joining the club was still on show. On reading it through I do realise how naive I was and how much I needed to learn. The worst thing about it is that although I have come some way along my journey, there are so many things still to be mastered.

Looking back at my successes proved fruitless and I am sure you will not be surprised to see that I have not been walking away with all the cups and certificates in our competitions. But let me tell you what I think I have learned and how I am trying to improve

Taking control of my camera

The change from Automatic to Manual was a huge step for me and is still a big learning curve. One reason is because it involves one thing I am particularly bad at, and that is reading user manuals. (I think it is a man thing). My camera comes with a digital manual and what a nightmare that is. I haven't even got a proper book to refer to and I can't afford to print it off. So when I take my camera out and about I need to carry my computer around with me.

I started with moving from fully Automatic, to Programme (P) and the scenes facility (SCN) and looked at what settings they use to produce different pictures. I then graduated to using the Aperture (A) setting (which is the one I still find the easiest to use) and I only rarely use the Shutter Speed (S) setting in preference. Moving onto fully manual (M), when feeling brave, before pressing another P (panicking ) and returning to Automatic.

I must say that the various challenges set during the Lockdown of 2020, have enabled me to take the time and effort to play with my camera and I am getting far more confident with twiddling my dials.

(TIP 1. Read the manual and be prepared to experiment.)


I have become much more critical at what I take, and have learned that there are so many things that I should have considered before pressing the shutter.

I now realise that the most important thing is to decide what is the subject matter, or the focal point that I am trying to take. This may sound obvious to you experts, but it is not always clear to me even after I have taken it. Everything else should then add, improve or at least not detract from that main point.

So plan ahead - find the right location and consult the weather forecast, then look for leading lines and suitable frames which draw you in. Check that the horizon is straight, or on the third, or has any repeating patterns.

Finally I look for anything that may distract the viewer, particularly around the edges or in the background, or whether there is something in the foreground which stops you going forward into the image.

(TIP 2. Plan ahead, pick a subject point and compose the picture. )


The techniques of digital images

Having decided what you wanted to take, turning it into the perfect picture involves understanding another world of Pixels, Exposure, Flash, ISO , white balance, histograms, lens filters, depth of field, filters, RAW and JPEGS and of course there is Image editing.

Getting perfect pictures means getting the images in focus, perfectly sharp and well balanced. This is where I still seem to struggle most and it seems to hinge round the balance between light and time and the magical Triangle of ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. It seems to me that Understanding exposure is the key to the perfect picture.

Image editing requires a degree in Photoshopping and the mysterious world of manipulation, which should be used sparingly. I have been accused of overcropping, not cropping enough, over sharpening and creating "suspicious" colours, but I do find that most of my pictures I have taken in the camera can be improved by careful use of the magic of Photoshop.

(Tip 3. Be the Master of the Triangle and manipulate with care.)

To any newcomer to the club I recommend you to enter the competitions and take the judges' criticisms on board as most are trying to be constructive. But never take their comments personally as every picture is subjective.

Thank you fellow members for your patience and help along the route and I hope that others joining the club can learn, like me, without being made to feel inadequate. It has been, and continues to be, fun as I learn and I wish I had had more time to take this up much earlier in life.